Blog #2, 12-17-11

Blog #2  December 17, 2011

A first year graduate student of mine, on our Winter Holiday break between semesters, wrote to me that as soon as her plane landed in Arkansas, she returned to her family dialect and also to her own contemporary style of glottal fry (that creaky throat-centered sound that is becoming popular in young American women these days).

How we speak is parallel to how we dress and how we behave in relation to situations:  formal/casual, familiar/stranger, public/private, status of age, relationship of power, respect/alarm for “the other”, comfort/relaxation with “the same”.

We change not only the words we use, but also the way we articulate and shape the sounds of those words.  We vocally express the way we belong.  The way we speak expresses our internal tug of war between individual autonomy vs. union with our group, between integrity of identity as a separate self vs. integrity of identity as a member within our family or community.

The shape of a vowel, the precision of a consonant, the rhythm, speed and flow of words, the structure of thoughts into sentences… these are not only communications of ideas, they are announcements of “Self” within community. And further: the pitch pattern of notes through our sentences, the placement of vocal vibrations (in our resonating chambers of face, skull, throat, and chest) these express our individual vitality, health, age, sexuality, and style while at the same time expressing our role within our community of region, era, ethnicity, education, and our position in our social class hierarchy.

When we first learn to hear and feel the bits that make up the patterns of our speaking, we find it difficult to return to the safety of our previous ignorance. Now we know when we are fitting in and when we are differentiating.  Now we know how to select our vocal presentation of our identity.  At first this knowledge is so disconcerting that we can hardly speak in freedom of pure thought.  We are burdened with our new awareness of how we are creating our announcements of “this is who I am,” while saying “this is what I think, feel, want, and need.”  We speak with a duality of intention and attention.  It takes a while of playful experimentation to learn how to enjoy our awareness.  We learn how and when to focus our attention on WHAT we’re saying, or on HOW we’re saying it.

Eventually, we can easily select our way of speaking, and be so skilled with practice that we can turn off conscious awareness of HOW we’re speaking, and comfortably purely freely communicate.  We can focus on intention toward our listeners instead of on technique.

 As my teacher, Jerry Blunt, used to say: “technique is best when it can be forgotten.”

Welcome to BLOG

Welcome to this new endeavor: this website JANGISTSPEAKING.COM.

My hope is that this can be a center for students and actors to easily find materials for classes and shows, so we can all proceed in the process to create great theatre together.


The world is changing so quickly, and the field of voice and speech is zooming along with the computer/web cosmos. And according to the dictionary provided by my MacBook Pro:


cosmos 1 |ˈkɑzməs| |ˈkɑzˈmoʊs|

noun ( the cosmos)

the universe seen as a well-ordered whole : he sat staring deep into the void, reminding himself of his place in the cosmos.

• a system of thought : the new gender-free intellectual cosmos.

ORIGIN Middle English : from Greek kosmos ‘order or world.’



And the all-knowing though anonymously accumulated Wikipedia says:



The Ancient and Medieval cosmos as depicted in Peter Apian's Cosmographia (Antwerp, 1539).

In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος (kosmos), meaning "order" or "ornament"[1] and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe (considered in its orderly aspect). The word cosmos originates from the same root. In many Slavic languages such as Russian and Bulgarian, the word Космос cosmos means also the "outer space". In Mandarin Chinese, cosmos is translated as 宇宙 yuzhou, which literally translated means space-time (宇 yu = space + 宙 zhou = time).



And the online Oxford English Dictionary gives us:


cosmos, n.1

Pronunciation:  /ˈkɒzmɒs/

Forms:  Also 16 cosmus, 18 kosmos.

Etymology:  < Greek κόσμος ... 

1. a. The world or universe as an ordered and harmonious system.

1650    J. Bulwer Anthropometamorphosis xv. 149   As the greater World is called Cosmus from the beauty thereof.

1848    tr. Humboldt's Cosmos (Bohn) I. 53   In this work I use the word Cosmos‥[as] the assemblage of all things in heaven and earth, the universality of created things, constituting the perceptible world.

1865    G. Grote Plato I. i. 12   The Pythagoreans conceived the Kosmos, or the universe, as one single system, generated out of numbers.

1869    J. Phillips Vesuvius xii. 324   A complete history of volcanos should‥ be in harmony with the general history of the cosmos.

1874    J. S. Blackie On Self-culture 11   Were it not for the indwelling reason the world would be a chaos and not a cosmos.


b. transf. An ordered and harmonious system (of ideas, existences, etc.), e.g. that which constitutes the sum-total of ‘experience’.

1882    T. H. Green Proleg. Ethics §145   Sensations which do not amount to perceptions, make no lodgment in the cosmos of our experience, add nothing to our knowledge.

1885    E. Clodd Myths & Dreams ii. iii. 155   The confusion which reigns in his [man's] cosmos extends to his notion of what is in the mind and what is out of it.


2. Order, harmony: the opposite of chaos.

1858    T. Carlyle Hist. Friedrich II of Prussia I. ii. i. 72   Hail, brave Henry‥still visible as a valiant Son of Cosmos and Son of Heaven.

1872    W. Minto Man. Eng. Prose Lit. i. iii. 187   Work, the panacea which alone brings order out of confusion, cosmos out of chaos.


So, in our investigation of Voice, Speech, Dialects and Text, here in JANGISTSPEAKING.COM, we already have examples of playing with:


1.  symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet, 

2.  relatively useful definitions,

3.  a brief history of a concept as it exists in different cultures, past and present, 

and all this information is at our immediate fingertips!


Now may all our communications for all our classes and shows be as easily accessible, practical, and useful.

And so we begin!

Thank you for joining me in this new endeavor.  Please let me know how it is working for you, and if you have suggestions.




To Contact Jan Gist

University of San Diego:

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Office Phone: (619) 260-7757

The Old Globe Theatre:

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Guidance on How to Develop Your Voice & Speech 

1. Learn how you learn.

2. Translate what you're taught into what can work for you to become your own teacher.

3. Drill your skills with curiosity and imagination.

4. Bridge your skills into the vital, expressive journey as it is sculpted by the script, and envisioned by the director.

5. Embody "Stage Presence" by owning the time, owning the place, and welcoming your audience into you specifically crafted time and place.