Carrington - An Interview with Glynn MacDonald
by Walter Carrington and Glynn MacDonald
PAL + NTSC 39 minutes Single sleeve slipcase, no cover
This is the
first of two DVDs giving us interviews with Walter Carrington in his 85th year.
There is a timeless calm to his modest and measured delivery as he sits
comfortably in his study at Lansdowne Road. The interview covers reflections
on working with F M Alexander, a wide variety of aspects of the Technique from
asking the big question of “what are we trying to teach?” to working with
children, via learning how to stop, arriving at the self and the concept of
wholeness, and the difficulties in communicating the Technique.
read reviews of both DVDs in this series below.
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
had vocal problems that no one could resolve. He came to the conclusion that it
must be something he was doing wrong and asked himself, 'What causes the
trouble? What am I doing wrong?' Carrington says that many people fail to ask
these obvious questions. We have to learn 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 wrong habit 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.
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.
a beautifully delivered interview by an extremely gracious Glynn MacDonald. She
gives Carrington the time to reflect and complete his answers. The cameraman
seems also to be in the same mood with his lack of intrusion and respect for
the interviewee. It is an excellent DVD from the point of view of hearing the
Technique explained dearly by the great man himself.
breathing section of the 2nd DVD is a demonstration by Carrington with Glynn
MacDonald as his pupil, in which he talks about the head-neck-back relationship
during breathing. Carrington explains simple anatomy, beginning with the head
and moving down the skeleton. He teaches 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 DVD's I would select the first one
as an excellent introduction to Alexander Technique. Although I found
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.
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.
Singing p30, Issue
51 Winter 2006