"The Objective Voice"

 

 Lecture prepared (but never delivered) by Roy Hart

for the 7th International Congress of Psychodrama and Sociometry, Tokyo 1972

 

 

In August 1967 I read a paper at the 7th International Congress of Psychotherapy in Wiesbaden, which described how a therapeutic community had grown spontaneously around me as a result of my study and use of my voice.   Today I would like first to read you a description of this voice and of my general performance at a televised concert at Hamburg, Germany, in which I sang the solo part in Maxwell-Davies' "Eight Songs for a Mad King". I choose to quote from this particular review by Heinz Jochaim (Die Welt - 20 October, 1969) because this critic, more than any other to date, uses phrases that indicate he senses what 'the objective’ voice is all about.

 

"Roy Hart is an artist who commands not only all the voices of the human registers - ranging from the deepest bass to the highest soprano, but also (incredibly enough) is able to produce several sounds simultaneously, added to which he gives an acting performance, which stretches from the most tender allusion to the most macabre realism. All this was (banal as the formulation may sound) simply phenomenal, unique, sensational.  Yet it lay beyond all 'sensation'.   It was so deeply stamped by immediate experience, it was the art of presentation which, at every minute, used the means available in a conscious way, and yet never transgressed the borderline that leads to trash ... the solo part is specifically written for Roy Hart. No other artist could probably realise this part so penetratingly.”

 

"No other artist", Jochaim says "could probably realise” (i.e. make real) "this part so penetratingly".   I should like to say that, since I, as the pioneer, have shown that this kind of freed voice can be used within the classical Western musical tradition, others have followed in my wake. For example, since my breaking relations with Maxwell-Davies on a question of integrity, three other artists, at least, have sung this part which was (created for my voice, and the critics have usually taken the trouble to compare their performance with mine, pointing out where they were even better "than Roy Hart". I am not interested in these competitive attitudes. I know that my voice is not a freak and that it has simply opened the way for musicians to be prepared to listen to the "individual", "wide-ranging", "human" voice, as opposed to the specialised voice of lieder or opera with their limited range of acceptable timbres and nuances. Yet, certainly, Jochaim is right:  it is not likely that there is another artist, who uses his voice in this kind of musical context, who has also devoted 25 years to an intensive study of the psychological implications of the human voice, and to stretching its potential for non-egotistical ends. It is my attitude to my art that is more revolutionary than the particular sounds that fellow artists find they can copy or embellish, I believe the artist should reveal "the struggle", should show that "borderline" just beyond what is easily within his powers of expression, and should show himself “conscious” at “at every minute” of the imperfections and perfections of his total humanity. What Jochaim heard was the audible manifestation of an inclusive, knowledgeable self-control, a control over schizophrenic extremes, commanded to come forth for the expression at will in a conscious rather than a poetical way. He heard a man, who is a philosopher, a psychotherapist, a sportsman, a husband, a lover, a friend, an actor, allying himself to the role of musician alongside those whose musical training has been more specialised. What the critic saw was acting that totally matched the sounds produced, because those sounds were embodied sounds. Some musicians have objected to the combination of acting and music, and in my recent concert in Vienna, where I performed a new work written for my voice by an Austrian composer, Meinhart Rudinauer, most of the music critics referred to my performance in scathing tones as "acrobatics" or "pantomime", and there was a distinctly anti-avant-garde music movement afoot in Vienna, because the musical world there had heard too much that was not really authentically progressive music.  Only one critic was able to see my performance in quite another light:

 

"the human voice (baritone solo) is exposed to an extraordinary test of endurance making hitherto unknown demands on the bravura of the soloist, which Roy Hart, an English singer, dedicatedly and unegotistically accomplished. The possibilities of expression and the extension of this realm of expressive potentialities… compels admiration in its variety and range." Salzburger Nachrichten 20 January 1972Salzburger Nachrichten 20 January 1972.

