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Walter Carrington on Breathing + Revealing his larynx [DVD]: Review by (anon. - unknown reviewer).

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Article, essay
Article, citation and copright
Article Text: 
Walter Carrington (1915-2005), trained by F. M. Alexander himself, qualified as a teacher of the Alexander Technique in 1939. Carrington then trained teachers and private pupils for over sixty years. In this interview with Glynn MacDonald, filmed in 2001, he defines the Technique as psychophysical training in self-help.

Alexander had vocal problems that no one could resolve. He came to the conclusion that it must be something he was doing wrong and askedhimself, 'What causes the trouble? What am I doing wrong?' Carrington says that many people fail to ask these obvious questions. We have tolearn to stop whatever we are doing wrong in order to give ourselves a moment to think what we are doing and it put it right. To change a wronghabit in order to put it right is quite a task. (Singers and singing teachers will be well aware of this). Carrington tells us that the magic word is 'No!' which we need to say quickly before we consider what we want to do, and then we can choose what to do or not to do. The ambiguous Alexandrian technical term 'direction' is not defined for us, but instead we are told to look in the books by Alexander for the information.

The interview moves on to physical misuse. Alexander found that the poise and carriage of his head and neck were causing his voice problems;what he required for vocal efficiency was a free larynx. He discovered that he was throwing his head back when reciting, thus tightening his neck. According to Carrington, 'Self embraces everything including mind, body and spirit'. He is describing a concept of wholeness. He goes on to suggest that nature promotes the ways and means of doing – we don't need to make great effort, a wish 'to do' rather than effort is desired and everything else will follow. Carrington grants that it is difficult to communicate Alexander Technique, and advocates a 'hands on'approach for teachers rather than an intellectual approach, the hands reveal the problems of the pupil. He says that it is better for the pupil not to get intellectually involved, but rather to quietly observe and be open to a new experience. Not all Alexander teachers would agree with this and many would refer to the quotation about 'wholeness' above.

This is a beautifully delivered interview by an extremely gracious Glynn MacDonald. She gives Carrington the time to reflect and complete hisanswers. The cameraman seems also to be in the same mood with his lack of intrusion and respect for the interviewee. It is an excellent DVDfrom the point of view of hearing the Technique explained dearly by the great man himself.

The breathing section of the second DVD is a demonstration by Carrington with Glynn MacDonald as his pupil, in which he talks about thehead-neck-back relationship during breathing. Carrington explains simple anatomy, beginning with the head and moving down the skeleton. Heteaches that muscles need to be at their full length for full capacity, that they become shortened with misuse and thus resist stretching to their proper length. Circulation is impaired when the blood vessels are squashed. Balance is critical; our two legs are performing a balancing act. We stiffen up so that we don't fall over, thus we shorten and our natural balance is disturbed. He goes on to say that balance is fundamental to breathing, digestion and so on. In the second part of the DVD Carrington reveals his larynx while performing the whispered 'ah', speech, and singing, with the aid of Garfield Davies and his nasal endoscope.

If I had to choose between buying one or other of the DVDs I would select the first one as an excellent introduction to Alexander Technique. Although I found the second DVD interesting, it is not quite so relevant to singers and singing teachers as the first, unless they particularly wish to see Walter Carrington teaching, are involved in the Alexander Technique, or have never seen the vocal folds in action.

It is unfortunate that there is no note either on the DVDs or the slipcases to alert interested purchasers that the items are DVDs and not CDs. In the opinion of this reviewer, the DVDs are also over-priced.

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