Effects of Physical Shape and Movement on Vocal Function and Resonance

Artist-in-Residence Project, April 8 – May 17, 2013

Preliminary Report by Joan Melton, PhD, ADVS, July 2013

The Artist-in-Residence project at University of Tasmania (UTAS), Launceston, “Effects of Physical Position and Movement on Vocal Function and Resonance” took an unexpected turn almost immediately. 


While students at Tasmanian College of the Arts demonstrated an exceptional vocabulary and experience with movement modalities, including Suzuki, Butoh, and Laban, their knowledge and experience of voice that included singing was limited. So in order to observe and document a relationship between physicality and voicing, considerable work needed to be done in the area of vocal production in a movement-based context. During four three-hour classes, plus individual sessions, we were able to make excellent progress with a select group of seven students, representing every level of actor training.

An ultrasound component of the project included collaboration with Dr. Marie-Louise Bird, physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor from the School of Health Sciences, as well as with Dr. Robert Lewis, Lecturer in Voice and Movement, Tasmanian College of the Arts. During two filmed sessions, observations focused primarily on abdominal muscle activity in tasks relating to the voice/movement connection, e.g.:

  • Playing drums, and playing drums while singing - [3:59]
  • Voicing during extreme arches (based in Fitzmaurice Voicework®) - [5:58]
  • Singing during dance-based movement using a relatively stable base - [7:55]
  • Playing piano inside (strings) and keys while standing - [8:55]
  • Pelvic tilt, singing with neutral pelvis, forward tilt, backward tilt - [9:55]
  • Voicing of animal sounds - [11:03]
  • Ingressive sounds done in a standing position - [13:03]
  • Playing flute with breath management different from voicing - [14:24]

With exceptions of the drummer and flautist, all subjects in the ultrasound component were students and members of the project group.