Singing as a therapeutic resource in Biosynthesis: Sensibility, expression and belonging in an aesthetic experience
Set, 02, 2022
Cecília Valentim- Brazil — IBB, OABS Singer, musical and vocal educator, Somatic Therapist. PhD and Master in Social Psychology by the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo (USP). Somatic Therapist in Biosynthesis by The Biosynthesis Institute of Brazil-Switzerland, Bioenergetic Analyses and Biopsychology. Member of the Laboratory of Studies in Art Psychology and of the Social Aesthetics Group (USP / CNPq). Degree in Music from the Faculty of Arts of Santa Marcelina.
In this article, we are proposing a reflection on how, through the integration of singing resources and somatic psychotherapy of Biosynthesis, we can create an aesthetic field that allows the expansion of sensibility, selfperception and expression, in a sensitive process of personal transformation embracing the perspective of the theoretical study of philosophy by Arnold Berleant, professor (emeritus) of philosophy at the University of Long Island and former president of the International Aesthetic Association (USA), particularly the notion of aesthetic experience, aesthetic engagement and aesthetic field, and the phenomenology of perception of Merleau-Ponty.
The Biosynthesis is my Music (David Boadella)
According to David Boadella, our melody of life begins in the womb. Surrounded by the sounds that reach us through the waters that rock us in our mothers’ wombs, like the melody of their voice and sounds of the environment, like the natural rhythmic pulse of the organism, present in the breath, in the blood circulation, in the heartbeat , we vibrate in resonance in our bodies in formation, embodying sounds, sensations and feelings in a soundtrack that will be part of our existence, that will shape our perception, our way of moving in the world and that, in constant mutation, will add new landscapes, melodies and perceptions, composing our sensitive being throughout life. For Boadella, “each pulsating movement occurs within a matrix of continuous rhythmic balance applied to the whole body (BOADELLA, 1999)”. Thus, our whole organism vibrates, pulsates our lives in constant resonance with each other, with the surrounding environment, constituting what Merleau-Ponty called Sonorous Being:
Among my movements, there are some that do not lead to anything, and will not even look to another body for their similarity or archetype: they are the movements of the face, many gestures, and above all, these strange movements of the throat and mouth that constitute the cry and the voice. Such movements end in sounds and I hear them. Like crystal, metal, and many other substances, I am a sonorous being, but my vibration, this is from within what I hear; as Malraux said, I hear with my throat. And so, he said also, I am incomparable, my voice is bound to the mass of my life like no other voice. (MERLEAUPONTY, 1964, p.140).
Modulated by our experiences since conception, we create our existence in rhythmic patterns inscribed on our bodies, which define the quality of our voice and expression in a unique and singular way. This is where Biosynthesis and singing meet: by singing, we can broaden our sensitivity, create new landscapes, new movements, appropriate our expressive power. Singing integrates and restores the dimensions of the singer with himself and with what is around him. Sharing singing, understood as composing and composed by the environment in which aesthetic experience and art occur in a unified form, which causes the intensity of the focus of the perceptive experience to be amplified in an aesthetic field where the singer emerges as a singer and song: when he sings, the subject becomes a song, he creates and writes the sonorous narrative of his existence, activates his whole being, becomes sensitive to the other and to the environment that surrounds him.
With the intention of enriching this work, some narratives of singing students and clients in psychotherapy collected in the research field for the master’s dissertation of the author of this article will be included. The original names have been changed, complying with the anonymity agreement.
1. Aesthetic experience and sensibility
Becoming aware of sounds, the vibrations and sensations that this causes in my body. This vibration sharpens my sensibility and takes me to a place that I do not know, but that gives me a lot of pleasure. This pleasure, this well-being, this feeling that is lacking words to express, is sometimes overwhelming, I am somewhat lost and don’t know how to deal with it. I feel like something very big, that was dammed up, is overflowing and flooding me. (Beth, 52)
Etymologically, the word aesthetic, from the Greek aesthesis, means that which is perceived by the senses. Aesthetics is fundamentally perception. Perception is understood as much more than mere sensory experience: it involves perceptual experience and the ability to recognize it. It refers to every context of experience, to what is perceived and understood, to what is understood from what is perceived:
I speak here of perception rather than sensation because perception include more than sensory experience. The expression ‘sense perception’ denotes the sensory part of perception, part of an environment of such influences. But it is sensation mediated, qualified, apprehended, and shaped by the multitude of biological, social, cultural, and material forces that are integral parts of the human world. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.5)
With this, it is important to recognize that there is no pure perception. All perception passes through the influences of culture, of personal experience, within a social field in daily life, of education and, mainly, of the body, the center of all experience.
