Arthur’s Teaching Vocabulary
Arthur was always very specific in the choice of his teaching vocabulary. The words he chose made teaching easier and more effective and I want to share them with all our Lessac teachers.
Arthur’s Work has “Evolved,” not “Changed” Since First Published in 1961
Early on Arthur made me understand that he never “changed” anything in his work; it continuously “evolved,” always following his Principles (printed in 1978 in “Body Wisdom”). Up to that time, whenever I thought of a new way to teach his work better I used as a guideline a sentence from the first edition of The Use and Training of the Human Voice: “We eschew the use of: Inspiration, Ear Training, Imitation, External Images and Rote Drill.”
I gradually came to understand the disadvantages of each of the above common teaching tools, which I can discuss at another time on Lessac Friends if there is interest.
I also came to realize that each one of them actually fosters imitation, which Arthur regards as an anesthetic to any individual’s own creativity, while Kinesensics requires “positive, organic instruction” using the body’s own ‘familiar events.’
“Guidelines” not “Rules”
It is often a surprise to new Lessac Friends, and perhaps to some older ones, that Arthur taught that there are no “rules” in his training, there ARE “guidelines.” He taught that we can do whatever we need to do to communicate, as long as what we do doesn’t injure our voices. He taught how to do the “incorrect thing correctly.” For example, as when needed for characterization, by maintaining some sensory awareness of the vocal NRG’s. He usually demonstrated this by speaking in a very throaty, almost raspy voice while keeping his neck and throat relaxed. He said he could speak that way for hours.
Another example of doing the “incorrect thing correctly,” with regard to Consonant NRG, is that after doing many explorations of text using the Guidelines for Playing and Linking, it is often productive to “play” a “prepared” drumbeat, as long as we know that action will create a pause in which we must respond behaviorally to the new experience. For instance, playing the prepared “T” drumbeat in “You can’t do that!” with changes of body NRG’s will evoke many different behavioral experiences. Otherwise, the experience will only be that of “over-correct” or “careful” speech training.
What to Call Arthur’s Work
Arthur never wants his work to be called a “system,” a “method,” or a “technique.” My understanding of his reasoning is that (1) he did not invent the systems of the body; (2) a method is a created way to accomplish a goal; (3) a technique is a method created to perform one particular kind of task. And we know that “everything works better with Kinesensics” because it is holistic. I think of his work as being his “unique understanding” of how the human body wants to work, and can work, when it is free of adverse conditioning. From 1960 to 1978, his work was called Lessac Training. The name “Kinesensics” only came with the publishing of Body Wisdom: The Use and Training of the Human Body in 1978.
“Optimal” Use of the Vocal NRG’s
If you were to ask how much of the Vocal NRG’s you should use in a speaking situation, Arthur’s answer would be the “Optimal” amount.
“Optimal” use means using as much of the three Vocal NRGs as possible in any speaking situation, short of distorting or distracting from communication.
This word is an example of Arthur’s teaching that the work is always about “Quality” not “Quantity.”
[I once referred to a student’s tone as “more concentrated.” Arthur’s reproof was that nothing can be “more concentrated;” there is only “The Concentrate” (The Call)—which is the fullest resonance it is possible to feel without the use of force or the conscious use of breath.]
Exploration and Experiments, not “Exercise”
The word “Exercise” too often has the connotation of rote drill, and rote drill is self-imitation. Although the word “exercise” appeared in the first and second editions of “The Use and Training of the Human Voice”, Arthur eliminated it completely from the third Edition.
The word “exercise” is usually seen as the same thing as “rote drill” which Arthur regarded self-imitation and an anesthetic to creativity. The word “exercise” did appear in the first and second editions of “The Use and training of the Human Voice”, but it does not appear in the third edition.
After my first three years of teaching Arthur’s work, I called him begging him for new Structural NRG sentences, because teaching them to three, first-year sections weekly was so boring I was doing them in my sleep.
Arthur explained, on the phone, at midnight, from NYC, that my boredom was due to doing the sentences in the same way each time.
He stated firmly that we should/must never do or try to anything the same way twice.”
He explained that “Exploration” really means “wandering in wilderness”. In each new Exploration the intention is/must be to change the dynamics of the Vocal NRG’s use. This is disconcerting at first since it breaks/jolts us out of our personal speech habit-patterns in order to evoke new behavior and fresh interpretations. It is a disorienting experience at first but endlessly exciting in the possibilities uncovered.
Arthur further explained that new Str. NRG sentences were not necessary. He said that I was boring myself, and probably my classes, by doing the sentences the same way all the time—a variation of “rote drill” which is an anesthetic to creativity.
Arthur explained that we should/must never do or try to do anything the same way twice. He said that during successive explorations of the same material we should spontaneously vary the bio-dynamics of the vocal NRGs and respond behaviorally to the new internal images evoked, a process that applies that even in performance. He also explained that if we find an interpretation in pre-rehearsal explorations of our role that will enrich our performances, that behavior can be re-evoked each night, with the “illusion of the first time”, simply by using the same combination of vocal and body NRG’s that originally produced it, rather than imitating what we had experienced. I have since proved this to myself in many roles.