[May 6] Presentation at King’s College LDCDL

Tomorrow, Thursday 6 May at 16:00 BST, I’ll be presenting for the first of the summer sessions of the King’s College Language, Discourse, and Communication Doctoral Lab (LDCDL). I’m excited for the opportunity to share my recent work on vocal pedagogy with a language-focused research group and getting more dialogue going between linguistics and music cognition. The way we refer to our bodies and imagine our behaviors forms the basis for our interactions, and the sensory-based connections vocalists have with their voices are heavily influenced through the metaphors used by voice teachers.

[Update] The slides from this presentation can be found here. Please contact me if you are interested in the video recording of the presentation or have any other questions!

Translating the Body:

Abstract Language in the Teaching of Fundamental Vocal Pedagogy

Abstract: Vocal coaches must direct their students on highly refined physiological movements needed for healthy fundamental singing techniques, such as supported breathing, postural alignment, sound generation in the larynx, and formation of resonant space in the vocal tract. These movements exist within the body and therefore are not able to be explicitly adjusted or seen by the teacher. Therefore, the voice is traditionally trained through the use of abstract language and metaphor. Vocal pedagogy functions as a sort of “oral tradition,” where teachers pass on knowledge from their own instruction; through abstract language, teachers must translate the sensations in their own bodies to their students, who must then translate metaphor back into feeling and movement. This study involved interviews with voice teachers to explore their teaching technique, how this translation occurs, and the roles of abstract language in vocal pedagogy. We find that underlying directional schema indicate teachers choose metaphor which aligns with their own imagery strengths; further, schema vary in different techniques to either run concurrently to physical action or to distract the student through divergent images. In addition, this research finds that the role of the specific language of instruction is secondary to the sensations conveyed. Bilingual teachers do not translate the language of the metaphors themselves between different languages, but rather translate the bodily feeling which they represent.

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