F. M. Alexander was an actor whose specialty was reciting Shakespeare. Having run into serious vocal problems, he initiated a self-investigatory process lasting seven years. During this period of time, he discovered that the way he had been using his body, particularly with respect to the relationship of his head and neck to his spine, was the cause of his problem. He went on to determine that this head/neck/torso relationship was of far greater significance than merely being a cure for vocal problems.
The Alexander Technique is a way of learning to use one’s body so that it operates more efficiently. It is a proven approach of self-care that helps the student to identify and release unwanted muscular tension by changing the inefficient habits that cause stress and fatigue. It offers a way to learn how to avoid the stressful patterns that cause pain and limit efficient bodily functioning. When your muscles are well-coordinated, the minimal amount of energy is used for any given task so that no energy is wasted. This allows your body to move easily from one position to another. Physiologically, the Technique teaches the spine to gently lengthen, not by overt means or manipulation, but by gentle encouragement. This, in turn, minimizes strain on the vertebrae, discs and joints of the body.
The benefit of the Alexander Technique to singers is well known. Most schools of music in the United States at present include the Alexander Technique in their curriculum. It is undeniable that if a singer is using his or her body well, the vocal mechanism can operate more efficiently.
The uniqueness of Donna’s experience of Alexander and voice is her association with Cornelius Reid. Whereas most vocal techniques involve overt manipulation, Reid espouses a more natural, holistic approach to singing. As with the Alexander Technique the objective is to stimulate natural reflexes that then bring about the correct balance of muscular tension necessary for a given act. Therefore, singing becomes efficient and effortless. For more information on this subject, download the adjacent article.
This article compares the writings of F. M. Alexander and C. L. Reid on the subject of indirect control or non-doing – an idea that is one of the principal tenets of the Alexander Technique and plays a major role in the theories and practices espoused by Reid.