 

That this critic was prepared to praise a musical work in terms of  "a test of endurance", and that he could use words like "dedicatedly" and "unegotistically", reveals that the purpose of my work is slowly seeping through to the compartmentalised Western mind. Now in Japan the art of Zen, a religious dedication can be experienced in many forms of art, but it is taking the English a very long time to understand the totality of the kind of art which I practice. To put it shortly, I have often referred, to my art as "Conscious Schizophrenia", a conscious bringing together of the many parts into which Western man usually likes to divide and subdivide himself.

. . . . People have asked why I am so obsessed with the voice - what about all the other important means of human expression? I have found that full development of the voice, that is connecting all its tones of expression to embodied feeling, includes everything else, and forms a vital bridge between head and body, the conscious and unconscious. It is because I have aimed to sing eight octaves or more, using my whole body, will and imagination to do so, that my acting performance appears as immediate and embracing. To educate my voice to produce at will a great variety of timbres and nuances that relate to immediate experience rather than to a clever, intellectually acted simulation of experience, I had to gain in my body the knowledge of my comprehensive humanity. I am a Jew, born in South Africa, but I have had to find in myself not only the Jew but also Hitler, not only a white man but also a Negro. I find it interesting that the artist who has most frequently and most successfully been invited to sing works written for my voice has been the Negro singer, William Parson. The average European singer is simply not embodied enough to produce the intensity of the range which I have demonstrated. My life’s work has been to give bodily expression to the totality of myself. This means bringing an enormous unconscious territory into consciousness, with the help of the dream world and the unbiased observations of co-students of many unconscious gestures, words and actions. Some of the sounds which I and my colleagues make seem identical to many to be heard in any psychiatric ward, and at my concerts several people have found my sounds disturbing and have had hysterical reactions, but, for those who can hear without fear, it is clear that these sounds are consciously, detachedly "produced", "commanded" to come forth, and because I and my fellow-students choose where, how and when to make them, we are not forced to become alienated from society, as are those in the psychiatric wards, who seem to be making similar sounds.

. . . . The different members of my community all earn their livings in a variety of way, and yet manage to fit into their part in the normal bread-winning world a very formidable, disciplined training. They attack with the utmost effort of body and will the different centres of energy - a form of shock treatment for the cells, a biological shake that one hopes will occasionally spark off a new communication between two yearning synapses. Certain sounds stimulate the cortex, others vibrate the genitals, almost all are controlled by the diaphragm and the mind, and the most rewarding sounds involve a fine, tight-rope-walking communication between head, guts, diaphragm, finger-tips and toes. Fall off this tight rope, and one is immediately over Jochaim's "borderline that leads to trash". The razor edge can be bodily experienced. Most of the sounds that totally involve the body and concentration of will, are broken, chorded sounds, like an engine, triple-stopping on a stringed instrument, the roar of a wild beast or the scream of a hysterical witch. I notice that these "chorded" sounds are frequently used by priests in primitive religions rituals as, like prayer, they require a high degree of concentration, and they have an integrating influence. Each individual is constantly discovering "new" sounds for himself "in extremis", or in a moment "off guard", relaxed, or under the waking influence of dream images from the night before. These “new" sounds are sought again and again in the cold light of consciousness, until they are capable of production at will.

 

. . . . . When I discovered that stretching my powers of vocal expression entailed stretching my awareness of myself in relation to other human beings, my work then became a matter of finding more and more authentic means to aid this stretching process. In my Wiesbaden paper, I described how the demands of my work caused my music studio to grow into a combined Church/Theatre/Clinic/Gymnasium and Sports Club, and we call it now The Abraxas Club (taking the definition of Abraxas to be "the creative synthesis of opposites").

 

I will try to summarise the activities that go to make the stretched, objective voice:-

Earning a living; hard exercise in gymnasium and on squash courts; lengthy rehearsals of Roy Hart Theatre in our studio, exploring touch and struggle of all kinds, physical and mental; cabaret performances in the Club's restaurant on Saturday evenings (this is at present suspended as we are in the process of acquiring larger premises for our theatre work); relating, discussing, filing and cross-indexing of dreams; linking dreams and unconscious gestures and general behaviour to the observable daily experiences of each other; study of relationships in marriage, as friends, as apparent enemies, with especial observation of male and female aspects in each person; working on expressing sounds in the eight octave range, both singly and in groups; four-hour-long sessions (sometimes up to eight hour sessions)  carefully scrutinising "the word", as expressed by each other, by people we have met outside our hermetic circle, or by writers whose articles or books have been brought to be read as of general, current and edifying interest.   We seek to be well informed on matters of philosophy, comparative religion, world politics, basic medicine, physics and the latest findings in any subject worthy of human research from biology to business management. The aim throughout is to enlarge our human experience with as much control and objectivity as possible, and then to present this "fruit" in a theatrical context.

