Article for the Arts Council e-zine on the ’21st Century Leadership programme’ (which I was part of in 2012) legacy document.
Vocal Tai Chi
Creator: Jenni Roditi GGSM, MMus, VMTR
Composer, vocalist, voice movement therapist.
Vocal Tai Chi is a new approach to vocal improvisation-performance and workshops grounded in a Tai Chi approach to singing, breathing and voice-body coordination. Improvisations are also supported by especially composed backing tracks. This new work is part of my evolving music practice and points to a further integration of my composition-improvisation dialogue as a primary artistic pathway.
I am also offering workshops, one-to-one sessions and friends-and-family concerts that welcome all singers, non-singers and those with physical damage affecting the voice, for example long-term smokers. Public concerts may also be possible in the future. I’ve also attended several conferences in the last few months and presented Vocal Tai Chi in the contexts of:
- The Global Summit on Collaboration
- European Association of Transformational Leadership
- International Association of Voice Movement Therapy
- National Health Service Mentoring for Diversity Programme
All of these contacts are embedding themselves for the future.
My Tai Chi approach emerged from observation of a subliminal movement flow that was congruent with my vocal improvising and clearly evident in my body. I am familiar with Tai Chi from practice over a number of years. My partner named it Vocal Tai Chi after he noticed this correlation.
Musically VTC takes an elemental approach to solo, duo, trio and group voice work and emphasizes non-genre specific material. In workshops I invite people to explore openly, using a voice placement technique to help develop range, colour, articulation, control, stability, fluidity, confidence and depth of feeling.
I also see the work as a metaphor for exploring the nature of 21st Century Leadership, authority and collaborative models – through asking (myself and others) of the improvising: What did it say to you? Did it work? Why did it work? These questions are often most easily answered through audience response, though analysis in workshops can also be used.
The questions provide a felt-sense thinking space for reflection and learning and often begin a more wide ranging conversation.
Vocal Tai Chi embraces influences from many indigenous vocal cultures as well as the classical and modern Western art and popular traditions (demonstrated in my own singing) and looks to find new aural-visual images of voice. The vocal elements in my own Vocal Tai Chi encourage the workshop-vocalist to find a way towards their own authentic vocal expression, alongside my voice coaching, based on twenty-five years experience.
Vocal Tai Chi relates musical (inner) intention to musical (outer) invention. The core, body-mind stability of Tai Chi settles into a relationship with this individual intention and invention so that the voice can liberate itself. This poses another question: from where are we vocalising?
Many other inquiries come out of the core questions cited here all of which can provide insights not only into the discipline of vocal improvisation, but also into the many layers of informative psycho-physical process and how we are in the world.
The work seems to consistently deliver a transformational experience, both in a listening and participatory context that many have found highly valuable.
In its ten months of public life I have placed Vocal Tai Chi in various professional contexts – a full list of archived activities since January 2012 can be found at VTC Archive. Here is one example of a potential application for Vocal Tai Chi, as endorsed by Vick Bain, Chief Operating Officer of BASCA who approached me in August 2012:
- Vick Bain of the British Academy of Composers Songwriters and Authors requested a VTC proposal for submission to the government body Creative and Cultural Skills as part of their bid to UK Commission of Employment and Skillsfor funding. This was to “roll out Vocal Tai Chi throughout the creative industries”.(The full proposal was written and submitted but, in the end, deemed “not generic enough” by CCS).
Written for the 21st Century Leadership Programme Arts Council e-magazine legacy document.