Monday, November 14, 2011

"Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event." (NC Wyeth)

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The quote above, by N.C. Wyeth, father of the great American painter, Andrew Wyeth, although made in the context of describing the life of the artist, is also perhaps a most elegant and insightful description of what we mean by the "felt sense" of a sound or the experience of performing a near perfect haptic anchor of a word. The "motive" or rationale for the act of anchoring, with complete attention given to what is happening throughout the body as the word is articulated, needs to be an entirely, intensely personal and "intra-personal" experience, not a social, relational or interpersonal event. In that sense, it is artistic in creation but not in performance as a public event.

That is a crucial distinction in what we do. Drama, music, dance and other "arts" have much to contribute and teach us about the process of learning the sounds of language, but I am more and more convinced that the often excessively "dramatic events" in the pronunciation lesson (and pronunciation instructors tend to be irrepressible performers, themselves) can ultimately be counterproductive, just as Wyeth observed: the event overpowers and undermines the "art" and impact of the action.

Our work should be as thoroughly moving and touching . . . as it is uneventful!

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