Because there is a strong communal objective, and that is a noble one, the context in which we live has proved to be therapeutic. BUT it is not suitable for everyone. This context works as preventive therapy for people in a high intelligence bracket, who need to learn how to keep open the bridge between intellect and feeling, people of energy who need worthy channels for that energy (and there are many such people languishing in hospitals for lack of such a context). It is also beneficial for those who are not particularly gifted, nor particularly energetic, but who have patience, humility, courage and above all a desire to grow. It is NOT suitable for those whose body chemistry has been so far influenced by traumatic experiences or stubborn death wish so that the Will for Action has been warped beyond repair. Yet who, even the most experienced of doctors, can say for certain when the will has been warped beyond repair? I have had some happy surprises and some sad disappointments, BUT my system is such that each psyche is left free to find its own level. The door is open for those who want to come to work with me. Some hover interminably on the threshold in a state of balanced attraction and repulsion and are only barred the door if they wilfully and maliciously waste our time. Those for whom this work would be dangerous either have the instinct to get out of the door quickly of their own accord, or occasionally have to be guided away from it in a subtle way that 'leaves them without remorse or a sense of loss. It takes respect for change and stability and a great generosity of spirit to be able to stay in my theatre community for any length of time, but I have watched people who were trapped in a one-octave way of living growing towards the eight-octave life in disciplined freedom.

 

            I think of two girls who were so severely schizophrenic in their behaviour that a doctor colleague of mine, a psychiatrist, insisted they were in need of hospitalisation at a certain point, but our context was strong enough to “hold” them and bypass the need for hospitalisation and they are both now creative assets in Roy Hart Theatre productions and in their daily jobs. Three men, long established in practising homosexuality, have been able to discover the possibilities of sustained and loving heterosexual relationship, with interesting reflections in voice and other behaviour. A manic-depressive of very high intelligence, on the brink of his fourth suicide attempt, where the third had left him with thrombosis, of arm and leg, found the attack on his system by sounds aided his will to live and assisted the chemistry of his body to fight fear. He had six months clear of depression without drugs when living in our context, but his family commitments were such he was not able to continue doing this.

Our age group ranges from l6 to 49, and for the past two years all have been working well (forty of us) with no severe neurotic symptoms save for one highly intelligent graduate, who was hospitalised for two months a year ago, but has been holding his own very well within our structure ever since.

It must now be clear that the music therapy I practise is highly active. There is a very valuable form of music therapy which entails passive listening, but in our context even our listening takes an active form registering where the sounds come from in the body and with what differing dynamics they are produced in different individuals; registering the known personality of the person making the sounds and the context in which he or she is making them (i.e. mindful of that person's dreams, daily actions over the years, relationships and so on). The sounds which I make vocally have a background of maximum thought, maximum sensitivity to others, maximum personal feeling and involvement, and maximum self-discipline.

It is therefore no accident that these sounds, so lovingly cultivated, have attracted the interest of a variety of professional musicians and that the theatrical presentation of the work of myself and my colleagues is attracting the attention of well-known personalities in the professional theatre.

To take first the world of music, I came across this definition of musical aesthetics in the Harvard Dictionary of music :-  “Musical aesthetics is the study of the relationship of music to the human senses and intellect", and this was arrived at after pointing out that music did not have to be beautiful to be artistic and aesthetic. I have approached music (and theatre, and politics and.....) from the other way round:- build a good bridge between the senses and the intellect and, I maintain,  a man will move, think, utter and live musically (theatrically, politically aware and......).

