FM Alexander (1869 – 1955)
(Excerpted with permission from the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, STAT, website.)
The Alexander Technique was first developed in the 1890s by an Australian named Frederick Matthias Alexander. As a young and promising actor, Alexander faced a problem which risked ending his career - his voice would become increasingly hoarse during performances, until he could barely produce any sound at all. He consulted doctors, but they could not diagnose any specific disease or cause of the hoarseness. If there were no clear medical cause for his problem, Alexander reasoned that he might be doing something wrong when reciting, leading him to strain or "misuse" his own vocal organs. As his only resort was self-help, he decided to observe his way of speaking and reciting to see whether he could spot anything unusual and find a solution.
What emerged from this experiment of several years was more than just a vocal technique. Alexander gradually realized that the functioning of the voice depended on the correct balance of tension in his entire neuromuscular system, from head to toe. Alexander developed his technique to encourage and maintain this balance through conscious attention and control: a technique which has become applicable to a wide range of problems and aims. In short, this balance was extremely important for overall coordination and many other functions, such as breathing, posture, freedom of the joints in moving the whole body, using the arms and hands for skilled activities, staying calm under pressure, and maintaining good overall health.
Gradually, as others noticed improved health and performance, he began to show his technique to those who came to him for help. From about 1894 onward, he had flourishing practices in Melbourne, and later in Sydney, until this teaching became his main occupation. A number of doctors referred patients to him, including Charles Bage, the Melbourne doctor he had once consulted for his voice trouble; actors also flocked to him for help. In 1904, in order to gain more recognition for his Technique, and prompted by his friend JW Steward MacKay, an eminent Sidney surgeon, he moved to London, where he worked until his death in 1955. Read the rest of the article...