Experiencing the voice conference.
Gillyanne & Jeremy join the Pan European Voice Conference in Tallinn, Estonia and share their experience of the city, the speakers, the voice science papers and the behind-the-scenes moments.
https://www.pevoc2022.ee/ Catch up on this year's PEVoC in Tallinn, Estonia
https://www.pevoc2024.com/ For the next conference in Santander, Spain
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. This is a voice. Hello, and welcome to this is a voice season six episode one, the podcast where we get Vocal about voice. And we're going to start with a special it's on PEVoC the pan European voice conference, and what a great way to kick off the new academic year. Yay. we attended, uh, PEVoC In Tallinn in Estonia last week. So we're gonna do you a report on how it was, how we felt about it, the sort of things that we picked up, all the exciting stuff. Mm mm. So first of all, what is PEVoC? It stands for pan European voice conference. Yeah. And, um, sort of historically, this is how it started. It was initiated in 1995 by Johan Sundberg and the late Gunnar Rugheimer. And what they wanted to do was to create a forum where specialists from all around the world interested in the human voice could meet and share discoveries and practical experiences. And it happens, um, every other year. Yep. And I've been to every PEVoC since 2003. I've only been to three. Yeah. I went to London and Graz, which you reminded me of and I had no memory of being in Graz, but I did remember being at the conference mm-hmm and presenting my first poster. So this is your third. This is my third. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you do get to visit some wonderful cities. Please shout out to Tallinn in Estonia, what a stunning city. Medieval centre uh, and, and yet lots of technology going on as well. We had a great time there. Yeah. Yeah. And also, um, what I'd like to say is that it's a fantastic learning experience. It's going to stretch you, but it's gonna stretch you in good ways. It really is. So, um, I wanna start, give us an overview. Yeah. I want to say just what a voice conference is for those of you who've never been to a voice conference before the sort of things that happen. This is all organized months in advance and you have people submitting papers and Round Tables and workshops and masterclass and all sorts of things. And posters. And posters mm-hmm . And in a way, the purpose is exactly, as Gillyanne said, it's to create a forum where specialists can come and share their new research, they can share their workshops, their information, their techniques, there's all sorts of things. And so the main focus of a conference like this is the science papers. We had, I counted them 51 papers on the first day. Uh, so there are well over 200 papers going on in a conference like this and a paper this, this year, each person was given 10 to 15 minutes to present their paper. I know normally you can't get through everything on a paper, so you are doing a precis, but you have the paper there. Mm-hmm and then a couple of minutes for questions, if somebody in the audience has got a question and actually it's a very good way to get feedback on, uh, new research or pilots or something like that, that you're doing. Absolutely. So you, you can present what you've found so far and you can get that feedback and you can do that before you go further on with your analyses or before you publish. And a poster is exactly what it sounds like, which is your paper put onto a poster size piece of paper mm-hmm and put up, and then, uh, where they will often have poster sessions. Mm-hmm because the posters are available all the way through the conference. And you'll have a poster session where the person who's created the poster is standing next to it and explaining anything on the poster for any passer by that wants to talk about it. Yes. And at PEVoC, we also have a poster prize, so they get assessed by, um, a panel because, uh, I think what the committee realized is that sometimes when you offered a poster, it feels a bit like the booby prize that you didn't quite make the paper situation. It is a paper. Hmm. And you know what? It's really fantastic to have to put it down in poster size. Anne did one didn't she on her research long time ago. I mean, I did one in 2005? No, that was 2003. 2003! And Anne's was in Prague, which I think was 2013. And in my poster, it's very interesting to get your research just so clearly onto one piece of poster size paper. Um, and I also had sound files. I actually bought a CD player, uh, with my CD on it, with all the sound files and a set of headphones. That takes you back, that it does. That people could come up and just listen to all the things that I was talking. So there's, um, those are papers and posters. There are also round tables and a round table is normally led and organized by someone who invites people onto the stage to do, um, basically a discussion on a particular topic. And we're gonna talk about round tables a bit more next time. Yeah. And just before we go on, what I want to say is this does sound quite academic heavy. It isn't necessarily, it's also practice