The Human Voice, a Film by Pedro Almodóva

 
Tilda Swinton in the Human Voice

The Human Voice is Almodóva’s  first film in English.   Inspired by Jean Cocteau and Roberto Rossellini, it is visually surrreal and audibly very real.   Almodóva’s attention to detail is masterful and brings us into this magic area of suspended reality.  What is and what isn’t real?
It seems that the constraints brought about by the Covid induced time frame, have released many ideas from his past films, which are condensed into a story of a woman who has been left by the man she loves, and who is attempting to live through it.  The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton is  Almodóva’s  first film in English.  In a Mark Kermode led discussion afterwards, it was interesting to hear how Almodóva directed Tilda Swinton –  word by word – as he has directed all actors in his previous films.   He spoke the words in Spanish to Tilda Swinton so that she could hear and feel the meaning (intonation) behind them – and the results in English satisfied him.  You don’t have to speak a language in order to hear the meaning behind the words and Tilda Swinton doesn’t speak Spanish, but if you see this film, you will understand what a vocal artist she truly is.   Almodóva and Swinton both agree that they communicate and share the language of cinematography.  It is a wonderful 30 minutes and the sensation I felt at the end was one of resolution and completion. The Production designer Antxon Gómez and costume designer Sonia Grande make the set within a set spectacular in its design, allowing the colours, accessories and furnishings to be part of the cast along with Dash the dog – another great actor.
Frances Parkes

Voice for Healing Mental and Physical Pain

 

Roy Hart

Earlier this year I had a trauma that left me with severe pain in my muscles and joints.  Pain killers didn’t help much and  I had to surrender to having constant pain. I just hoped and prayed that it would not stay. Three things brought me through to now where I am almost pain-free, healthier and energised.

One was using my voice. I’d learned about the work of legendary voice coach, Alfred Wolfsohn early on when I first came to London.  An extraordinary man who believed that extending the range of notes in your voice and volume in your voice, had a healing effect on your mind and body.  When he died in 1962 he passed on the baton to Roy Hart, who continued to practice his vocal technique in the Roy Hart theatre company in  Malérargues, , France. Wolfsohn said that “Everyone has the same possibilities to sing with a five to six octave range”.  Think Prince and Bjork and you get the picture.   Wolfson didn’t believe in just random shouting or yelling, he wanted the sound to be focussed on different notes.
So I decided I would let rip with a few very loud and probably very discordant notes.  But where to go?  I’ve done big voice work before in squash courts, but my local one is closed for lockdown.  I could go out on to the Common but there are so many people out there now that it looks like a Lowry.  It would be impossible in my lat as I would have my neighbours thinking I was under attack and sending for the police.  I would try inside my car – and this worked.  The mental and physical release was almost instantaneous.  I even found that I could use different notes to pinpoint the pain in different parts of my body.  I found myself laughing.  When I could drive again, I continued to let rip with a few very loud notes – I knew no one could hear me but I did get a few smiles from people, which helped a lot.
I also practised meditation as taught to me by The Venerable Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso.  It is allowing you to focus on the pain and gradually, with the rise and fall of your stomach, let the pain pass from your conscious mind.  At the beginning of meditation I let thoughts disappear to the left or right (in my mind’s eye) and I did the same when the pain began to diminish. 
Undoubtedly voice work has helped clients and me cope during the lock downs.  Even when I felt weak and low, I knew there were plenty of souls who would not come out of this lockdown and the sheer size of the Covid pandemic diminished my pain.  My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and to those who work on the front line of Covid sufferers at the NHS.  They will need a lot of help and support to recover from what they have been through over these last two years.


 

Wonderful Women – Choose to Challenge – Women’s’ International Day 2021

 

