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The Singing Cure: An Introduction to Voice Movement Therapy.

The first half of Paul Newham's The Singing Cure introduces some theoretical paradigms behind the psychotherapeutics of singing and vocal expression, while the second half explains the process of voice movement therapy, described as a synthesis of scientific and artistic techniques that release the voice, body, and mind from constriction and inhibition. Newham begins with generalizations such as a complaint that Piagetian theory. distances the learning child from sensory experience as he grows older. Other generalizations suggest that composers are intuitive rather than logical, and that children become less able to improvise as they learn more about music notation (notions ascribed respectively to Howard Gardner and Jeanne Bamberger). One wonders exactly what Newham would do with musically illiterate seventh graders in a band, orchestra, chorus, or general music class. As to the proposition that logic is absent from compositional strategy, any astute examiner of either Johann Sebastian Bach or Igor Stravinsky would readily see this as a false dichotomy.

Newham presents his synthesis of the histories of language, music, medicine, and singing, and in so doing, makes some errors. For example, he offers only one meaning of Aristotle's use of the word "catharsis," something that continues to puzzle lifelong scholars of the philosopher. He also attributes to Hippocrates the original depiction of the theory of the four primordial elements: earth, air, fire, and water, when, in fact, Anaximenes and Heraclitus spoke of this concept more than a century earlier. Newham's criticism of operatic technique in Europe and the rhapsodic descriptions of shamanic healing practices imply that opera is not genuinely expressive of human emotions and that grunting and screaming are. Again, generalization destroys the point he is trying to make, and to deny the power of opera to heal and express emotion effectively is to ignore human experience.

With chapter 2 Newham finally gets to the point by tracing the roots of voice movement therapy from Sigmund Freud to Alfred Wolfson, the latter having said that the voice must be able to express the shadow or darker side of the personality and that both male and female singers need to move to outer octaves of the voice not usually explored with the traditionally accepted vocal classifications.

In the second half of the book, Newham begins with a comprehensive explanation of the anatomic parameters of vocal production, a brief review of acoustic principles governing the generation of sound, and a summary of the mechanisms of the voice and dysfunctions that arise from misuse. He also describes holistic views of vocal health and ill health, specifically that the personality of the singer must be taken into account when diagnosing a disorder. The next eighty-three pages of the book present Newham's theory of voice movement therapy, in which he explains its five major components: ideokinesis, breathing enhancement, placement, movement, and massage. His ideas are well conceived and quite obviously the work of an astute clinician. In a chapter entitled, "The Liberated Voice," Newham amplifies his basic theory, which is couched within Jungian tenets. This part of the book, like some earlier sections, tends to wander off on tangents. Newham's writing resumes power when he returns to the topic by explaining the relation of image to voice movement therapy.

The penultimate chapter compares posh language expression with honest unaffected speech, and discusses images and stereotypes such as rigid perceptions of gender roles caused by timbre and manner of speaking. The author's ideas about voice movement therapy focus on intent rather than manner of speech. When Newham restricts himself to his considerable knowledge about voice production and hygiene, he is at his best, and the case histories in the final chapter are once again illustrative of considerable clinical skills.

Unfortunately, case histories and passionate rhetoric do not persuade the general scientific community, and it is here that Newham falls short in his research. His work would be more credible had he tested it within a true experimental design. As it is, he leaves the reader with interesting observations and some curiosity about his approach to the health of the voice.

ROSALIE REBOLLO PRATT Brigham Young University
COPYRIGHT 1996 Music Library Association, Inc.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Pratt, Rosalie Rebollo
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1996
Words:681
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