based. So a lot of papers will be about practitioners sharing their experience. I'm going to gently disagree with that. I do think it's academic heavy. Oh, okay. Um, because the premise behind it is voice science papers. Mm-hmm um, however you do have masterclass and workshops and they are the practical side of something like the pan European voice conference. And this year I did my first solo workshop. So again, we'll tell you more about that next time. Oh yes. And my, I had two firsts. You did didn't I, um, first of all, I chaired a round table session, so it's the very first time I've organized a panel of, um, people with particular expertises and, uh, spoken about that. And just as a heads up, the title of mine was "Voice Science. Do we need it?" Nice little challenging title. I was gonna say in a voice science conference. That's quite a challenging title. There were quite a few voice scientists in the audience too. And my other first was, um, moderating a free paper session. Do you wanna explain what that means? Uh, Every session is normally a two or three hour session. And within, let's say a two hour session within that two hour session, if it's a papers session, then people will be given 10 to 15 minutes and they'll present their paper, um, and answer questions. And you always have a moderator there basically to check that people stay on time and also to, uh, field the audience questions and very occasionally to ask one of their own. And normally what happens is one person will come on, do one paper. And then the next person comes on and does their paper and the session will be geared around a topic. So, and there was something quite special about the, the, uh, session that Gillyanne shared. And again, we're gonna talk about that later. Cool. One more thing. In addition to all of these, we have keynote speakers and the keynote speakers are acknowledged experts in their field and they come on and they have an hour to present their work or to talk about what they're doing or give new insights. And we had some amazing keynote speakers this time. So should we kick off by talking about our favorite keynotes? Oh, I think so. Uh, opening keynotes, Allan Vurma. Yes. And the title was crossover between singing and science. And this was very, um, pertinent for Allan because he told us that he has two souls and one soul is his engineering soul. So that's his science soul. And the other soul is his singing soul. Because for many years he was a professional choral singer at a very high level. That's really high level. Yeah. They're really big on choral singing in Estonia and it's an amazing sounds scape. Um, so he started off by telling us what it was like learning to sing and being asked to do something, which his teacher couldn't explain to him. And I'm, I'm just, I've highlighted one or two things from the abstract, which, uh, is that his teacher asked him to figuratively place his voice forward. Well, he didn't know what that meant. It's what he said. And the teacher couldn't tell him how to do it and actually ended up with something that I'm sure quite a few of us have experienced, which is well, just do it, but the scientist him wasn't having that. Okay. Um, so I love the fact that the engineering brain says how? Yeah, absolutely. And he did, you know, he did a lot of acoustic and, uh, investigation, acoustic analysis as well as perceptual tests. And what he found was that there would be various ways that the voice was considered to be placed forward. In other words, different inputs to the sound outcome. Yep. So it might refer to the singer's formant. It might refer to raising the frequency of the second formant by arching the tongue. What we often call now, humping the tongue further forward in the mouth. Yes. That brought us joy. Didn't it? Oh it did, because I'm using this all the time. Now it's just bringing your tongue slightly further forward, gives you a much bright, clearer sound. And also, uh, it could be raising the first formant of the Vocal tract by opening the mouth wider, which tends to sort of squeeze the pharynx from the back. So there's all sorts of things going on here. And the other thing, and I thought this was interesting, which is that the higher voice categories, like a soprano or tenor are often perceived by listeners to be positioned more forwardly. So the pitch that we sing also impacts, and, and pitch is very much a perceptual thing, isn't it. Very much. Yeah. And of course, bases have a hard time cuz we can't be heard. Yeah. And then the second topic, I mean, this is interesting, cuz he is very much into the relationship between perception, musical perception and auditory perception and what's actually going on. And um, he was comparing here. Yes. Do you ever talk about this? Um, yes, he was comparing different timbres and so he was talking about the timbre of a Viola and the timbre of a trumpet playing the same thing. Mm. and it, this was so interesting because he was talking about tuning and there were single notes. Mm-hmm, just played one after another or played together. And it, he said it became much more obvious when the two notes were played together, whether they were