A few years back a wonderful woman, originally from Swansea, then living in Wimbledon village, generously gave me a recording of her still rich Swansea accent for my work accent library.  She was, at the time, selling what she described as the cheapest house in Wimbledon village – 1.5 million.  She and her husband had put out trestle tables by the front door and were selling off the contents of the house to passersby, which is how I came to meet her.   When we got chatting, she took me around the house which had a couple of dogs and cats and a rabbit or two hopping around.  Her life and the life of her husband was devoted to animals and rescuing them from laboratories and vivisection.  She and her husband had come from Swansea to live in Wimbledon where they both worked as nurses in Atkinson Morley hospital.  They scraped together enough for a mortgage on a first house, rented out all the rooms and slept in the kitchen.  Gradually they were able to buy the house in Wimbledon village, which they were now selling.  The profit on the sale would go to organizations against Vivisection and experiments on animals.   My lovely cat Pru went missing in Beeston, near to the laboratories at Nottingham University and at the time there were lots cats that went missing – as reported in the Evening Post.  I hated the thought that Pru had been kidnapped for experiments – wouldn’t any pet owner?   How can we avoid epidemics like Coronavirus until we stop abusing animals in general and using them in laboratories in particular?   I support and celebrate you lady from Swansea and remember you on this Women’s Day 2021.

International Women's Day 2021: Quotes, Wishes, Greetings, HD Images  WhatsApp Messages & Facebook Statuses | Books News – India TV




The Liar is no Whit Better than the Thief

 
Poll: More pick Trump over Joe Biden to win presidential debates

In the Penguin Book of Modern Speeches, there is a speech given by Donald Trump in 2017 to Congress, after his first tumultuous 5 weeks in office.  In this speech entitled: A New Chapter of American Greatness is Beginning,” his speech is convincing as a statesman:  
“Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.”

Over the last three years there have been many accusations by Donald Trump on twitter, some of them claiming false news is being said about him. He has led the social media and swayed the public. Donald Trump appears to be a man low on integrity and big on winning, but people often just want a winner as their leader and forgive the lack of integrity.   Film and sound can be altered, and the software people who do it,  regard themselves as good at their jobs.  Last weekend a manipulated video was put on twitter, claiming Joe Biden has dementia and it was viewed over a million times before it was taken down. 

When I read Roosevelt’s speech from the same book, entitled: “The Men with the Muck-Rakes” made in 1906 it echoed the present situation in the USA and the UK.  Here is a quote:

“The liar is no whit better than the thief and if his mendacity takes the form of slander, he may be worse than most thieves.  it puts a premium upon knavery untruthfully to attack an honest man or even with hysterical exaggeration to assail a bad man with untruth.  An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does not good, but very great harm. The soul of every scoundrel is gladdened whenever an honest man is assailed or when even a scoundrel is untruthfully assailed.”

The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches is edited by Brian MacArthur

Voice Phobia. The Fear of (Some) Voices

 
Misophonia -The Fear of a Particular Voice/Voices

Some voices make you want to scream and screaming is contagious. When you play scary games on Halloween night part of the fun is having a good scream along with a good laugh, but when you’re listening to a voice that makes you want to scream and you can’t leave the room or say anything – what do you do?

When a friend in a group asked for things that frighten us most psychologically, some people said spiders  someone had a button phobia:  Koumpounophobia and a couple of others had phobias with (some) tones of voice: Misophonia.  I suspect that this is linked to the voices of people who they don’t like, because of what they say or represent.  I understand completely that listening to people who you know to be lying and they know that they’re lying, but they say it anyway, can feel like a sharp kick in the stomach.  There are also the droners – these are the people who pretend to sympathise with others, when they haven’t even listened to what’s been said.  I can think of a popular BBC presenter and host who does this a lot and 3 prime ministers.  A client once told me that listening to one political commentator made his teeth stand on edge like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.  Of course, people can have the greatest voice in the room but if you don’t like what they’re saying it’s going to jar on you.

The best advice for when you’re confronted with someone’s voice that you really can’t bear to hear, is to imagine the sound of the voice as a colour and then change that colour into a colour that you like.  It won’t change your mind about what you’re hearing, but you’ll instantly feel better. 
About 4 percent of the people on Earth have the ability to see sound as a colour automatically.  It’s called synesthesia. A lot of musicians and music writers have the ability. Need help with your Voice? Contact us to find out more:

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    Time to Use Your Voice

     


    Science tells us that he left side of the brain is responsible for controlling the right side of the body. It also performs tasks that have to do with logic, such as in science and mathematics. On the other hand, the right hemisphere coordinates the left side of the body and performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts.  But for more individual personality traits, such as creativity or a tendency toward the rational rather than the intuitive, there has been little or no evidence supporting a residence in one area of the brain. 

