Tuesday, March 3, 1998 at 12:03:02
Hi there, One of the things that I have observed since coming to Queensland from the UK is how halting speech is amongst our local state polititions. It's a matter of empathy - he behaves just as I would if I were called upon to speak-he's just like me. Anyone who is fluent is not to be trusted and in a frontier state it does no harm to be a verbal backwoodsman. The other observation is that hesitation allows cueing time - you can read how well what your saying is being received. Also the further west you travel in this state the more the pauses and the greater the physical kinesphere. Big spaces environmentally give rise to big pauses.
I'm getting a lot of feedback on the issue of the advantages/disadvantages of FPs (filled pauses) in public speech on BOTH sides of the issue. Many argue that FPs in speech are irritating and suggest sloppy thinking or even dishonesty. Others say that FPs create ethos between the speaker and listeners. It seems pretty clear that both views have some validity. Perhaps the best admonishment for the public speaker is "Know your audience." It doesn't really matter whether the speaker is irritated by FPs. What really matters is how the audience will react to them. What I would really like to study is the person who has developed the ability to "turn it on and off", as it were. Know any well-known public speakers like that?
Know your audience is the secret - but that is surely the preserve of the trained actor- or at least the aware charismatic. Yes to an extent sloppy thought leads to sloppy expression but there are so many other factors. Short term memory for instance. Three pauses building to a climax within about seven seconds was favoured by both Hitler and Churchill (interesting that the latter did use a trianed actor for some of his wartime braodcasts) - seven seconds being about the time we can retain the key phrases. Humour relies on the FP. I think though the cues to laugh probably rely on a cluster of things- gesture, expression, eye contact, pause. Have you done any Rudulph Laban work in particular his idea of bound and free flow? I work with my students ( I train actors) on using music to overcome unfilled pauses.
I'm afraid I had not heard of Rudolph Laban until you mentioned him. I did a net search on his name, but came up with only scant references. Alternately, one page I found was so long and so specialized about his work that it was too difficult for the newcomer (me) to grasp. I'm curious though about your technique of using music to help students overcome unfilled pauses. Could you give me more information about this or perhaps direct me to a web page about it?
Much of Laban's work is about the fact that the body is an integrated unit and that the voice is an organic extention of the whole not something grafted on. The fact that he was saying this at the turn of the century (b1879 d1958) made him something of a pioneer although as I'm sure you know the work of Cec Berry and Linklater very much confirm his findings.
Basically he divided body movement into four elements - time, weight, space and flow. It's that last element that perhaps concerns you most although it's very difficult to separate one from the other. He described flow as either free ie continuos or bound- broken up. I sometimes explain it to my students as the difference between fish and bird movement one smooth and ongoing the other more more broken up - I'm thinking of a chicken looking for grain rather than a bird in flight. You can influence the flow through music - people don't stutter when they sing - so music particularly flowing music help people to fill pauses.
Perhaps even more interesting he divided people into dabbers flickers wringers and pressers. Now, ( in the privacy of your own room) try dabbing, flicking, wringing and pressing words you'll find that that the fluency is greatly affected. I'm just about give a workshpop on this very topic so I'll let you know how I go interms of the pause.
There is a book called Laban For Actors and Dancers ISBN 1 85459 1657 by Jean Newlove which is a good basic introduction. I'm afraid that the theorists have made him almost incomrehensible a task that appears to be increasingly the preserve of the modern academic!
Your idea to use music to help your students increase their fluency is fascinating. Could you describe the degree of success you've had with this technique? I'm getting a lot of feedback from people who want to know how to improve their speaking skills (and also from school teachers who are desperate to improve their students' speaking skills). If you could, say, outline one such technique many visitors to the FPRC (and I, too) would be very grateful.
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