This is the KTSpeechblog We have so many avenues for communicating to a wider audience and amongst ourselves; what is it that a blog can do that isn’t handled by Facebook, or by Vastavox or by countless other speech/accent/phonetics blogs? Our hope is that this is a place where an idea can be proposed, and articulated with a little care, and the members of this community can weigh in to discuss it. It will be up to our blog authors to set out questions and challenges that can stimulate a conversation, but should also be a place where people who have […]

Posture Through Movement

Here’s an odd question: What if Speaking With Skill had been written specifically for French speakers (perhaps by Dudley “Chevalier”)? The “vowel calisthenics” figure-8 exercise beginning on page 279 might look something like this…try it out! Does your mouth feel more French yet? Sometimes coaching an accent’s posture can be challenging. Students may have different starting places, making relativity an issue. Describing the position of articulators can pose problems for students who can’t yet feel the movement or positioning of their vocal tract. In these cases, I remind myself that (oral/vocal tract) posture can be described not just in terms […]

Formality Follow-Up

The points that Jeremy raised in last week’s post are worth weeks of exploration, and I am so grateful for his courage and his insight in bringing his curiosity to this forum. I wanted to stumble my way into this socio-philosophical hall of mirrors with my own questions to bounce around in some attempt at securing my epistemological footing. In June, I taught an Experiencing Speech with Master Teacher Andrea Caban, and we bumped up against this same issue as we neared the end of the six-day intensive. While the group was quite comfortable with Dudley’s “Principles, Perhaps …” and […]

Formality

A few weeks ago, fellow KTS-er Julie Foh and I presented together in Singapore at the VASTA conference. Our topic was “Linguistic Detail in Singlish” and I was thinking a lot about, well, linguistic detail…but also the idea of formality. And I stumbled into a can of worms. One of Dudley’s innovations in Speaking With Skill is to avoid prescribing a standard accent for formal speech, focusing instead on a continuum of detail and efficiency. The reasoning behind this innovation is an awareness of the classism and racism inherent in the sort of traditional binary formal speech model represented here: […]

Uptalk?

I recently attended a two-day webinar devoted to transgender voice and communication training for voice clinicians. It was a fantastic experience, and I would recommend the training without hesitation. Even in a super-inclusive and culturally-sensitive environment, people are bound to put a foot in a mouth occasionally– we’re only human, and our implicit biases often slip under the radar. The workshop leaders acknowledged this at the outset, and called these slips “teaching moments”– opportunities to clarify our thinking and our language. At one point, someone said that they didn’t teach “uptalk” to trans women, because it wasn’t “assertive.” My cultural […]

5 Lessons Corporate Clients Taught Me About Teaching Voice & Speech to Conservatory Students

(Today’s post contributed by Rockford Sansom) Over the past several years, I’ve been privileged to serve as a voice coach for many corporate clients around the globe. I have a passion for these business men and women since so many of them deeply want to learn the skills voice coaches have to offer. Nevertheless, I admit that, at my core, I’m a man of the of theatre, and theatre folk historically don’t mingle daily with hedge fund managers and vice-presidents of marketing. So for me, coaching corporate titans had a steeper learning curve than teaching college-age conservatory students. In the […]

Writing a Book on Accents

  From Tyler: I’ve been thinking lately about writing a book on accent acquisition. Which has mostly resulted in me thinking about the challenges associated with writing a book on accent acquisition. And I’ll say up front: I know other Knight-Thompson teachers are laboring away at this very same idea, most of them much further along than I am. This blog post in no way aims to undermine their efforts, but rather explore the goals and challenges associated with accent acquisition education that arise when I think of writing a book on the subject. I’d love to have current authors’ […]

How Many Accents?

From Jeremy: In the last two posts, we (the editors) introduced ourselves and let you eavesdrop on one of our conversations. But enough about us! We’d like to hear from you. The big question I’m wrestling with today is: In a college accents course, how many accents should be covered, and which ones? Here’s a little more background… At the end of last term, I asked the students enrolled in my accents class what about the course was useful and what needed work. Everyone agreed that oral posture was a revelation and super-useful. Many were frustrated by the phonetics– as […]

Meet the Editors — Part Two!

Hello, Readers! If you haven’t had a chance to read our last post yet, make sure you do that before diving into this post. As we begin to experiment with the format and mission of the KTS Blog, we’ve been asking each other questions, about the work and our relationship with it. Our post last time prompted some responses that got us all sorts of curious, and we couldn’t just let those responses stand uninterrogated. So we share with you this week our responses — and our responses to our responses — to some of our initial lines of inquiry. […]

Meet the Editors — Part One!