It is not the purpose of this work to address the questions that involve the philosophical understanding of aesthetics in the West, related to the arts, especially from the eighteenth century, when perceived from the premise of disinterested contemplation and value judgments established for their appreciation. We propose an understanding of aesthetics as embodied in the texture of the world, as its foundation and, in being, tangible and tangent, belonging to the field of all experience and all human action, involving it in its totality: “It is not evident, precisely if my perception is the perception of the world, that I must find in my exchange with it the reasons that persuade me to see it and, in my view, the meaning of my view?” (MERLEAU- PONTY, 1964, p. 41)
Here, the term aesthetic refers to the human capacity for perceptual experience, involving self-perception and cognition. (BERLEANT, 2010). All perception is the perception of something. It presupposes the capacity for a direct, immediate and authentic understanding of the situation, and the cognitive ability to understand the perceived in sensations, feelings, ideas, thoughts and concepts that emerge from the experience, contributing to make it more intense and rich in meanings. Therefore, self- perception and cognition go hand in hand. It is important to remember that perception and cognition are mediated by cultural and social factors and by everything that makes up the human world (BERLEANT, 2010).
Considering, then, the sensitive and transient character of aesthetics, which involves and modulates all human actions, Berleant affirms:
Finally, there is nothing sacred in the terms ‘aesthetic’ or ‘aesthetics’. As concepts they have no ontological or normative status. Like all the words in a language, their meaning is specified only internally, within a language system, as Ferdinand de Saussure made clear. I make no claim, therefore, for any universal and unchanging truth located in the aesthetic, but I find the term useful as a vehicle for drawing out attention to what holds for all humankind — the capacity of perceptual experience, experience whose full range and shadings are realized only rarely. I speak of perception rather than sensation because, as we must constantly reminds ourselves, perception incorporates more than sensory experience. It is sensation mediated, quantified, apprehended an shaped by psychological and cultural characteristics and patterns of apprehension, and by the multitudes of forces that are part of everyone’s world. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.35.)
Experience is everything: our body, our movement, the perception of space, of sounds, of what surrounds us, that composes us and that, ultimately, we are ourselves. According to Berleant (1992), the experience is environmental because we are part of the environment in which we participate:
And the landscape in which I move as I walk, drive, or fly is my world, as well, ordered my understanding, defined by my movements, and molding my muscles, my reflexes, my experience, my consciousness at the same time as attempt to impose my will over it. Indeed, many of us spend much of our lives in the electronic space of television and computer networks. “The” environment, one of the last survivors of the mind-body dualism, a distant place which we think to contemplate from afar, dissolves into a complex network of relationships, connections, and continuities of those physical, social, and cultural conditions that describe my actions, my responses, my awareness, and that give shape and content to the very life that is mine. For there is no outside world. There is no outside. Nor is there an inner sanctum in which I can take refuge from inimical external forces. The perceiver (mind) is an aspect of the perceived (body) and conversely; person and environment are continuous. (BERLEANT,1992, p.4).
In experience, there are no separations, but differences, contexts, values, ways of being. Way of being refers to how each one understands the world according to their perception, within a field of possibilities, where unity is not the same as uniformity, where:
It holds that there are differences rather than divisions, continuities rather than breaks; and it favors distinctions over separations. A vision is offered that joins ontology with aesthetics and metaphysics with pragmatics, for the aesthetic domain of the experience is not undergrounded and free-floating but has its roots deep in the human world. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.8).
Here, aesthetic experience goes beyond the traditional meaning, it is beyond art, it includes ethical, social, and political values, the whole context of experience. It is also a social aesthetic:
The aesthetic also has an important place in human relationship, both personal and social, and is affects people’s daily activities. I call the aesthetic here “social aesthetics”, an area that will be explored at grater length in part three. A social aesthetic is present not only in friendship, family and love, but even in education and employment. Aesthetic decisions and experiences are also embedded in the design and use of factors and features in the everyday environment that have social ramifications. These extend from the choice of clothing, the use of appliances, the packaging of articles, the care and management of one’s home and the others objects and aspects that constitute daily life, to personnel policies and the structuring of employer-employee relations, i.e., the social organization of production and commerce. This is not overlook the major importance of the ethical factor in these cases for, indeed, ethical values lie at the heart of social aesthetic. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.95)
As we have seen, aesthetic experience is an experience of the senses, in a scope that involves and broadens the spectrum of perception. As FrayzePereira (2010) stated, “sensitive is the way of existence of the body and of things”. Understood by Berleant (2010) as a theory of sensibility, aesthetic experience is based on the aesthetic domain of experience, rooted in the human, social world. In summary, according to Berleant (2010), we can consider two main aspects inherent in aesthetic experience:
1- Sensory, which is primordial
2- The experience of meanings or the meaning of experience Experience of meaning is different from knowledge of meaning. It includes the perception of meaning, the awareness of what happens in the body, in our totality, at the time of experience. The two aspects, considered qualitative perception of the natural process and the social world in their different environments, give meaning to the experience.
