Our emotions live in our throats (voices).
Expressions like “cat got your tongue” or “I got all choked up” reflect how fear, stress, angst, grab our throat muscles. Sometimes making it close to impossible to utter a sound; probably associated with our nervous system’s flight or fight instinct. The opposite reflection to the fear would be yelling/screaming due to fear, anger, or excitement. I will explore this angle more later. I could certainly talk til I’m blue in the face (do i need to explain that one?) about how emotions affect not only our ability to speak or sing, but also influence WHAT we’re willing to say.
Today I’ll muse on how and why we hear emotion in a voice.
Because our emotions live so intimately in our throats, our voices have the ability to sound sad, angry, happy, excited, and the wide variety of specific emotions in between. Many people have the ability to recognize the subtleties of a tone of voice in speech. We are often reacting to a tone of voice instead of what was said. The same can be for the singing voice as well. A simple way to notice this is to sing a sad song with a frown and then with a smile; you can tell that one sounds true and the other doesn’t. Try and sing Pharrell's “Happy” with a pouty face and attitude. It doesn’t work.
Recently a client told me she’s trying to record a song that needs to sound angry. I asked if she felt angry when she sang it. She said that she was angry when she wrote it, but didn’t feel it now. And, you can tell. We needed to dig in to why she felt angry in the first place. The more specific emotions were that she was frustrated, disappointed, jealous even. And often, we’re angry because we were hurt. I asked her to sing the gutting first line of the chorus like someone just ripped a bandaid off her - feel the pain. If pretending, or acting doesn’t work, it’s often helpful to go for visceral sensations/memories to access emotions.
At a physiological level, our emotional energy driving our intention of sound is being caught and used by our bodies in the way that we pressurize air and how our face moves for expression. It’s not always the case that an expressionless face will make an expressionless voice, but it’s common. And, if it’s not instinctive for you to sound full of emotion, we should likely get your face involved to help somehow.
It’s likely that our favorite artists make us feel something, because they are feeling it. Those of us that love Adele are likely invested in her and feel the power of her songs because she is feeling the pain or joy of what she is saying (singing)… what she wrote. We feel her pain in her sound. That’s powerful!
Singing without feeling is just making sound. That’s fine, but not what connects us the singer. Make a connection; dig into the emotion!
Who are some of your favorite artists of expression and emotion?