Picture a college professor standing at the front of a crowded auditorium and speaking to a group of three hundred students. The speaker, sharp-eyed and astute, has a glass of water and stands tall and mighty behind a podium. He projects a series of sounds toward the dreary-eyed students – a mouthful of verbs, adjectives and nouns, all carrying different meanings. The speaker’s information may be fascinating and well organized, but one MU researcher doesn’t ask why someone is speaking. He’s more interested in studying how the speaker is communicating.
As a young boy, the idea of using his voice in a performance setting fascinated Radhakrishnan. “I wanted to be in movies, be an actor, director, and all sorts of stuff,” he says. “Coming from a family of doctors, my dad, his dad, and grandparents were all doctors; they wanted me to be in the medical field.” Instead, Radhakrishnan chose a career that fell in between vocal performance and medicine: speech pathology.
The non-invasive tools Radhakrishnan uses to study voice production are sophisticated, and apparently accurate with their results. He demonstrates how he records the voice levels of his subjects.
Radhakrishnan talks about some of the common voice problems people can have.
The first step in improving voice is listening to oneself. It is not always a simple process, but once people learn to manage their voice in a healthy way, they should experience less fatigue and vocal dryness.
During the school year, Radhakrishnan teaches a professional voice course offered to all MU students. Many of the students who sign up for this course are aspiring performers and professional voice users like broadcasters and education majors.
Radhakrishnan offers a rundown of some tips to improve the voice.
After several years of studying voice, Radhakrishnan even assesses professional broadcasters. He says many TV and radio anchors get carried away in front of a microphone, and as a result they lose their breath support.
A major part of Radhakrishnan’s research entails comparing voice production between Western classical singers and Indian classical singers. After studying the voice levels of both cultures, he concludes that Indian classical singers do not rely on breath support nearly as much as Western singers.
Taan gestures are a fraternal fluctuation used by Indian classical singers. Western classical singers tend to use involuntary mechanisms for vibrato that require very little voluntary control and more breath support. Taan gestures are voluntarily controlled, and can be used rapidly or slowly depending on the singer’s emotions.
Now that he has become an expert on voice production, Radhakrishnan says he has a greater appreciation for voice and all of the training public speakers must endure.