Keeping this definition in mind, I think of the musicians who have been especially moved to ‘utilise' my voice.   Hans Werner Henze heard my sounds and immediately wanted to use then for the externalisation of his own need for revolution.   He wrote "Versuch Uber Schweine" originally for my voice, but shortly after Deutsche Grammophon recorded my performance of this work, I pointed, out certain psychological facts to him, as a friend, and there has since been a rift in our relationship - to me, quite an expected pattern. Peter Maxwell Davies used my sounds to portray a type of schizophrenic madness - allegedly the madness of George III, who was actually in classified terms of madness, a schizophrenic. The music illustrates schizophrenia. Much of Maxwell Davies' music is concerned with bringing together different strands of musical or historical experience and my voice represented another facet of this process. His own physical being is alive with a jerky, restive energy, somewhat compulsive, and he could hear that my voice told him something about integrating fields of energy. Here again, we have parted company due to our living on such completely different levels of awareness, but any psychologist who wished to study the facts of our parting could only be saddened by, but fully understand, the whole process. Karlheinz Stockhausen was tremendously excited on first hearing my voice. I performed his vocal version of "Spirale" at St. Paul de Vence with such success that there was talk of further co-operation between us for the World Fair in Japan, but it was clear that our two worlds could not knit at that times perhaps never, but we at least parted company realistically and in friendship. We met at a time when, after many years devoted to the machine manipulation of sounds (electronic music), Stockhausen had become inspired by Chinese mysticism and many of his ‘compositions' were texts or themes taken from Chinese writings, such as the I Ching. I believe that that I do in my own body is the point of balance between machine and mysticism.

 

Many of the most gifted artists have a split between body and mind, and in fact their art partly thrives on this fact, The three whom I have mentioned all had an immediate, unconscious, strong response to my voice; they felt a tremendous 'something' speak to them, but I know that none of them really grasped the significance of that 'something'. They have not the psychological experience to do so. How a fourth composer, less well-known but with a more intuitive respect for the philosophy behind my vocal 'gymnastics', has written a work for my voice called "Description of an Inner Journey". This is the work referred to at the beginning of my talk, which was performed in Vienna last January, The title alone shows an interesting progression, but one critic flatly refused that the interior world had any right to be displayed in such a musical context.

. . . . To turn now to the world of theatre and relate it to the feelings of that Austrian critic: that critic and many people, more than half the world, do not wish to mix categories or see life in the round. I live in an Abraxian way: that is, I aim at a creative synthesis of opposites. The result of my work on my voice is that I have established a new kind of community living - a body of people who have chosen to call themselves Roy Hart Theatre. I did not personally aim to establish a theatre. It grew involuntarily out of my work, and perhaps in time it will come to be known as Theatre of the Heart. This theatre is at present functioning in two halves like a loving married couple – the performing half, and the rooted remainder, who keep the daily routine research going forwards in London. The performing half is currently touring Spain, a country seething with politically orientated passions. This tour is sponsored by the Spanish Government in response to the immediate enthusiasm for our work which the Spanish people have shown. During the past year there have been constant demands from Spain for teachers from our Theatre to conduct courses from two weeks to a month in duration. Successful, internationally known actors and actresses have attended these workshops and have been demonstratively grateful for what they have learned from them, although only one of the five teachers, apart from myself, has had any dramatic training outside the work in our own studio. The surging revolutionary spirit of the young Spain of today feels the profound meaning of the revolution we have been working on for twenty-five years in our own bodies. The politically ambitious or, one might say, the dedicated revolutionary, of course resents the impact that our work has made, just as Henze resented my comments, but I know that I am as dedicated a revolutionary as any of them. Although I am Jewish and I honour this fact, I an not in Israel helping their admirable though sadly anachronistic fight for survival.   Nor would I join Henze in his allegiance to the student revolution, nor have I joined the Spaniards, despite my compassion for their cause.  I know that my role is to teach people to be aware of the political explosives within themselves before they can be of any use to the cause of human progress.

