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Wege zur Stimme

Ralf Peters

Wege zur Stimme
Reisen ins menschliche Stimmfeld

Unverzagt Verlag, Köln 2008
222 Seiten
Euro 16,80

English résumé of my book “Wege zur Stimme” (paths to the voice)

The book is divided in two big parts, the first under the title “Voice and Thinking”, the second entitled “Voice and Personality”.
In the first part I try to talk about the philosophy of the voice, whatever that can mean. I start with a chapter about the question how we can talk about the voice at all. What kind of subject is “the” voice? I use an idea of Gilles Deleuze and F. Guattari who write about the distinction between copy and map. The old way of philosophy was like making a copy of the things they were intersted in. But since there are great doubts if the mind is able to copy the world philosophers look for other ways of describing what we do if we think as philosophers. Drawing a map – the suggestion of Deleuze – is one way that seem to fit to the thinking of the voice very well. If we draw a map it is something that can be prooved only if one goes into the “countries” or fields that are described in this map. So it doesn´t make sense just to read about the voice. You have to use it, if you want to know something about it and the map can be a good orientation, but not the “truth”. (It is not easy to give a short abstract about this issue. But for me Deleuze has been very helpful. Although he never talks about the voice of course!)

In the next chapter I show that the voice has never been a subject for philosophers in our history. It was always seen as part of a language theory, in other words, the voice has always been in the shade of the language. You can say this started with Platon (but one could also start with Parmenides or others). I talk about his view (!) on the voice, later about Herder, who was one of the first who saw the meaningful qualities of the voice independent from the language. Then about Derrida who started to make the voice to a subject in french Philosophy although he was more interested in written language. 

In the next chapter I discuss the concepts of the so called beautiful voice in european history. I talk about the voice of the castratos, of the angels, and of the moment when the women came on the scene to sing. Afterwards I try to explain Wolfsohns idea of the whole voice or the human voice and I use some ideas of Nietzsche to make it clearer. Not so much the thoughts that Nietzsche had about the voice, although they are very close to Wolfsohn, but Nietzsches way of thinking morality. His attempt to think from the other side of good and evil. This is very much like Wolfsohn trying to find the human voice without judging about beautiful or ugly.

Then I talk again about the way philosophers could think about the voice and I present the idea of a “singing philosopher”, because I am sure that one cannot understand the human voice in only thinking about it, you also have to use it yourself!

Then I talk a bit about my idea of the “Stimmfeld” the voice field, in which all possibilities of the voice are potentially there and structured in some form.

The second part of my book starts with a discussion about the image of the voice as a mirror of the soul. I do not agree with this image and I would prefer to call the voice an echo of the soul.
Then I discuss the idea of the strange parts in the voice that seem not to belong to oneself.

The next chapter is about “physiognomie”, a kind of strange “science” that began with Aristoteles, was pretty important during the time of enlightment in Germany and in the beginning of the 20th century. It is about the idea that the body (and the voice) can tell you something of the character of a human being. So for instance the form of your head can give you information about your inner qualities. This is an idea not far from what we do in the voice work, because we see a relation between voice and personality, but the relation we are interested in is very different from what physiognomy wants to say. We have to be aware that in the singing process the voice – with its stories behind – always is confronted with an ear that has its own history of listening. What you hear tells you something about the listener as much as the voice tells you about the singer!

Then I talk about voice in modern Psychology in the beginning of the 20th century when some people started to use voice recordings to analyze voices. Karl Bühler, a psychologist and philosopher from Vienna is one of them, Paul Moses an other one. Again the result of the discussion is my conviction that analysing the voice in a scientific way doesn´t lead to valuable knowledge about the voice. Valuable for the process of liberating the voice. You need to have the relation of singer and listener with their stories behind and not a scientist who stays behind. 

The next chapter is about the idea of a healthy voice. What could this mean? Are there relations to the idea of the liberated voice?

In the last chapter I talk a about the art of the extended voice. What is the artistic value of the voice we are looking for? Do we have to look for meaningful sounds? I say: yes, but people like John Cage (who I adore very much) says no!
Here I discuss Roy Harts big contribution to the extended voice art and I compare it with Antonin Artaud.

In between this chapters there are three letters that I have adressed to Alfred Wolfsohn, in which I tell my story of looking for my voice and at least partly finding it.

There are also small anectdotes, stories, thoughts and quotations added everywhere in the book.

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