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Fay Guiffo

Acting and Music, Body and Soul (Part 2)

June 24, 2020



            As a student in music, I remember that transmitting emotions was a real issue. Not necessarily because I did not feel what I wanted to express, but because I felt physical blocks. As I observed a course delivered by the acting teacher, Ali de Souza on the play Macbeth, I discovered that my concern about physical disposal was also an acting issue.


  • Movements connected to emotions


     According to D. Levitin (2006), ‘virtually every culture and civilization considers movement to be integral part of music making’. The collective intelligence indicates this correlation between movement and music, and we can see that this cultural notion corresponds to a scientific statement. Through different experiments, it has been demonstrated that the emotional content of music induces movements to listeners and players (Burger, 2013). As we can see in most live concerts and videos, professional musicians involve their bodies as they play: those physical activities are deeply connected to music and emotions. In order to bring the sense of ‘truth’ and to let the emotion flows naturally in the playing, the musician needs to develop his corporal self-perception and develop freedom of movement. Moreover, I would argue that the physical connection the actor has can be useful for the musician in terms of conveying emotional truth.

     A method employed by Charles Mcgraw (1955) consists in recalling physical sensations in order to bring emotions out of the empirical experience. In his books, he delivers practical exercises for actors, so they can link both centres: physical and emotional. From this connection comes the sense of believing that every artist looks for. The importance of this relation has been confirmed as I attended Ali de Souza’s course on the interpretation of Shakespeare. As he asked his students to connect their voice with different part of their body, intonations and emotions changed in nature and intensity. This empirical experiment showed me how concrete this correlation between ‘body and soul’ was. I used this exercise during my violin practice, and I discovered how my sound could change, based on the different spot I was focusing on: the attack was different, the quality of the sound, the resonance… This experiment testified how my body tensions could interfere in my playing and influence the musical message I want to deliver. By this making this experiment, I approach another perspective on the body and sound connection.

     Thus, it seems that musicians and actors need to connect with physical sensations in order to develop their expressiveness. I realized how both musicians and actors are concerned about their ability to dispose of their movements.


  • Body awareness and proprioception


     In the context of a drama or a music performance, emotions need to be expressed physically. Therefore, both actors and musicians need to master physical release and deal effectively with physical stress.

     In general, most of the non-musicians don’t measure the amount of tension and energy mobilized in music practise. But even musicians tend to minimize the importance of their physical sensations as they work on their performance. As music is mainly associated with auditory sense, the body involvement seems largely underrated. Sometimes, musicians separate their physical sensations from their artistic practice (insomuch that long-term ignored tensions turn into pain, then pain turns into injuries…). But as we said before, emotions and movements are deeply connected, and tensions can directly interfere with the musical expression. I had the opportunity of practising Alexander Technique during my musical studies. This method helped me to connect my movements with my breath, to be aware of the relationship between muscular tensions and musicality…  It helped me in my violin practice, and I recognize all the benefits of this approach and the flexibility it brought to my playing (Fischer, 1970).  Moreover, I discovered the benefits of practising mindfulness: these last few months, I engaged in meditation practice. It helped me to develop my concentration and my proprioception. As a result, I notice an improvement in the quality of my attention as I am playing the violin. Thus, it appears to be a necessity for a musician to develop his proprioception. Meanwhile, actors seem to deal with the same issue.

     Indeed, physical tensions can influence actor’s performance in a negative way. As I observed students from the drama course in RCS, I noticed that some tensions could really underline the dramatic interest of the play. But other tensions in the body or the voice could also ruin the sense of believing. This balance between proper relaxation and tension appears to be the key to a good stage performance. Thus, Stanislavski enhances the necessity of freedom in movement in order to serve the play. Such method as Technique Alexander constitutes an amazing approach so that performers (musicians, actors…) can improve their ability to feel their tensions and act upon them (Vasiliades, 2004). Thus, it is not a surprise that this Method is considered as fundamental to the training of actors in drama schools all around the world. 


Alexander Technique:

“a method that empowers the actor to become aware of the physical habits that impede performance and to transform those habits thus improving breathing coordination and vocal production, facilitating the creation of the physical life of characters with ease and allowing fuller emotional expression.” (Vasiliades, 2004)


     Thus, engaging into acting training helped me to develop my music performance. I developed my ability to transmit emotions by connecting my physical sensation to the sound I wanted to create. I am also more aware of the importance of developing freedom of movement in order to develop a sense of truth in my performance. As we have seen the different connections between drama and music practices, I would like to dig into the process of creating and learning from each other.




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