Hello, Readers! It’s a new year, and the Knight-Thompson Speechwork Blog is getting some updates as well! Certified Teachers Jeremy Sortore and Tyler Seiple have stepped up to become Co-Editors of the KTS Blog. We’re excited to mobilize this forum to build stronger connections within the KTS community while also reaching out to performers, teachers, and speech enthusiasts in the world at large. You can find our bios on the “Teachers” page (soon), but we wanted to introduce ourselves a bit more informally in this, our first joint post. We asked each other some questions, probing at the nature of […]

Skeptical Face

  This article showed up in the Vasta’s Voices Facebook group, and I’ve been ruminating over how (or whether) I should respond to it.  I mean, it’s just a fluffy little article for people to toss back and forth on Facebook. I really shouldn’t get worked up about it. But I am. I’m a little worked up.  And as I re-read the article I realized that it isn’t just the usual imprecision, and sensationalism that bothers me –the title of the blog where this story appears is “Facts So Romantic” so I shouldn’t be surprised    — What really turns my […]

Actors Be Damned! (or: What I Don’t Think)—What Is the Value of (Super) Narrow Transcription?

All actors should learn narrow transcription. And I mean super narrow, with multiple diacritics hanging off of every symbol like crazed Christmas ornaments. All teachers and coaches should employ similarly narrow transcription in all their prepared materials, and whenever taking or giving phonetic notes. They should not water down the detail even when preparing materials for or giving notes to actors who don’t know any phonetics. If these actors can’t handle it, well, that’s just too bad. They should have paid attention in speech class. No. I’m pretty sure some people think that’s what I believe. I don’t. I think […]

Finding Your Voice

Today we bring you a guest post by Eric Armstrong, who teaches voice, speech, and text at York University. As a voice and speech teacher, I’ve been very lucky to have some great role models, mentors, colleagues and master teachers, all of whom have greatly influenced my approach to the art of teaching. I’ve also been very happy to have the opportunity to be a trainer of trainers, leading a speech and accent seminar as part of the now-closed Graduate Diploma in Voice Teaching at York University from 2003-2015. Any voice/speech methodology that has a teacher training program needs to […]

Time Put In

I’m looking forward to 2016 KTS Teacher Certification in June. Not only will I have the opportunity to discuss the intricacies of human communication and speech with exceptionally intelligent and good-looking people, but I’ll also get to visit New York for the first time in several years and decide which organs I will trade on the black market for a Hamilton ticket. One of the foundational concepts I’m looking forward to discussing this summer is one that I’ve had to manage frequently in my career as an accent coach in Los Angeles: time. Namely, the assumptions we make about time […]

An Apology For Rabbit Holes

Laura Barrett http://laurabarrett.co.uk/Alice-in-Wonderland   It’s true, I do find myself apologizing for my tendency to wander off topic, picking up some apparently tangential thread and tracing it back to the extent of my knowledge on the subject. However, I’m not planning on making an apology of that sort here, but rather an apologia, or defense of the pedagogical value of departing from the outline. Apology, by the way, comes to English from Greek (and subsequently Latin) apologia, which breaks down pretty easily into apo– “from” + logos “word” or “speech.” The original meaning was a spoken defense, and that meaning […]

Vocal Tract Posture and Four-Year-Olds

A version of this post was previously published in The VASTA Voice. Getting the vocal tract posture of a language or an accent right is a crucial part of successful accent acquisition. Vocal tract posture (also called oral posture), is the particular patterning of muscular engagement, release, and positioning characteristic of individuals and groups of speakers. It is, if you will, the ‘home base’ for an accent, and can be thought of as the position to which the vocal tract returns when at rest, or when preparing to speak or resume speaking. Phoneticians call it articulatory basis, or basis of […]

What is the Value of Broad Transcription?

This blog post is an open inquiry: what is the value of teaching broad transcription to actors these days? Every fall, I teach phonetics to my first-year acting students at Rutgers. Every fall, we go through the empty consonant chart, attempting to make each possible physical action – both voiced and unvoiced – in each individual cell. This physical exploration usually goes smoothly – sorting through the resulting consonant sounds as either familiar or unfamiliar depending on whether it’s a sound that actually occurs in some human language and on what languages my students speak – until we get to […]

Accent Coach Apologizes for Offending an Entire People! Read all about it!

