The human voice has limits. Human beings, from the smallest to the largest and tallest, can only make a certain range of audible sounds. The longer and bigger the throat, (and the larynx/vocal folds), the lower the voice. There are people who claim that the voice can cover 8 octaves (that’s in one person), but I have no idea how that could be possible. The Roy Hart Theater folks say that’s what Roy Hart could do, but I don’t know if that is fact, fiction or fairy tale. Most people are lucky to have two octaves and a little more than moderate volume.
I do know, however, that the voice is nevertheless, unlimited. By this I mean that no matter how much one investigates it, how much time one spends studying speech or song, how thoroughly one thinks that they have learned all there is to know about their own instrument, it really isn’t possible to plumb its depths completely. This is because the human mind doesn’t stop being curious and the spirit of growth and expansion is unquenchable in our hearts.
To work with each person’s individual sound is to embark upon an uncharted journey. We don’t really know how a person experiences making a voiced sound. We don’t know what the landscape of sound is like in the person’s mind and body. Each voice has a lifetime connected to it. Memories, sensations, experiences, connections, associations, relationships……every sound we have ever emitted since the first cry at birth has carried life and breath from deep within us out into the world. Every sound we have ever made has had the potential to effect our environment. Even our first words can be etched into the minds of our parents or grandparents for the rest of their lives. If you also consider that every sound we have ever heard also has an impact on what we know about sound, about how it works, about what it is, you expand the potential of the aural world exponentially. Remember that it is nearly impossible to speak if you are born deaf. We rely on our ears to teach us about sound for the first two years of our lives and learn by repetition to speak, with no conscious idea of what is going on in our bodies for that process to take place. Those who begin singing as very young children also learn without really understanding how that sound is created. Somehow or other, it just comes out, and if we are fortunate, it sounds OK when it does.
Since your sound is ALWAYS with you, you can’t leave it home, pack it up, or forget where you left it, and since it is more or less always the same, it is in some ways a reliable comfort. Something that shows up when you need it because it does. It is a portable, invisible, handy companion, and it can be taught to do some very fancy things if you are a patient teacher. It’s better than a pet, because it doesn’t cost anything to maintain as long as you don’t mistreat it!
The way that most of us understand how much our voice means to us is the first time it disappears. Then we know how important it is and how much we depend upon it. We realize that this thing we take for granted carries so much of our energy into the world. The unique, potent, peculiar sound of your voice, touching the lives of those with whom you come in contact, cannot be replaced by anything else.
We begin to appreciate how truly dynamic the voice is when we start the exploration of what it can do, or perhaps it would be better to say, what ELSE it can do, besides what we are accustomed to in daily life. How we can ride upon waves of air, surfing the tones that flow out, moving up and down, bouncing on the vowels and consonants! What sweet deliciousness awaits us when we traverse the slopes of sorrow or the hills of elation, allowing our voices and our emotions to become one! How humbling it is to hear the tremble of vulnerability or the softness of consolation carrying with it the depths that we feel in our hearts!
If ever you find that you have come to an end — that you have learned it all and have nothing left to discover — shake yourself hard! Do not fall into this trap, for it is a game that your mind wants to play. Your voice is the ocean, the sky, the earth, it is all the universe, and it opens before you as a guide, a teacher, a puzzle, a partner, a world. Never cease to love it and explore it, always with joy and appreciation and you will always be rewarded!