exactly the same note or not. Mm-hmm , mm-hmm, one of the things that was really quite surprising. And he did play, uh, some of the example files was that, um, both the non-musicians and the trained musicians, and I think I've got this right, heard the tuning the wrong way around, which is they heard, for instance, the trumpet is being flatter than the Viola. And in fact it was the reverse. Um, what was so fascinating is that he was doing this presentation. He was saying, you know, the, here are the sound files and the, the trained musicians heard it this way around. And I was sat in the balcony going, no. I hear it the right way round. This is very weird because I be was being told, oh no, you know, people are, are hearing this wrong and I'm going, no, I'm hearing it the right way around. I mean, it's interesting, isn't it? Because I would say this is very broadly speaking that the, the timbre by which we mean the color or the tone of a trumpet is I always think of it as being brighter. I think it's than a Viola. Whereas a Viola is kind of more warm. But it was really interesting because he also, uh, threw up the spectrograms and, uh, the, the, uh, analysis and the graphs. And it was really fascinating because obviously a Viola and a trumpet sound very different and they have a different stack of harmonics mm-hmm and it's, it's the thing really that makes them sound like different instruments. And it was fascinating for me. I could hear that one sounded brighter than the other, but you could also take away something that, that you and I do take away that harmonic structure and listen to the fundamental underneath it. Mm-hmm and I'm going that fundamental sounds either identical, or it sounds the other way around. And it was when you start to understand that harmonics can actually affect tuning that you go, this makes complete sense. Mm-hmm and you know what? Then he also looked at tenors. So, um, he got people to listen to the tenor voice, um, compared with the Viola and the same thing. And for them to, for the listeners to hear. Um, the tenor as being in tune, in other words, on the same pitch as the Viola, the tenor had to tune down a bit and I tell you something else, which I thought was interesting. He mentioned this in passing, but my memory is that he didn't examine it in this paper, which is vibrato. Because, uh, you may or may not know. The, the received information is that we vibrato around the note, but I can tell you if you take a singer and you slow them down, some singers vibrato above the note and some singers vibrato below the note and some, uh, vibrato around it. Um, Bryn Terfel for instance, vibratos below the note, because I slowed him down to hear the beats. So I think, you know, one of the take homes from this is if you are singing with other people or you are singing with instruments, don't get too caught up in the cents. Mm. Now a cent is 100th of a semitone. Yeah. And, um, some people can really hear those subtle differences. Yeah. Particularly if it's a quarter tone or, um, maybe a third of a semitone now some people have that very fine. I do control. Yeah. Um, in order for us to sound in tune, sometimes we have to sing flat or sharp. Absolutely. This is okay. Absolutely. This is all about context. Yeah. Tuning is contextual. Mm. So if you are playing, um, let's say, uh, middle C, C uh, four mm-hmm uh, and you are playing middle C in an, a flat major chord. You are going to tune slightly differently to, if you play middle C in a C major chord. Even though it's technically the same note. And it's the same note on music when it's written down, the tuning is different because it depends what the rest of the chord is going on. Tuning is relative. Absolutely. And it's gonna be relative within different musical systems. Absolutely. Obviously this was, you know, in the, the Western classical cannon, right? Well, that was exciting. Wasn't it? Should we move on? uh, keynote number two that we went to was Johan Sundberg. Yeah. Johan Sundberg, the nose. Oh, we all want to know about the nose. Don't we um, acoustic properties. And, and effects on phonation. Johan is a brilliant presenter. He has such a depth of knowledge. Mm-hmm , uh, he also does very clear presentations and he has a sense of humor and he looks for that humor everywhere. And there was no question that that title, the nose, acoustic properties and effects on phonation was, uh, let's say a tiny bit challenging. Oh, it was lovely. And you know, I'm going to read the opening sentence of the abstract. "The relevance of nasal resonance is sometimes discussed among voice clinicians and singing teachers. Although often leading to no conclusions". I'll go with that. Yep. It's a nice opener. Isn't it? "And this seems to be a typical result of access to nothing but personal experience. Yep. Combined with a lack of objective knowledge". That's thank you. Johan. That's us told off then! Thank you. Um, and do you know, it's, it's interesting, isn't it? Cuz often on our trainings and, this is, this is not criticism of anyone who said it on a training. We'll often hear something, we'll listen to a singer and somebody will say, oh, that's nasal