Barry emails: Luke:
Here is a short passage about Alexander Technique which I found in the autobiography of legendary record producer Tony Visconti.
Visconti was a London-based American who now lives in New York I believe. He was instrumental in launching the careers of David Bowie and Marc Bolan of T Rex amongst many others. He has also worked with Paul McCartney and many other famous names.
I include two PDFs of the relevant passages from his book. Might form the basis of a posting for your blog, of which I’m a keen reader I might add.
Since my twenties, I had been having problems with my lower back, all too frequently putting it ‘out’. I’d trusted chiropractor ever since one had cured me of bedwetting when I was eight years old. In my teens I had migraine headaches and another very gifted chiropractor not only cured them instantly but, as a side project, also turned me into an agnostic. In the 1980s I went down with full-blown sciatica and received treatment from an acupuncturist and osteopath. I accepted that I had a ‘bad back’, a situation that all my therapists confirmed. I noticed that since I had started Tai Chi my back always felt great during my sessions, but I could never connect that feeling to every day walking around. In 1991, when moving house from New York City to New City, I lifted a heavy box of CDs and felt a rip in my lower back; I was in agony and had to go to bed but no amount of rest brought relief to the pain. May called a local chiropractor and made an appointment for the next day. It took almost 45 minutes to crawl from the bedroom to the car. I spent six slow months in recovery at the hands of the chiropractor and got progressively better, but something was gnawing at me. I didn’t really believe I had a ‘bad back’, but felt I was doing something ‘wrong’ whenever my back went ‘out’.
On a trip to London, I was browsing around Foyles, the huge bookstore on Charing Cross Road. I bumped into a pile of books and one fell on my toe. It was a book on the Alexander Technique; I’d heard about it before but had written it off after my Tai Chi teacher gave it a bad rap. Leafing through the book, I saw what I had been thinking: back injuries are a result of not using the mechanics of the body correctly. I bought the book and finished it on the plane journey home. I mentioned it to my masseuse, Rhonda Care, that I would love to learn the technique and she told me she studied singing with an Alexander Technique teacher. A few days later I took my first lesson with Martha Bernard in her home in Chelsea, New York City. Within five minutes I was beginning to have ‘eureka’ moments; it all made perfect sense. I could clearly see the mistakes I was making when I lifted heavy objects. I took a total of 20 lessons with Martha and by the sixth I had become evangelistic about ‘the work’ (as it was named by F.M. Alexander). I knew I wanted to become a teacher myself. When I told Martha, her eyes rolled.
“Tony, my training was very hard and I am now doing graduate training with a second teacher. Are you sure you want to put yourself through all that?”
I insisted I did and at another lesson she told me that there was a sudden vacancy at her teacher’s school. Soon I was being interviewed by Thomas Lemens, head of the Institute for the Alexander Technique (IFAT) in Katona, New York. I passed his requirements and even took a lesson from him. As wonderful as Martha was, I could tell the difference; if this was a martial art, then Lemens was a ‘grandmaster’. I started school in September 1992. Normally at other schools 1,600 hours of training were required to get certification; Lemen’s standard was much higher and expected 2,400 hours of training with him. And that’s what I did for four years.
…We trained for three solid hours, no breaks. In the first year of training I wasn’t permitted to do hands-on work until the last month or so, Thom and the senior students would work on me. In the fourth year I was not only working on my fellow students, I was also teaching volunteer members of the public who came in for lessons, we called them ‘bodies’. Strictly speaking the Alexander Technique is not a therapy, it is an education, learning to apply the natural mechanics of the human body intelligently.
…My back never went ‘out’ again. Quite simple it has been life changing.