In 2011 I was approached by an online “how-to” site to do a series of 2-5 minute “teaser” accent videos. The sort where you learn a few key features of an accent and you’re on your way. Great for the actor who has an audition in a few hours and needs a little something to point them in the right direction. The company asked me to make a list of all the accents I could do in a one-day recording session. They said, “You know, like 30 or 40.” O.      K.   Eager to please, I made as […]

Collecting accents

I wrote a thing. Two things, I guess: two short texts for eliciting useful accent samples. Here they are: Dali’s Last Hurrah* What frosty land is this? How was its fate decided? Coal-black mountains loom; Glassy pools reflect their huge, queer forms. A bird-like woman searches slowly through the trees; Flocks of trembling sparrows cluster about blood-red barns. I feel the flashing claws of chalk-white terror rip at my breath. My courage fails. A furious, hoarse voice whispers from the inky shadows, “He knew his duty. We cannot be afraid.” Fighting a fog of sudden nightmare visions— Savage lambs, Fork-tongued […]

Why the Detail Model Had to Go

(Roots, part III) The teaching of any prescriptive speech pattern as some sort of basis or ‘neutral’ will inevitably encode privilege and elitism, alienate actors from nonstandard speech backgrounds, and actively impede the acquisition of accurate and detailed perception and the ability to subtly adapt one’s own speech and accent.     It’s been a ridiculous fourteen months since I last posted. Even worse, at the end of that post, I teased the next part of the story, promising to write soon about Why the Detail Model Had to Go. Better late than never, I suppose. This is that post. […]

Roots, Part II

  The other day I wrote a bit about some of the intellectual and linguistic foundations of Knight-Thompson Speechwork. Today I’d like to write a bit about how Dudley found his way from there to here, as it were, and a bit about why KTS-based speech classes spend so much more time on vocal tract explorations, play, and teaching (the entirety of) the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) than traditional speech classes do.   When Dudley trained as an actor, at Yale Drama in the early 1960s, there wasn’t much in the way of speech training as we’d recognize it today. […]

Roots

I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about the roots of this work. Unitarian Universalists like to talk about roots and wings. Roots ground you, connect you to where you’ve come from and what’s important. They form your support system and give you structure, organization, stability, and sustenance. Wings carry you aloft. They are those things that inspire you, that lift you up and out into the world and into ever widening circles of possibility. Individuals, families, and communities all need both roots and wings to flourish and thrive[1]. I think rich, coherent bodies of work, like Knight-Thompson Speechwork, also […]

The Name of Action

  I studied acting with the great Earle Gister some years back. He was a brilliant man, and his way of teaching and speaking about acting resonated deeply with me. It felt, at the time, like the missing piece of my equipment as an actor. After working with Earle, I still had plenty left to learn as an actor—I don’t think we ever get to the end of that particular road—but I felt somehow complete in a way I hadn’t before. In every acting job A.E. (After Earle), I knew what to do. It’s not that I was never lost […]

Rhoticity, Part Two: Symbol Confusion

  This post is a part two of an answer to a question posed by Kim Mappleswitch. Part one is here. As a reminder, Kim writes: At The High Standards Academy of Dramatic Art (HSADA) we’re required to teach Standard Stage as a basis for learning IPA. I have asked the faculty here how they teach the /ɜ˞/ sound. On one hand – it’s that the tongue tip stays behind the lower teeth and on the other hand it’s that the tongue tip is not on the lower teeth, but rather “floats” because the body of the tongue is slightly […]

The Bird is the Word

Kim Mappleswitch writes: At The High Standards Academy of Dramatic Art (HSADA) we’re required to teach Standard Stage as a basis for learning IPA. I have asked the faculty here how they teach the /ɜ˞/ sound. On one hand – it’s that the tongue tip stays behind the lower teeth and on the other hand it’s that the tongue tip is not on the lower teeth, but rather “floats” because the body of the tongue is slightly retracted. What do you guys think? Rhoticity is a difficult topic and I’d like to have some clarity with this symbol and get […]

Email address!

We’ve just established an email address for the blog. You can now write in with questions to: ktspeechblog@gmail.com We’d love to hear from you. Any question you may have about transcription, exercises, pedagogy, philosophy, linguistic resources, etc.—send them in! (The one area I think we can perhaps leave for other forums is requests for help finding resources for specific accents. Those discussions are probably best had on vastavox or the Facebook page. Let’s leave this forum specifically for questions to do with Knight-Thompson Speechwork, phonetics, teaching, coaching, linguistics, etc. I think that’ll be plenty!) Bring us your questions!

