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Care of the Professional Voice (2nd edition)
D Garfield Davies and Anthony F Jahn
Published by A & C Black, 2004
Review by: Annabel Bosanquet, Speech and Language Therapist (voice) and trained actress.
Originally published in 1998 this book, described on the cover as a"guide to voice management for singers, actors and professional voiceusers" has been generally updated reflecting the advances in knowledgeof the care and management of the voice. A new chapter by Anat Keidar on"A singer's guide to self-diagnosis" has been added, the suggestedreading list augmented and the glossary substantially expanded.
In the introduction, the authors, both of whom have many years ofexperience working with performers, state that they have tried to appealto a broad audience: vocal performers and teachers, as well asphysicians who treat voice disorders. The book clearly aims to be bothinformative and practical; there are, as might be expected, usefulchapters explaining how the laryngeal mechanism develops and works, andon laryngeal disorders - diagnosis, treatment and prevention; otherchapters cover such topics as attributes of a good vocal performer;medications and the professional voice; travel and the vocal performer;anxiety, artistic temperament and the voice; popular music and themusical theatre; a visit to the laryngologist; surgery and the vocalartist.
In the field of voice, as in any other professional field; there arediverse opinions and strongly held beliefs about the training,production and management of the professional voice. There may bestatements in this book with which different schools of thought mighttake issue; I am not addressing such issues in this review. I do thinkthat there are some assumptions made that are in danger of beingstereotypical which can be off-putting or misleading: e.g.. in thecontext of whether a vocal fold cyst need be removed, "Housewives,office workers and factory employees may not be affected by a voicewhich is slightly husky and effortful." Similarly, elsewhere there is anassumption made as to the performer's personality type "usuallyextrovert and loquacious." Some are of course - many are not. It may bethat useful points are being made but some readers might find theexamples patronising.
Setting aside these criticisms, the book has much to offer. Itcontains practical advice and is sympathetic to the performer. The styleaims to be accessible and informal, and being a lightweight paperbackit could easily be carried around when touring. In some instances thelayout could be improved to help clarification; perhaps breaking up thetext a little more or having summary points at the ends of chapters. Theauthors acknowledge that some of the medical sections may be rathertechnical for the reader with no previous knowledge; an inevitabledifficulty perhaps when trying to reach a wide readership. The expandedglossary is a great improvement on the first edition and is helpful;though I query some of the definitions - e.g. "voice teacher - someonewho chiefly teaches singing technique:" Is this is a question ofdifferences in terminology used in Britain and the USA? The roles ofspeech and language therapist/voice therapist are not clearly defined inthe book and perhaps could have been included in the glossary.
The final chapter is Anat Keidar's "A singer's guide toself-diagnosis". There may be statements made in this chapter that arecontroversial but there is also much good sense, and here the value ofthe multi-disciplinary team is emphasised. Elsewhere in the book otherpractitioners e.g. voice therapists, counsellors, are certainlymentioned, but not in sufficient detail to give the performer readingthis book a sense of how the whole support network andmulti-disciplinary team can work together to help in diagnosis andongoing care. It is surprising that this updated edition does not fullyacknowledge the growth in voice clinics since this is where a performeris very likely to be seen.
From the performer's perspective I think this book providessubstantial information and guidance about voice care and management:However, this would be greatly enhanced if they had a therapist/singingteacher/ laryngologist with whom to discuss some of the issues. While itis undoubtedly helpful for a performer to gain knowledge andunderstanding of their own instrument, there is also a need to avoidbecoming preoccupied with potential problems or symptoms. The fourteencolour photographs showing various conditions of the vocal folds arelikely to be of interest to all readers, and of assistance to singingteachers and voice therapist/teachers; a singer or actor looking at themwithout reference to a voice practitioner might find them alarming. Inthe final chapter certain vocal tasks or "swelling traps" are suggestedas a means of detecting vocal fold swellings; it could be argued thatthis might increase anxiety or confusion in an already worried singer.
This book would be useful for those practitioners who have not had agreat deal of experience working with performers, though it does offersome good information for the more experienced practitioner too. Despitereservations already stated, performers and professional voice userswill find many aspects of the book interesting and helpful.
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