mm-hmm And and you are mapping it as nasal and then, you know, Jeremy and I will say, well, just check with your nose. Is there actually any air being emitted through the nose? Okay. Officially that's not nasality mm-hmm. This is really interesting. This is all about labels. Mm-hmm , you know, people here are sound and they put a label on it. And whether that label is accurate or not is what we are interested in. Um, and this was really fascinating. He did a series of experiments using a long tube. It was 70 centimeter tube and three centimeters wide, which is basically a piece of plumbing drain pipe. I mean, it's, that's really all it is and it was, I think he was using a tube that wide, it wasn't to get any impedance. It was literally just to get a stream of sound and air mm-hmm and then they could do things with the tube. So experiment one was no nasality at all. No nasal leakage, whatever. Mm-hmm singing down the tube. Experiment two was with nasal leakage or nasality singing down the tube and experiment three was no nasal leakage, but having the tube slightly blocked by cotton. And it was those three things that he was looking at and it was the results were fascinating. The first thing that really jumps out at you when you're looking at his results is that when there was nasality, the expert listeners couldn't necessarily hear it as nasality. It actually took quite a big degree of nasality for them to start hearing it. And this is something that, uh, Johan and, um, various colleagues, Filippa La, Brian Gill are included, in the group of researchers they've been looking at this since I think about 2012. One of the earlier studies I think was 2007, you know, go onto something like Journal of Voice and type in, um, Johan Sundberg nasality and you'll see some of these studies, uh, if you can only read the abstract, you know, you'll be better informed. the research before this one, with the tube, I just want, want to talk about, um, they used a flow mask to check, um, the oral versus nasal airflow. And a flow mask is a mask that goes over your mouth and nose and it can. It can tell where the air is coming out. And what they discovered in this case is that when there was a little bit, what they call a narrow, velarpharyngeal port opening. So the soft pallet was just dropped a little bit that you got the, the first formant of the vowel sound was just sort of damped down a little bit, so that what you hear, um, from outside is that you get more of the high frequencies? So it sounds brighter. And, um, because of the ear favors certain frequencies, it would mean that for the listener that, um, auditorily it would so perceptually, it would be louder. And the singer wouldn't have to sing louder. I hope that's making sense for people who aren't used to thinking this way. I mean, we we'll sort of come to that in a moment. There was a, a lovely sentence that I wrote down that he said, and he was talking about the door into the nose opening very slightly. And he said the resonances of the nasal tract confiscate their favorite frequencies. And I love the idea that you open the door and then the nasal tract goes, I'm having that one and that one and that one, and I'm not letting it out. You know, we often talk about damping and boosting. So confiscation is, is, um, definitely damping. And then there was the idea that many of the singers that he tested did a little bit of nasality on OO and AH vowels pretty much across the board. Now I'm not saying that that is for singers everywhere across the board, in every genre that everybody does it because they don't. But what I think was interesting was that the singers that he chose and worked with and measured. Most of them did that by default, if you like. So it was actually, it turned out to be on particular vowels that they did it more and it didn't make it sound nasalized. Listeners did not hear it as a nasalized vowel. Yes. So, um, what did, what. would. Where are we? What are we doing? I can't speak I'm so excited. Who are you? What was it he finished on? Why are we sitting here? Just look at the conclusions. Do you want to just, um, give us a little summary of that? Yes. Um, the velarpharyngeal opening, which is the door into the nose, the velarpharyngeal opening can enhance the higher frequency partials. It can make your sound brighter and thus the singers formant cluster. So there's a particular cluster of bright harmonics that really travels in the earth at the moment. And also helps you cut through for instance, orchestral sound. One of the other things that they were focusing on with these experiments was singing down the tube with no nasality and the tube open, and they were listening and looking for breaks in the sound. And it was what they found extraordinary was that when the door was closed into the nose and they were just singing down the tube, then there were quite a lot of breaks in the sound, little tiny breaks. When they then opened the door very slightly a lot of those breaks disappeared. And I know that there are a lot of contemporary commercial teachers who are teaching to have the door into the nose, very, very slightly open. And apparently it does help