Aesthetic experience seems to transcend the barriers that ordinarily separate ourselves from the things we encounter in the world. In aesthetic appreciation we often have emotions that are diffused rather than localized, and we may feel exposed and vulnerable to forces we cannot easily enclose in ready made ideas. This had led some commentators to see a liberating quality in such appreciation, while others find it a danger to established conventions. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.29)
2. Sensibility and aesthetic engagement
Aesthetic Experience is a theory of sensibility, a way to understand sensibility:
It became increasingly clear that aesthetic appreciation is active perceptual engagement, usually with an object but Always with a perceptual focus, by means of developed sensibility. I came to recognize that aesthetic is , at is base, a theory of sensibility. So generalized an understanding leads to recognizing an aesthetic dimension in all experience, whether uplifting or demeaning, exalting or brutalizing. (BERLEANT, 2010, p.8)
Sensitivity is much more than sensation: it involves the awareness of the feelings, meanings, memories, associations, context and quality of the aesthetic experience. It is this quality that makes us engage. As quality, we mean experience that takes us beyond the sense of separation and division, to integrate us into the aesthetic field. Engagement is the most complete stage of aesthetic experience.
Engagement is the signal feature of the world of action, of social exchange, of personal and emotional encouters, of play, of cultural movements like romanticism and, as is our claim here, of the direct and powerful experiences that enclose us in situations involving art, nature, or the humam world in intimate and compelling ways. (BERLEANT, 1991, p.44)
According to the theory proposed by Arnold Berleant, seven perceptual dimensions characterize aesthetic engagement: acuity, intensity, complexity, subtlety, resonance, cognitive perception, perceptive engagement. They all happen simultaneously. In the relation to art, these aspects are intensified, as it is the sensitive in a perceptive field where aesthetic experience and the making of art meet:
Art is not like experience, it is not a reflection or an imitation of real life, but it is that very experience in its most direct, forceful presence. Art, thus, is not a pallid reflection of life and of the world but the real thing in its purest and clearest form. When theater is at its best, we experience “the feel of what is true.” We discovered part of the actual experience of being a Jew, a Catholic, a Negro, a Communist, a homosexual, an alcoholic. We realize the power of the great human doubts, passions, crises, and relationship which we all undergo and thus all share. We are more real because other people are more real. We discover an ability, as Blake recognized, “To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower.” (BERLEANT, 2000, p.102)
Singing, as the focus of artistic experience, creates the aesthetic field so that sensibility is fully engaged. By engaging in the action of singing, the singer becomes one with singing, broadening their perception, their sensibility. The values intrinsic to experience, feelings and connections are externalized. According to Berleant, the values that emerge in aesthetic engagement are not singular and homogeneous:
Nor are aesthetic values singular or homogeneous. A situation way possess complex and even incompatible values. A dramatic situation, for example, may be at the same time bizarre, ludicrous, pathetic, and perhaps even tragic, combinations of the sort that Harold Pinter was a master at evoking. Moreover, in considering aesthetic value we need not be committed to seeking a quality o feature inhering in a object, as if the beauty were simply one factor added to others. We might prefer, as Gills Deleuze does, to consider it a force in art that is exerted on the body and manifested in sensation. On the view taken here, value is inherent in a aesthetic field or situation and is not a feature or quality of any particular part of it, such as the object or the appreciator. (…) For values here designates a character of experience (BERLEANT, 2010, p.157).
Evoked by singing, these values, feelings and connections can be observed in Carin’s account:
From this point where the voice begins and expresses my being … In joy and expansion. This sound emanates from the depths of my center; which reverberates in recognition and reunion, knowledge and encounter, the new and old meeting, and exploring this very discovery. Joy and truth manifest themselves … And my being vibrates in communion. Returning to the center, I feel myself reintegrating my parts; Parts that lie in a space within me. With the joy that comes from singing, from exchange, from glances and smiles of recognition, I celebrate the presence and my singing that reverberates. I feel gratitude, joy and communion. I feel my heart opening up in the presence of love. I feel gratitude for this opportunity! (Carin, 36)
Carin’s account is a vivid example of what we call aesthetic engagement. Every perceptual focus is in experience, activating connections, memories, sensations and feelings. As she tells us in her diary, in the creation of new movements, a meeting with herself: “I feel myself reintegrating my parts, parts that lie in a space within me.” We can see that this engagement provided new insights in a body involved, activated and present in a sensitive aesthetic field, generated and intensified by singing, which allowed for the broadening of sensibility, a feeling of communion with oneself and with the other. In the exchange of looks and smiles of recognition, any differences were overcome. The account reveals the integrity and unity of experience, characteristic of aesthetic engagement.