    As babies we connect our needs through crying. These needs have nothing to do with our thoughts, they are driven by a primitive need to survive. The sound is insistent, overwhelming, and produced by a tiny body with tiny vocal olds. As we grow up life concentrates us on facts and the situations we create for ourselves. We adapt and use our language in creative ways and for most of us, it is our full voice that gets left behind.

    We can use language and voice together to create a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.  This is difficult, as the more you let go of the facts and let in the feelings you have, the more likely it is that your voice retreats or your emotions overcome you and you cry or laugh so much that you can’t speak.  You can learn how to stay away from things that bother you by not allowing them into your consciousness or by not giving them their full value.  But this dulls or restricts the voice by constricting muscles that would normally be free. 
    Voice and speech exercises are valuable for freeing up the voice.   If you learn to open up your breath to feed and sustain your voice, you will find that your ability to speak and express yourself grows.  It gives you a deeper understanding of yourself when you connect your body with your thoughts. 

    Contact us and get a free question and answer session
    When you hear someone speaking, who is also linked into a deeper understanding of being and of their belonging in the whole of here and now, you listen.  These are people that we know to be passionate about what they’re saying.  They have opened up their voices.  You, have that right to be passionate about your needs and wants, whether these are to do with your job or your personal life.   With voice work you can explore your voice and find that the ability to express yourself will grow.

    With thanks to:
    Rober H Shmerling
    Jill Hall
    Noah Pikes


    Sound and Dialogue in Films

     

    Post Production Sound

    Towards the end of 2019 clients based in Africa and Europe started asking me to explain the American accent in a few Netflix series.  When I viewed and listened to the characters they were talking about, I could understand why they didn’t hear the words and chose to turn on the subtitles.  It’s not because of method acting but muffled sound.  The article below, by Ralph Jones goes some way to explaining the phenomenon.

    “There is a wonderful exchange in Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, between Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. “Hngmmhmmh,” says Pattinson. “Mmghh nmmhhmmmm nghhh,” replies Washington. Marvellous.

    This is how much of Tenet sounded to viewers in cinemas. The film’s dialogue has been criticised by reviewers and audience members for often being impossible to make out. Given how hard Nolan’s blockbuster would be to understand even if all the dialogue was crystal-clear, it is curious that the director has made it doubly difficult to hear the story of a screenplay he supposedly spent five years writing.

    But it isn’t just Nolan’s films. It’s a much-repeated claim that movie dialogue is becoming harder and harder to hear. What is going on? Mathew Price is a production sound mixer who has worked on The Sopranos and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. “When they take the sound we record on set and kind of undermix it, it feels like, ‘What did we try so hard for?’” he says. Price believes the problem is partly that modern directors have so many more tracks to play with, causing “track overload”, the result being that “the dialogue gets short shrift a lot of the time”. When he watches films or TV shows at home, he turns on the subtitles in case of clarity issues – he is far from the only one – and

    will limit the TV’s dynamic range. (On home TVs the dynamic range is more extreme than in a cinema: this is why you often have to turn up the volume for dialogue, then down again for action.)

    Is it actually a modern phenomenon? Sound engineer Ron Bochar, who was nominated for an Oscar for his mixing on Moneyball, thinks so. “Think about it: the first few Star Wars [films], we heard them all. We heard all the lines. Listen to Apocalypse Now – you hear everything.” Price agrees: “If you watch old movies, you might hear some sound effects here and there but now they go nuts: somebody’s walking across the room in a leather jacket, you hear the zippers clink and the creak of the leather and every footstep is right in your face.”

    When television became commonplace in the mid-20th century and challenged cinema’s dominion, cinema needed to distinguish itself; it needed to prove that it could justify people leaving the comfort of their homes. It did so partly by becoming bigger and louder. In an era – and a pandemic – in which home streaming dominates, cinema may be forced to pull out the stops once more. “I think we’re bombarded,” Paul Markey, a projectionist at the Irish Film Institute, says of modern films. “The more expensive movies have got, the more of a bombardment they become on your senses.”

    Sound effects and music tracks exist on faders that can slide up and down. This means that even “a crazy, bats**t scene” with numerous layers of sound is easy for a mixer to control. “It really isn’t a mystery. We know how to do it.” This means that Nolan’s use of noisier Imax cameras in Tenet would not explain the problem, as some have suggested.

