Sounds True: Arthur, not everyone is familiar with your Vocal Awareness system. What would you like to tell them about how it's different from other vocal training programs?
Arthur Samuel Joseph: First of all, Vocal Awareness represents a fundamental shift in how we view the human voice; it is truly about empowering ourselves as human beings. As far as I'm aware, it is the only comprehensive method that applies to all forms of vocal expression. It applies to the singing voice, from opera to folk singing. It applies to the speaking voice in all circumstances. For example, I've trained everyone from Fortune 500 company executives, to politicians, to performers and broadcast professionals, to ordinary people who simply want to communicate more effectively. It also helps people with vocal challenges such as stuttering or spasmodic dysphonia.
What sets Vocal Awareness apart from all other systems, though, is its relationship to the persona—how we are perceived versus how we would like to be perceived. “Persona” is an ancient Greek word that can be translated as “through the sound.” So I try to help my students learn to use their voices to reflect who they truly are, which enhances how people perceive them. This instantly builds strength and self-confidence. As we integrate our voices into the amazing tapestry of who we're capable of being, we encounter the reality that the human voice is power. Through this work, we learn the skills we need to take ownership of our voice and ownership of our power.
Sounds True: You've mentioned that when you hear a voice, you hear it in a special way; that you can hear everything about somebody in their voice.
Arthur Samuel Joseph: Hearing is a very visceral experience for me. I don't want this to sound ludicrous or arrogant in any way, but when I hear a voice what I hear is a life—the fullness of who you are. I get your emotional life. I feel your trauma. I genuinely know a great amount of the time if someone's been emotionally abused. I hear people's joy and I hear their fear.
Sounds True: Why do you think people express so much trauma in their voices?
Arthur Samuel Joseph: I'll tell you a story. Last year I received a letter from a lady in New York—a holocaust survivor—who had read my book and heard my tapes. We ended up working together, and I warned her that this system could open up some feelings that could be very disturbing for her. And as we practiced these exercises over the months, she became aware of emotions that she'd kept locked away. But now she had a way to work with this difficult material, to channel it. You see, when you close down to keep out the pain, you also keep out the joy. Now she is a stronger person, happier with herself, and a better communicator at the same time. You can hear it in her voice. But she had to risk a lot, and work a lot, to get those results.
Sounds True: What is the relationship between these blocked emotions and our voices?
Arthur Samuel Joseph: Carl Jung referred to the vocal area as “the ring of fear.” To begin with, the most complex joint in the human body is the temporal mandibular joint. There are 56 moving parts in that one little joint area. Don't forget the human jaw area is capable of exerting 3,000 pounds of force per square inch. The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body in respect to its diameter. So it's not surprising that I see massive tongue and jaw tension, and the inability to speak clearly and naturally.
I strongly believe that all tension is fear-based. On the new video we demonstrate meticulous exercises, including conscious breathing, which we practice in an integrated way until we feel the impact it has on our voices and our lives. We experience how we have repressed a lot of emotion and fear, and how it is possible to release it. One of the principles of Vocal Awareness is that power develops out of freedom, freedom out of letting go, and letting go out of knowledge.
Sounds True: Are you surprised at the success of the Vocal Awareness system—not just with your high-profile students, but with ordinary people?
Arthur Samuel Joseph: Sociologists tell us that the greatest fear in our society is the fear of public speaking. Also, a new survey shows that if most people could change one thing about themselves, it would be to improve their singing voices. My work addresses both of these concerns.
I believe that, consciously or otherwise, we recognize that voice is power. We see it on television, we see it in advertising, we see it in politics; it's everywhere. Vocal Awareness gives people a natural and fun way to plug into the power of their own voices. It's really all about awareness of the various forces of your life, and living on your own terms—not someone else's.