When I leave Japan I go to join my Theatre in Paris, where we will perform together on Jean-Louis Barrault's invitation in his ten day Theatre Festival. This Festival is a way of studying the meaning of Theatre and Jean-Louis Barrault has chosen six themes for illustration by different theatrical companies, though anyone can "interrupt" the action by other performers on any of the days that illustrate themes which they were not chosen to represent.   Roy Hart Theatre is to perform on the theme of "The voice, breath and the birth of language", the first theme: yet such is the Abraxian nature of our work, I see that our production admirably illustrates all six themes. I also find it heart warming that the dramatic speech which I will be performing in French was written for me by a poet and playwright who is also a doctor in daily practice, so he really knows something about the embodiment of the word. In the words of his poem I would like to state what I am doing here with you today :-

"Je suis venu jouer mon corps"  I am come to perform my body, and I leave you in the knowledge that

"Avant de disparaître"

"J'ai marche vers toi" before leaving the stage, I have walked towards you 

 

- and thank you for affording me the opportunity to do so.

 

Roy Hart, 1972

 

 

Here are some excerpts from a letter written by a member of Roy Hart Theatre, who accompanied Roy Hart to Tokyo for the Congress:

... "We were met at the airport by Professor Matsumuro, Mrs. Kitihara and her daughter. They were friendly and very pleased to see Roy. We were driven to a large luxurious hotel and there were introduced to three young woman students of Professor Matsumuro who had been assigned to look after us. One of them, Now-ko, became a good friend of ours and was an example of dedication and application or in other words, sensitivity. In our words - a good singer...."

"Also present at the hotel to speak to Roy was a Japanese T.V. director and his translator. There followed a long discussion in the lobby of the hotel with Professor Matsumuro, also present for most of the time, on the proposed programme and what was expected of Roy. Basically the Director's concept was to have opera singers present singing in their different registers with Roy to sing seven or eight octaves up the scale. What came over was to present the eight octave voice as the latest gimmick to arrive in Japan, something like that. Roy very carefully tried to open up the situation more to include a preponderance of the artistic, human side and firmly to steer away from the exclusive gimmick almost inhuman presentation. The discussion ebbed and flowed on these lines for some time and finally it was left that the Japanese director would consider the new situation again and let Roy know what was going to happen the next day. Well nothing happened and that mooted T.V. performance never took place.

Roy also met a second T.V. Director for a news programme in which the taking place of the Seventh International Congress for Psychodrama and Sociometry in Tokyo was to be announced. Professor Matsumuro wanted Roy to make some sounds as part of the proposed programme...."

In view of the organic situation on Wednesday at the time that Roy was called to deliver his paper, he dispensed with the prepared text and played the tape of "Eight Songs for a Mad King" which as I listened, struck me as being a brilliant improvisation and utterly germane to the atmospheric conditions. Sure enough it provoked some classical psychological outbursts. One French psychologist shouting something like "Chine" (dog)! (I may have misheard the word or words, but there was no gainsaying the intensity in the sound behind the outburst). Someone else in the audience, a Westerner (a German I think) leaping up and banging on the piano for a minute or so, then banging the lid shut with a loud noise and striding out of the hall during the closing "sequence of the tape. Roy got up and asked for any questions. One of the French contingent of psychologists asked what had that to do with psychodrama. The atmosphere was electric. Roy said he had not come to the Congress as a psycho dramatist, or a psychologist or a psychotherapist. Then Roy carried on to say he had not come as any of the above guises but he had come as a human being. And Roy carried on brilliantly on this theme, on how people live together and relate to what is to be done as human beings... I have difficulty in recalling the words Roy used and I can only give my own individual interpretation. I do remember seeing one Japanese man in front of me who had seemed to be partly asleep earlier with his eyes closed sit up and shake his head vigorously in the affirmative every time Roy used words like "human being", ''humanity" etc. etc. This gentleman later (a few days later) spoke to Roy. He was deeply interested in the voice and on his request Roy gave him and two colleagues of his or students a singing lesson in which I partly joined in, after the closing party of the Congress on the last day that we were in Tokyo. This man is the head of some psychiatrical hospital in Tokyo I believe and Roy left him several tapes after that singing lesson as his response was so positive...."

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