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Singing With Your Whole Self: A Singer's Guide to Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement.

Singing With Your Whole Self: A Singer's Guide to Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement, by

Samuel H. Nelson and Elizabeth L. Blades. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.; 186 pp., $40.00.

Many voice teachers have heard of the Feldenkrais Method, but are uncertain what it is. Samuel H. Nelson, a Feldenkrais practitioner since 1985, and Elizabeth L. Blades, an active singer and voice teacher, have combined their respective specialties in this excellent introduction to Feldenkrais's system of sensory learning. The Feldenkrais Method's goal is reprogramming the nervous system so movements are free from unnecessary muscle tensions that impede optimal performance. Elimination of such extraneous tensions gives musicians the physical freedom necessary to create their most beautiful tone and makes effective musical expression and artistic communication possible.

Physicist Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc, (1904-1984) suffered a serious knee injury in his 20s. After recuperating, he pursued extensive judo studies, becoming one of the first Europeans to earn the black belt. His knee injury recurred in adulthood and threatened to be debilitating. Facing the prospect of corrective surgery that had a 50 percent chance of making him wheelchair-bound, he searched for a non-surgical path to recovery. To accomplish this, he integrated independent studies in neurology, learning theory and psychology with his knowledge of physics, mechanics and judo. By learning to pay careful attention to the subtle details of muscle movements used in performing simple tasks, he discovered that any muscle tension beyond the minimum necessary to execute that action is wasteful and potentially harmful.

The two aspects of the Feldenkrais Method are Awareness through Movement (ATM) and Functional Integration (FI). ATM is a guided lesson of simple, gentle movements done slowly and repeated several times. They serve to draw attention to the minute details of the muscles involved in activities such as bending and turning. The resulting kinesthetic awareness can lead to elimination of unnecessary tensions and the engraining more efficient habits of movement. FI is a hands-on session with a Feldenkrais practitioner, focusing on body movements.

The first half of this book introduces general concepts of Feldenkrais's Method. Chapters that follow focus on applying these ideas to movements particularly important for healthy singing, such as breathing, posture and the upper body. Case studies testify to the effectiveness of these exercises.

Each chapter contains a 7-10 minute ATM mini-lesson, designed to reinforce the preceding material. These movement exercises are accompanied by illustrations and are clearly explained. The lesson modules can be used in both individual and group settings. Most of can be performed in chairs. As the exercises are intended to be read aloud, it would be helpful if future editions of this book included a recording to accompany the exercises so that an individual would not need to interrupt the flow of the lesson by having to refer often to the book for instructions.

While written for voice teachers, choral directors and singers, this is a valuable resource for all musicians, as making the most beautiful tone with the least amount of effort is a universal goal.--Reviewed by Kathie Kelton, Indianapolis, Indiana

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Author:Kelton, Kathie
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2018
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