Robin Des Voix: the Path of the Voice
Approximate running time: 2 hours
421 Victoria Street
Nelson BC V1L 5R2
Adult: $15 Student: $10
A film about the life and work of Robin De Haas, world renowned breath coordination and voice specialist. Film screening and in-person Q&A with Robin de Haas.
"Much more than a personal development film, this documentary takes us on a journey of resilience in which voice, breath and transmission are the founding axiis."
For those interested in attending the workshop with Robin happening on Apr. 13th at the Shambhala Music and Performance Hall at Selkirk College 10th St. campus, please visit www.echovocalarts.ca/workshops for more information and registration.
About Robin: After being born with a disability and suffering the sometimes-painful consequences, the aim was to survive, to find a way through it; to go beyond the malformation so that what was impossible can become possible. It is a true testimony of resilience to which the directors invite us, Catherine Azad and Frédéric Gonseth.
The problem was in the voice, it was a voice that we did not understand, that could neither say consonants nor vowels. Robin De Haas was born with a cleft palate which prevented him from expressing himself. From this chaotic starting point, from the mockery he was subjected to, Robin had a fixed idea: he wanted to sing, no matter if he couldn’t speak. His quest was beginning, and he committed to it regardless of how difficult it may be. He would draw from it: questionings, failures, research, life lessons, but above all, the absolute necessity to never give up.
This research, which was off the beaten track, led Robin to meet Lynn Martin, in New-York, a professor of functional anatomy. In a few words and through her touch, she managed to make him understand what was needed; his voice opened like never before. It is at that moment that Robin felt his whole life was changing. After several years of working with Lynn Martin, Robin knew he had only one desire; to share this process with the whole world.
After returning to Switzerland, word of mouth took place, thanks to the results of Robin's classes. Whether singers, public figures, people suffering from voice pathologies or high-level athletes; people were transformed by the approach, which was centred around adapting to each person’s needs.
It is these encounters that the filmmakers' camera captured, over four years, to immerse themselves in all these experiences, and in the work of Robin's generous journey. Much more than a personal development film, this documentary takes us on a journey of resilience in which voice, breath and transmission are the founding axiis. In New York, London, Sydney, Paris or Lausanne, Robin is surrounded by generous personalities: committed and passionate artists, some of whom are already artists, some of whom are already famous or on the way to becoming so, partly thanks to him.
Interview with the filmmakers:
When you met Robin de Haas, was there already an idea of making a film?
Frédéric Gonseth - No, not at all. It was really Catherine who went to take a private singing lesson. She came back from it completely changed. She had experienced an unprecedented moment. She spoke of a revelation.
Catherine Azad - It was as if I had been scanned, had an MRI of my voice, my vocal cords, my thorax, my entire vocal history, respiratory, musical... Robin de Haas had this extra sensitivity to feel exactly the anatomical functioning of the other and to communicate it in a clear way. When he spoke to me about his disability at birth (at that time he didn't talk about it to anyone) and how he had overcome it, I had the impression that this gift came from there, from that intuition. The Cleft palate is a fierce handicap that we don't talk about much. It was obvious that I had to tell the story of this atypical and fascinating journey.
Yes, but you didn't make a film about a handicap or even about the voice?
Frédéric Gonseth - No, I imagined a film about a path of resilience, with the particularity that this reconstruction passes above all through breath and voice. Two universal themes. Everyone breathes and everyone emits spoken and/or sung sounds.
Catherine Azad - When we approach Robin, his mind is so rich, that there is a risk of getting lost in it. He became at the same time a professional singer, a vocal coach who is in demand, a teacher at the Haute Ecole of Music, co-author of a method that revolutionizes the current vocal landscape, lecturer ... In addition, he must deal with a whole constellation of characters who radiate around him: family, artists, technicians, therapists, meetings and exchanges during his numerous trips to the four cardinal points, etc. It was difficult at the beginning to determine the subject of the film.
So, what did you finally choose?
Frédéric Gonseth - In fact, we wanted above all to tell a life story, a story of a life for which nothing could predict such a spectacular outcome. In addition, Robin willingly shares his life experience, and he is open in front of the camera; for filmmakers, it was a gift. We worked closely together on a reconstruction of the most significant parts of his journey. I remember when he took us to the barn where he wanted to end it, he was ... 8 years old. There was a lot of emotion in the air...We wanted to fill the film with the innovation that Robin and Lynn Martin developed, without being didactic and without technical explanations. The technique is a stake between the protagonists, it is obviously present, but not invasive if you are not a singer. It is up to the spectator to take on board the technical elements that occur here and there if he wants to. And it is irresistible! You find yourself trying to breathe better and asking yourself questions about your own voice.
What did you discover while telling Robin's story?
Catherine Azad - It was necessary to highlight the links between the painful moments of Robin's life and this insatiable curiosity that allowed him to extract himself from the conservatory and the traditional teaching of singing. This determination to research the voice, the breathing, this premonitory instinct that there was a way out, an alternative to this way of teaching a discipline, which is still too often found in a climate of great stress. Let us understand by this, the symbolic violence of not respecting the student, of forcing the vocal cords and the diaphragm, the tensing of the whole respiratory system, the scientific ignorance of anatomy, and breathing. The teachers are groping their way forward, practising empiricism at best, obscurantism at (hem, do you think that reminds me of my own experience?!) I am not sure what this sentence is about. This needs some correction or explanation. Robin - his life story made him strong. He has freed himself from the tyranny of past teachings, he assumes his own identity, he plants his roots and faces others, not fearing to be alone against all, at times.