Lost in Translation

Do we really DO what we say we do, or do we have to translate it?

The study of voice, the teaching of voice, is mysterious and miraculous in my experience. Working with intangibles - breath and vibration - and discovering the physicality of where that resides and intensifies is rather remarkable. Add to it, the psychology being very different from human to human, and you have an amazing and messy prospect!

How much of it is lost in translation?

We use so many “words” - from all sides of the singer: the singer, the teacher, the coach, the casting table, the conductor, the director. But do we actually know what those words MEAN? I mean, REALLY?

How do we translate them? Or is that the missing piece?

One of my biggest “ah ha!” moments was the realization that as an artist, my tendency was to translate what I heard in language, literally. I literally thought “placement” was “placement”. I literally thought “forward” was “forward”. I literally tried to “place it in the mask”. I literally tried to “breathe low”.

Oh, how I wasted time and energy!

I honestly believe this is the missing piece for singers. We must learn how we learn. In doing so, we must figure out how to translate in order to understand and embody what is being asked of us.

This is why, I am the queen of “why?” I want to know “why” - not to be a pain in the ass - but because I truly want to understand! I want to understand the behavior of breath and support and vibration and acoustic and resonance; I want to figure out how that balances in my instrument and then how to help singers who stand in front of me, find out what it means to them, in order to rinse and repeat the behavior so it can be easily assimilated and allow for authenticity in the voice, the expression, the creation.

We don’t all learn the same way. We don’t all process the same way. We don’t all have the same psychology; nor the same physiology;

Guess what? It’s okay to TRANSLATE into your understanding, in order for you to figure out how to do what you need to do and how you do what you do!

We will all hear the same language from many different corners. It doesn’t mean to literally DO those words! It's okay to hear the words and then allow them to move through your translation code and DO that.

What does that take? Preparation. Understanding. A willingness to discover. A desire to explore. An unapologetic approach to asking questions, with the momentum to finding the answers and creating a behavior that is uniquely and authentically YOU.

it’s okay if someone then responds with a word that isn’t what you are ACTUALLY doing. If you know the difference, and you know what to translate and how to get it into your body, your breath, your sound, your characterization, your dramatic intention - then you have achieved the translation!

Let “them” call it what they want. YOU need to know the difference.

As an exercise, make a list of “singer words”. See if you can actually verbalize to yourself what it means. If you can’t, that word isn’t serving you. Translate it into something you can access and then DO IT. In the doing, you create the possibility of behavior. Then describe the BEHAVIOR of that word, or now, the word or phrase that you have translated it into, in order for you to inhabit the behavior it represents.

Technical behavior allows for you to reveal BEYOND it.

This is, in my world as a singer, actor & teacher, what I am committed to discover.

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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