I am Joe’s vocal tract. Remember those articles in Reader’s Digest that focused on particular body parts but never the interesting ones? Very old school. Read here for the first time: I am Joe’s vocal tract as seen through the lens of the Alexander Technique. Totally new! The vocal tract, in case you’re interested, can be described anatomically as lips to lips, the lips of the glottis to the lips of the mouth. It is a real multi-tasker. It is an organ of respiration (breathing), an organ of deglutition (swallowing ), an organ of parturition (childbirth), and a secondary sex organ (use your imagination). Now, I learned all this decades ago and times have changed. The vocal tract may be a secondary sex organ, or primary, or tertiary depending on your sexual orientation and how much wine you’ve had to drink. But I digress. The vocal tract is highly evolved and we owe much of that evolution to a function that I left out. You may not have noticed. Its most neurologically complex function, its most elegant, its most universally delightful, is as the organ of phonation (sounding.)
The vocal tract, if you think about it, looks remarkably like a theatrical stage, one with a proscenium arch like the stage of Carnegie Hall. That’s just a coincidence you may say. Yes, the coincidence being that both stage and vocal tract are ideal resonators of the human voice. Let’s take a little tour. Right where the performer is standing, those are your vocal folds, the vibrator. Actually, as we’ll see later, the whole stage is a vibrator and a resonator as well, gigantic vocal folds. You’re the performer now, center stage just where you’ve always dreamed you’d be. Welcome to Carnegie Hall. Turn around. Walk toward the back of the stage until you arrive at its rear wall. In the vocal tract, you’ve arrived at the posterior wall of the laryngo-pharynx. It’s a thin wall of tissue, and just behind it, lies what? Give up? Your spine. Now, if your spine is compressed, the vocal tract, its posterior wall, is going to know about it. Your resonance is going be adversely impacted. Try it. Sing a note. Notice the sound. Stop. Stiffen the spine. Sing again. Stop. Notice the sound. Now, a good teacher of singing can help you correct this over a period of months or years. Maybe not. But a teacher of the Alexander Technique, working in tandem with a teacher of singing, can help you correct it much faster; help you undo that compression and change the character and function of your voice. You’re going to notice a difference. It’s just one of the places in the vocal tract that the work of a teacher of singing and a teacher of the Alexander technique coincides. Soon, maybe tomorrow, another story: What lies beneath Joe’s vocal tract. Oh come on, you’re dying to know.