you to smooth your breaks over. And this is also done with some classical singers. Yep. Now, um, just to sort of make clear to people who are listening. You're probably thinking, oh, I must go out and buy this wide piece of piping immediately. No. And experiment with my nose. It's not about that. No. The reason why they used that was it was a fixed length and a fixed width and it meant that they could control their variables. And that's good for voice science. Yeah. And it also meant they didn't have to do expensive interventions by, you know, sending tubes up the nose and down the throat and using flow masks, which, um, obviously. Is a little bit more intrusive for the subject. So this is a very clever way. I love the idea. Of dealing with that. I love the idea that the next best selling artist is just gonna do all of their tracks down a 70 centimeter tube. No, uh, so I mean, the conclusion that he said was praise the nose, but he also said this is not relevant for everybody. And I, I want to raise the little red flag here. Because one of the difficulties of going to a conference like this, where you have a very high flying scientist saying, this is what we've discovered. And here are the facts as far as this group is concerned. The difficulty for a teacher is that they then take that on as gospel. And therefore they must teach it to everybody. And it really isn't the case. You have to look at the methodology and you have to look at who they worked with and what the planning was and what they were testing. And always in a paper like this, or a presentation like this, the conclusion that they come to is absolutely specific to the experiment that they did. It is not a general instruction. And in fact that was one of the first questions, wasn't it? Mm-hmm which is why do you think it made a difference just opening the nose a little bit for some people and not others. Yeah. And we discussed whether it might be to do with the shape of people's vocal tract. Yeah. Um, sort of the length of it and the width of it, what we call the morphology and that, that might have made a difference. Perhaps even voice type makes a difference. Who knows. And I would imagine certainly task makes a difference. So what you are singing and that's what genre, what volume, what range you're singing in. There's all sorts of things that are extra to that. that. Okay. Really fascinating presentation. Can we talk about our other favorite keynote. Graham Welch. I'm just gonna say I came away from that conference feeling super lucky that for my PhD, I had two supervisors. Professor Graham Welch and Professor Johan Sundberg. And there's such different types of researcher, aren't they? Oh, absolutely. Different energy, different personality, different focus, all those things. It was great. Um, so onto Graham's presentation, I mean, this was inspiring. Can we remember what it was called? Yes, we, ah, here we go. The nature and significance of the singing behavior and development of children and young people. Yep. It was such an inspiring, um, keynote. So I'm gonna kick off with a few notes that I had, and then you chip in. Yep. I mean, we, weren't far off standing ovation for this. Yeah. It's a lot of whistling and stamping. Yes. Uh, first of all, he reminded us that music is an emotional experience. And as a listener, you cannot switch off that emotional response. Yeah. So important for those of us who are looking at the scientific side. And also lots of you will probably know this already, but singing, um, sort of in, when we look inside the brain, it's different from other musical activities, it maps itself in different places. And of course it's also different from speech. Yep. Graham talked very early on about the importance of neuroplasticity. Yes. Um, and how we can positively impact on people's development with singing. And so it's not just about musical development. So there were a few things that I read, which I thought were really important. I mean, the first thing about Graham is that he's dealing with big data. Mm-hmm, , he's dealing with thousands of people or hundreds of schools that have been, um, worked with. And so there's an awful lot of data there. And what I was so impressed with is he has this massive amount of data, but he manages to, to bring out all of the really important threads, put them very clearly on slides and then talk very easily and clearly about it. It really was a masterful presentation. Um, several things that I wrote down, uh, which I thought were really important. Representations of music are separate. I'll start that again. Cause it's a weird sentence. Representations of music are separate neurologically in the human auditory cortex compared to speech, which means they are dealt with differently, whether you are singing or speaking. Your brain deals with them differently. And I thought that was absolutely fascinating. It's also what we think, what we teach, what we work with and the way that we even teach people to learn music or to learn songs is based on that. So speech centres and singing centres overlap, but they're different. Specifically he said songs are processed as a language activity, aged