Natural, untrained singers are virtually oblivious to the very active process that is occurring inside their own bodies. For them, they simply open their mouths and singing occurs spontaneously. What is the source of this general disconnect between a singer and his or her voice? It’s worth revisiting the two reasons why singers are disconnected from their voices.
The process of voice production is invisible to casual observation. The complicated movements of the vocal apparatus occur inside our bodies and out of sight. At best, we can see mouth, lips, and voice box adjustments during speaking or singing, as well as some tongue movement, but in observing these actions, we learn very little of their significance to actual voice production.
As important to the singer’s general oblivion to what is occurring in his body during singing is that we can’t feel our voices being created. A biologist would say that to an enormous extent, voice production is devoid of proprioception or the ability to feel physical sensation. Our earlobes are also poor in proprioception, for example, and this is why piercing them is not necessarily an awful experience. The absence of sensation during voice production was actually a good design idea from an evolutionary perspective because if we were to feel the dynamic movements of all the voice muscles responsible for speaking and singing, these processes would be physically irritating and even disruptive, and it is likely that the whole experience of vocal and verbal expression would be radically altered, and with it, the nature of language and human culture itself.
One of the great benefits of linguistic expression is the sense of spontaneous freedom it confers upon the speaker in the activity of communicating, and this experience directly affects not only how language is used, but also the thinking process. The flow of ideas into language and into speaking would be severely retarded if that natural movement were interrupted by unpleasant or even distinct sensations. When we consider that language and speaking are defining characteristics of the human race, it would not be rash to suggest that human history would have unfolded differently if voice production were physically experienced (especially if the experience was unpleasant or very effortful). It’s also likely that not only would basic human communication itself have evolved along different lines, but the dramatic arts, all forms of rhetoric, and singing itself, as the meaningful play of our voices with music, may have had a different history, or perhaps no history at all. The lack of proprioception in voice production was indeed a great design idea! Thank you mother nature!!
Image source: Andrea Michele Piacquadio/Shutterstock