Singing: An Existential Account

Sara Clethero


The power of singing has a quality of representing a singers being at a particular moment in time. We cannot capture that moment, although recordings may give us the illusion that we can, and we will only be successful as performers in so far as we manage to be authentic in that moment.
All the training of a singer, using the breath effectively, being accurate and yet free with the musical material, keeping the voice free to respond to the singers experience of the words and the music, could be understood as training in being authentic in the moment.
The Interactive Teaching Method (ITM) of the Alexander Technique is a particularly detailed and clear way of learning to keep the self (the body, and the way of thinking about the body) available to the creative artist in the self. Sara Clethero is Head of Voice at the London College of Music (at Thames Valley University) and is commencing a doctoral thesis on practical implications of existentialism in singing performance and singing training.
We hope to demonstrate a radical new way of singing training, available and applicable to all. We have worked on the Alexander Technique in relation to singing with a range of singers from people with profound disabilities (autism) through to famous international figures and groups such as mothers and daughters in Birmingham, and the benefits are clear across the board, in terms of increased freedom of expression and vocal freedom.
It will also be argued that philosophical clarity is important if we are to live music, and particularly singing, to the full. Generalised utilitarian statements about the benefits of singing are not enough. We need to be clear what we can say to be true and why we are saying it.

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