Magazine article The American Organist

The Alexander Technique and Organ Playing Freedom, Ease, Openness and Non-Doing

Magazine article The American Organist

The Alexander Technique and Organ Playing Freedom, Ease, Openness and Non-Doing

Article excerpt

THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE is a method that can be used by the organist to play without locking, tightening, grabbing, or forcing, thereby allowing the playing of the organ to "happen" with the organist as the active observer, but not the "doer" of the playing. How many organists playing a piece of organ literature with "difficult" passages worry about these sections long before they arrive? And what happens when these passages are reached? It has been my observation that the person quits breathing, the hands, wrists, arms, and neck lock, and the individual "forces" his way through these areas, worrying the whole time if he will make it without falling apart.

Today there are many keyboard and instrumental players, as well as singers, who are very talented, but they are only able to achieve a certain level of proficiency because they run into the brick wall of tension. Many talented students have been forced to abandon their hopes and dreams of going to the top in their chosen field. How do we get these musicians through this brick wall of tension?

It is my conviction that the Alexander Technique is the answer to this dilemma. As an organist I have taught the technique for 30 years to keyboard players, instrumentalists, and singers. I have experienced firsthand the tremendous change that takes place in musicians that I have worked with in Europe, Korea, and the United States. These changes unlock the detrimental and unnecessary tensions in students, thereby giving them greater freedom, ease, openness, and confidence in practicing and performing. Through this unlocking process of the body, students are given the possibility of reaching deep within themselves to allow their creative powers, as well as the essence of the music, to come to the fore unimpeded by body and mind contraction.

I would like to give a brief background about Frederick Matthias Alexander and how the Alexander Technique evolved. Alexander was born in Tasmania in 1869. By his late teens he had established a considerable reputation as a reader of poetry and professional status as an actor. About the age of 19 he began to lose his voice during performances. He consulted medical doctors in Sydney where he was living, but they were unable to help him. Alexander decided at this point that he would have to help himself. It became evident to him that he was somehow misusing his voice during his recitations. He began to observe himself while speaking with the aid of mirrors and noticed that the moment he opened his mouth to speak, his head would go down and back. Along with the head pulling down and back he observed that his spine would contract and the torso would pull inward toward the spine. He also noticed, with this contraction, a sucking in and locking of the breath.

Alexander, observing his own misuse as well as the misuse of others, noticed that there is a certain interaction between the head, neck and back, which determines the quality of our functioning as a whole. He termed this interaction the Primary Control. To eradicate these faults and help the person return to a better use of the body in all situations, Alexander developed a technique which initiates a process of inhibiting the initial response to a given stimulus before going into action. This in turn breaks up the old habitual muscular pattern of responding in a certain way to a stimulus. The individual is then taught how to free the neck and release the head away from the neck-slightly forward and up to encourage in turn a lengthening and widening effect on the torso. This results in a progressive releasing of accumulated, unnecessary tensions and brings about an effortlessness and lightness in one's use, which one has hitherto not experienced. The openness and freedom within the whole structure of the body is maintained by means of a conscious awareness, or "thought directions," which brings one to realize the unity of body and mind and so to experience a freedom of the whole self. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.