    To complicate matters, there is a disparity between the environment in which the director hears the final mix of a film and the one in which it is screened. Markey says Warren Beatty watched a screening of Bonnie and Clyde when it came out and couldn’t understand why the sound of the bullets was so quiet. The projectionist was turning the volume down. Beatty realised that projectionists, not directors, have final say on a film. Markey says that they could, for example, raise the volume of the dialogue specifically, but they never do – it would mean having to readjust it for every film.”

    Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Jack Cutmore-Scott in Tenet written and directed by Christopher Nolan

    How Your Voice is Affected Through Wearing a Face Mask

     

    Wearing a mouth mask is now mandatory on public transport in the UK.  I started wearing a face mask in March when it became clear that coronavirus cases were less in countries where they were recommended.   On the plus side, it lessens the risk of passing on coronavirus if you are asymptomatic on the minus side it can leave you feeling smothered, with a dry throat and sometimes a sore throat, all of which affect your voice.

    Humidity inside the mask can potentially allow bacteria to grow so take the opportunity to move your mask and breathe freely whenever there is a safe option.  Keep your face mask clean and have more than one – soap and water is the best way to sanitize a face mask.  Avoid using Chloride or anti-bacterial spray on your mask. 

    Give yourself and others a treat by making room therapy essential oil mixes that will clear your airwaves and ease dry and sore throats and help your voice:

    Water bowl method:  Put boiling water in a bowl and add 3 drops of  grapefruit, lavender and bergamot pure essential oils.  Close doors and windows and allow 5 minutes for the aroma to permeate the room.
    Room-spray method:  In a new plant-sprayer put 300 ml of warm water and add 2 drops of grapefruit, lavender and bergamot pure essential oil.  Shake before spraying.  As with any room spray – avoid spraying on polished wood.

    You can make a soothing gargle by mixing 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar with 3 drops of ginger and 5 drops of lemon pure essential oil and adding one teaspoon of the mixture to a glass of warm water.

    Special thanks to Valerie Ann Worwood
                                 Dr Meza

    Speaking at A Distance, Lockdown and Beyond

     

    People who’ve been on the Improve Your Voice course have an advantage when talking outdoors to someone 2 meters away.   They’ve learned the “beam/aim/focus your voice” technique.
    The voice beam exercise is fun.  In a room full of people, you pair off and then move into lines about 6 metres apart, facing each other.   You then decide what it is you’re going to talk about.  The only rule is that it has to be in the past:  a film, a play, a journey, the night before et al.    After deciding who’s going to begin you all talk at the same time. No moving forward, no bending forward or texting. 
    The room was always a cacophony of sound.    Going around the room checking out what it was like to be on the listening end, was….interesting.  It’s not easy to stop people chatting after this exercise so it’s best done before a break. People are far more interested in the content of what is said rather than how it is said.  Once the voice is warmed and opened up, it can focus on where it wants to go, wants to be heard.  It’s the same beam as a torchlight.  This gives confidence.  When you’ve done this exercise, you can be sure you’ll get last orders (Hah! Memories) or talk easily to friends and family while being two meters apart.

    Speaking at a distance can change our relationships. Concentration is required and more alert listening

    Being Interviewed and Giving Advice During Lockdown

     

    Being Interviewed and Giving Advice During Lockdown

    I’ve been offering advice on how to relax with your voice during lockdown, with groups online.  It’s a different experience when you see people on screen as in Zoom and Meeting Room to when you can only see your interviewer as on Facebook stream live, GoToMeetings and Webinars.

    If you are giving an interview or giving exercises and advice – it’s a good idea to use the following format.  It is the standard Lorraine format.  

    Ask the host to alert you when everyone is in the room and the session will start.

    Introduction chat with host who then asks you a pre- arranged question.

    You reply together with an example or exercise.

    The host then asks the viewers if they have any questions.

    Answer questions

    Depending on time, the host asks another pre-arranged question

    You reply with another example or exercise

    The host sums up or asks for more questions depending on time.

    This way you’re aware of a structure and can be sure that the audience get their questions answered.
    It may be that the host asks you questions already sent in and you can answer these and go into an example or exercise straightaway.  When there are no audience questions, your host has a few that can feed you into speaking about what’s happening in your field.