Adding Insult to Investigation

One thing I think we’d like to do with this blog is share ideas for new and fun Omnish exercises. One of us will write a post soon sharing one or two that aren’t in the book. I have also found a need in my teaching, however, for some extra Outlandish exercises. I hesitate to introduce Omnish until my students are thoroughly grounded in the Empty Chart—in all the specific possibilities of obstruent action. But because the Bataan Death March through the Empty Chart can take up to five ninety-minute classes, I have a great need for fun things to […]

Narrow transcription

Many, perhaps most people who come and take a Knight-Thompson workshop have already studied phonetics before in some form. Many have also done some phonetic transcription, though for the most part what people have done is quite broad (and even prescriptive in purpose!) and so is more like phonemic transcription than phonetic transcription. And then, of course, there are those who come to the workshops completely fresh, not having studied phonetics before in any form. Though KTS is much more than just phonetics, of course, narrow, descriptive phonetic transcription is a key element of the work. A high degree of […]

Complexity nourishes art

I taught my first classes of the new year this week, so I’ve been thinking a lot about Dudley. I miss him tremendously, as so many of us do. But at the same time, I feel incredibly fortunate not just to have known him and learned so much from him, but also to be in a position where I get to continue learning from him by teaching his work. Phil and I made a fascinating discovery in August, while we were teaching Experiencing Speech in Irvine. It was a small discovery, just a tiny matter of terminology, really, but an […]

Schwiznet and glit

  Dudley Knight  1939-2013  It seems likely that anyone coming to this blog at this point will have heard of Dudley’s passing. If not, here’s what happened: On June 25th, 2013, walking home from rehearsal, on a beautiful cool night in Irvine, Dudley Knight was struck down by a heart attack. He died soon after without regaining consciousness.  What we lost on that night is hard to reckon, impossible to quantify, and just plain difficult to think about.  However, as I get more practiced at dodging the most painful pieces of shrapnel, I discover that I’m able to settle into […]

Corrections to Speaking With Skill

  SPEAKING WITH SKILL, 2ND EDITION, 1ST DRAFT Now that Speaking with Skill is readily available worldwide just in time for holiday gift-giving, I could allow a sigh of relief to flow egressively from my alveolar sacs; were it not for the fact that I managed to distribute liberally—throughout its pages—words,  sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs that need to be changed. Others might call these “errors” or “omissions” or “stupidities,” and some reviewer undoubtedly will, but I consider the opportunity to fix them an ongoing retirement “hobby.” I offer therefore the following four corrections to the text. This is just […]

Oh, those wandering GOATs

I think it’s high time we stopped representing the So-Called General American GOAT phoneme as /oʊ̯/.  I don’t think it can be very controversial to suggest that [oʊ̯], phonetically-speaking, would be a very unusual vowel to hear from most American speakers in 2012.  The only Americans who come close to a fully-rounded [o] in realizing this phoneme are from what dialectologists call the North Central dialect region—the Dakotas, Minnesota, Michigan’s UP, and parts of Wisconsin, Montana & Iowa.  (We might also add Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley, where Sarah Palin hails from—much of which was settled in the 1930s by transplants from […]

CERTIFICATION CLASS of 2012

Today we celebrate the hardy souls that have completed the first-ever Knight-Thompson Speechwork Certification Course. Those of you who have done a six-day workshop can, perhaps,  imagine the kind of focus and stamina it took to keep at it for three weeks. Please join us in congratulating them on their hard work! Dudley & Phil Andrea Caban  Now based in Southern California, Andrea is an actor, writer, producer, private voice and speech coach, and a New York Innovative Theatre award-winning solo artist. She has performed her solos shows regionally and abroad (at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Intimate Theater in Cape Town, […]

CERTIFICATION!!

This is just a short post to say ‘Welcome!” to our first-ever certification group. It was fourteen years ago that I joined the first Fitzmaurice Voicework Certification class. It seems impossibly long ago, and yet I remember the people, and the feeling of palpable anticipation so vividly. Dudley taught the Speech sequence and introduced the idea of Omnish in what must have been one of its earliest iterations. I completely misunderstood the assignment, and went home and wrote out in detailed phonetic transcription my Omnish oration. Fortunately, I quickly realized that I had made a misstep and quietly shoved my […]

General American Revisited

  I want to share with you a short series of long e-mails between Erik Singer and me on the subject of how to deal with the desire of students to learn some form of “General American.” Erik began the discussion with a thoughtful and thought-provoking e-mail to Phil and me, from which he has given me permission to quote at length: I’ve been having an interesting year, and wanted to share some thoughts with you. Should either of you have the time and inclination to respond, it goes without saying that I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts […]

Where to start?

Stephanie Philo as Titus Andronicus – 2008       photo by Paul Kennedy “What fool hath added water to the sea?” -Titus Andronicus The prospect of launching a blog, of adding a few drops of virtual ink to the ocean of words, is daunting.There are wonderful blogs about speech and phonetics, about accents, and acting, and a whole range of interesting topics, outside of this narrow range of specialization. So why would Dudley and I want to put our oar in? It is true that both of us have been known to have opinions, and we hope to use […]