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The Alexander Story

edited July 2007 in Learning
Sorry for having to start a new thread -- couldn't really find a suitable category for contributions about 'Evolution of a Technique', considered the most important chapter by many (but not all) students within Alexander's writings.

And apologies if it seems like I'm blogging in a one-sided discussion with myself on these forums! I guess I'm recording my learning process... I'd love it if more were doing the same here.

Anyway, my thought was, at what point in this chapter does Alexander really start to say things that make you think 'where the hell did that come from?'. At what point does he really show he's off to beat his own path, rather than resign himself to thinking 'I've got a rubbish voice, and I need to live with it'?

I know some teachers who think it's right at the beginning of the chapter, where he admits to actually enjoying Shakespeare and interpreting the characters in the plays. Weird, huh?

But the thing that really makes me sit up straight (in an Alexandrian way) is this concept of 'use'. And where does he first bring this up? Earlier than you probably think -- before he starts wrestling with concepts like primary control; before he decides to invest in a couple of mirrors; even before he loses his faith in the medical profession. He suggests that the first person to bring up the concept of use is his doctor:
"...he promised me that if, during the fortnight before my recital, I abstained from reciting and used by voice as little as possible [my voice would be normal]".

I have met a couple of folk from the medical profession over the years, and none have ever talked about any kind of 'using' any part of myself in any different way. I hurt my back, doc, what do I do? Rest your back. No doctor ever asked me to use my back less.

Is this important? I don't know. But it's the start of a train of thought:
"I found by using my voice as little as possible I gradually lost my hoarseness"

So he's already bought into this concept of use at some level, because he didn't say

"I found that by reciting less I gradually lost my hoarseness"

I'm not sure if there is a real difference here. But what I notice is that instead of when most people would say, "I recite", Alexander is thinking "I use my voice to recite".

Again many a time I have wondered "It's maybe how I'm sitting that is making my back stiff". But I never ever concluded that "It's what I'm doing while sitting that is making my back stiff".

If there is a difference, it seems to me it's the building of a bridge between two camps: mind and body, conscious and unconscious, stimulus and response.
On the one hand we have:
"I" - the mind, the origin of a stimulus, the conscious self
The body, the response, the reaction to the conscious self

whereas Alexander is already slipping in something in between: "use"

so that

"I" (stimulus)
"use" (means-whereby)
"my voice" (response)

Now at this early stage the bridge isn't built yet, but my point is whether the building blocks are there? To me someone who is already talking about how they use themselves prior to giving up on the medical profession is at least thinking that there might be some kind of connection between mind and body. It might seem hilarious that anyone would doubt this fact, but FM never tires of pointing out how often we forget it.


  • Hello Steward,

    I enjoy reading your posts and I hope you'll continue to treat this forum as somewhere you can blog your heart out even if nobody responds. I wish more people would record their journeys in the same way. I ought to, too, but somehow I seem to have exhausted my Alexander output on my website and other places.

    I can certainly attest to the fact that writing about the Technique and posting what you write for public view is a surefire way to clarify matters for yourself. The process of writing seems to organise understanding in a far more profound fashion than passively absorbing what someone else has written. So, I commend your approach.

    The only comment I would make on your insight into Alexander's thoughts is that he wrote The Use of the Self (which includes Evolution of a Technique) well into his teaching career, when his concept of 'use' was finely developed. I think it's possible his recollection of the past and his description of events might have been coloured by his greater understanding at the time of writing.

  • Thanks Nicholas

    I agree, especially with your last paragraph. Perhaps this chapter is more revealing of where he was in 1932 than what actually happened in the 1890s. I guess all students forget how they felt or thought or used to act as they go through this learning process...
  • I think what you have noted here has to do with Alexander's ideas about responsibility; that we are ultimately in charge of the programs we "install" in ourselves, whether these programs have become buried into habits that fire off automatically or not.

    This one assumption that Alexander made is a very interesting one, because it determined many strategies that followed. I'd love to hear more of what you have to say as you examine and go further!
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