five, six, and seven. And you're talking words, pitch and small patterns. You're not talking songs in general. So you are improving their language skills by working on songs. That was one of the main conclusions that we came to. Is that when you were working with children sort of five to seven and particularly that age, but also younger and older that you are improving all sorts of areas of their intelligence that don't just to, they're not just to do with singing, they're to do with comprehension. I mean, we, we know this already, but it was so good to see the facts. Yeah. I just want to talk a little bit about some of those things that, what they'd found was that the positive impact of singing, uh, was, uh, on things like self efficacy. Yep. Social inclusion. Yep. Long term cognitive and psychosocial development and executive function. Yes. Really important. So there's, there are strengths in the benefits of singing and the benefits of teaching singing to children, which are musical, physical, neurological, psychological, social, social, emotional, literal, literacy, uh, there's all sorts of things that arise from that the whole business of brain training as well. Can we just read that? Although it's just a nice little thing. The, the psychological and emotional, um, right. Improves executive function, psychological health and wellbeing, identity and agency mm-hmm communication skills. It's a method of catharsis. So you can get rid of very, very strong emotions by doing it. And it's a mood regulator. Mm. I mean, those last two are hugely important, particularly for the children and the teenagers that are going through the last two or three years where their entire world has been disrupted mm-hmm and their expectations of what's going to happen in school after school, into college. Mm-hmm those have all been disrupted as well. It has been, frankly, mostly a horrible time for that age group. Yes. And Graham spoke about that and how important it is and how in the UK there's, it's pretty much crisis point with mental health issues. And I think there was something else that he came up with, which I thought was very important for people, for singing teachers to know. Singing competency plateaus around the age of eight. They can improve to a certain point and then around the age of eight, that's where it stops unless they have access to competent pedagogy. So really good teachers, and really good teachers can get them over that plateau and into something much more interesting. So really what we're saying is every school needs to be a singing school. Yes. Simple as that. Yep. Yep. Very good. Ooh. Okay. Um, I want to talk about cuz we've talked about the, the, the main sessions and we're going to leave our contributions until the next episode. But I want to talk about the bits in between. Oh, yes. Having coffee with people, having lunch with people, sitting down at the breakfast table and having really, really deep conversations. Mm-hmm mm-hmm it was for me, one of the best things of it. Um, what a conference like this allows you to do is to have an informal conversation with someone who's an absolute expert in their field. Mm-hmm and not feel stupid asking a simple question. I mean, we were super lucky weren't we? Because we, we had one really quite high level speech and language therapist. Yes. Staying in the hotel with us. And there were loads of others, but we, we happened to sit down at breakfast with this person. Yeah. Uh, Nathalie Henrich Bernardoni who is one of our, our leading, um, voice scientists/ acoustician and we'll talk about her more and also, um, Kirsten Schötteldreier who did, a wonderful workshop. So we were all sitting down together, talking things voice, and, you know, bouncing around ideas. Voice, energy, acoustics, um, uh, you know, voice science, practicality, vocal fold behaviour, airflow, dynamics, the lot, all sorts. Yeah. And it, it's just a wonderful experience. And I would encourage anybody to put themselves in that position, that position, maybe stretch yourself a little bit, go to a conference. Look after yourself. Choose carefully what you want to go to. If you get overwhelmed, that's fine. You can leave. Nobody gets offended. If you leave the room, we are moving around all the time. Yeah. And go somewhere else or just go on chill thinking. Whew. I've gone into cognitive overload. That's okay. I mean, when you consider that there are over 200 events over three and a half days. Then there's no way that you can get to all of them. There's no way that you can get to a 10th of them. So what you do is you look at the abstracts and you look at the program in general and you, you, you start with the things that I go, I must go to this one. Yeah. Do cherry pick before you start, it makes your life a lot easier. If you don't, you will be fried mm-hmm mm-hmm okay. Should we leave them with those thoughts for now? Yes. So that's our first impression of the pan European voice conference. And in the next episode, we're gonna tell you how it went for us! In my workshop and Jillian's round table and chairing. We'll see then. This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. This is a Voice