The impact of extended voice use on the acoustic characteristics of phonation after training and performance of actors from the La MaMa Experimental Theater club

Carol Ferrone, Jessica Galgano, Lorraine Olson Ramig
Journal of Voice 2011, 25 (3): e123-37

PURPOSES: To test the hypothesis that extensive use of La MaMa vocal technique may result in symptoms of vocal abuse, an evaluation of the acoustic and perceptual characteristics of voice for eight performers from the Great Jones Repertory Company of the La MaMa Experimental Theater was conducted. This vocal technique includes wide ranges of frequency from 46 to 2003 Hz and vocal intensity that is sustained at 90-108 dB sound pressure level with a mouth-to-microphone distance of 30 cm for 3-4 hours per performance.

METHODS: The actors rehearsed for 4 hours per day, 5 days per week for 14 weeks before the series of performances. Thirty-nine performances were presented in 6 weeks. Three pretraining, three posttraining, and two postperformance series data collection sessions were carried out for each performer. Speech samples were gathered using the CSL 4500 and analyzed using Real-Time Pitch program and Multidimensional Voice Program. Acoustic analysis was performed on 48 tokens of sustained vowel phonation for each subject. Statistical analysis was performed using the Friedman test of related samples. Perceptual analysis included professional listeners rating voice quality in pretraining, posttraining, and postperformance samples of the Rainbow Passage and sample lines from the plays.

RESULTS: The majority of professional listeners (11/12) judged that this technique would result in symptoms of vocal abuse; however, acoustic data revealed statistically stable or improved measurements for all subjects in most dependent acoustic variables when compared with both posttraining and postperformance trials.

CONCLUSION: These findings add support to the notion that a technique that may be perceived as vocally abusive, generating 90-100 dB sound pressure level and sustained over 6 weeks of performances, actually resulted in improved vocal strength and flexibility.

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