Here, singing becomes clear as a therapeutic resource in biosynthesis. Through the aesthetic engagement woven by singing, we can create new sounds, music and landscapes, new feelings. It is also important to recognize the aesthetic field as a field of resonance between the therapist and the client, where all the senses, feelings and values are involved. Both are engaged and creating the experience together.
3. The body of the singer
Today, at the beginning of the encounter, I perceived/remembered my listening. It’s funny that this year was the first time I realized that I hear many things differently compared to most people. In the past, I thought my listening was “distorted,” but today I realize and understand that it is simply less common. This recognition can help me to realize even more how I listen, how I allow the sounds coming from the world to vibrate in me. I am reflecting on my listening in life with this realization/perception. I always thought I had an open and receptive listening to what came. I see myself differently now. It is a similar feeling to what I felt in moments when I perceived my asymmetries, deviations, ‘imperfections.’ (Gabi, 39)
In the active incorporation of the world, the body is the place where experience resides, from which all perception, understanding and expression originates. Internal listening and listening to the world are layers that reside in a perceptive body: it is from it that the person perceives himself and the other, that they understand the world around them and express their way of being. A body that occupies a physical place in the world, in a space and time, where the sensitive experience occurs. An aesthetic body:
We can think of the aesthetic body, then, as culturally shaped, entwined, and embedded in a complex network of relations, each of which has a distinctive character and dynamic. Race, class, genre, and geography are lived through bodily forms and structures, The structures of cultural, racial and social differences are embedded in lived bodies. The aesthetic body, as a receiver and generator of sense experience, is not static or passive but possesses its own dynamic force, even when inactive. Aesthetic embodiment is being fully present through the distinctive presence of the body with the sensory focus and intensity we associate with the experience of art. (BERLEANT, 2004, p.10)
It is the body that engages in experience:
It is the body that allows for the incorporation of the auditory, tactile and visual experiences, becoming the predicative unity of the perceived world which, in turn, serves as a reference for verbal expression and intellectual signification. In this sense, it is not to the physical object that the body is comparable, but, above all, to the work of art. That is to say, a painting, a poem, a piece of music are individuals, that is, beings in which it is not possible to distinguish the expression from what it expresses, whose meaning is only accessible through direct contact, without abandoning its spatial and temporal place. (FRAYZEPEREIRA, 2005, p. 182).
The singing body:
I felt the heat in my whole body rise right at the beginning of the songs. And it’s a little cold today. A cold that I don’t feel anymore … Heat, a vibration that stays, energizing my body, my outlook, my feeling, my relation with the other. (Monique, 46)
Singing is essentially a bodily activity. An emotional body that has, within itself, the record of all lived experiences, which creates somatic markers that shape a form and a way of being and acting in the world that will define the sonorous and expressive quality of the one who sings. Moving them toward themselves, it speaks to all the senses in a unified movement:
That is, the sensory aspects of a thing constitute, in conjunction, the same thing, as sight, touch and all other senses are collectively the powers of the same body integrated into a single action. In short: the senses communicate between themselves. And, paradoxically, this is because the body is one. (FRAYZEPEREIRA, 2010, p. 177)
Thus, the singing body implies the deepening of a specific type of perception that involves listening to the internal movements that constitute it and the understanding of its expressive possibilities in the discovery of a language that communicates it in each gesture, in each look, in each sound emitted. The sonorous being that, embraced by the singing body, reveals to the singer that, when singing, he becomes visible and sees, song and singer, listener and audible, touching and touched, besides the body in the density of the matter:
Yet again: the flesh of which we speak is not matter. It consists in the wrapping of the visible on the seers body, the tangible on the feeling body, attested, above all, when the body sees itself, touches itself, seeing and touching things, so that, simultaneously, as tangible, it goes between them, as a feeling body, dominating all, extracting from itself this very relationship, and this double relationship by opening or fission of its mass. (MERLEAU-PONTY, 1964, p. 141)
In short, singing intertwines the expression of a unique and personal aesthetic in the body of the one who sings. The singer becomes the song in a receptive body that reveals and is revealed. An aesthetic being in itself, which moves in its own way, moving within itself, even to move from inner listening to the listening of the world, becoming at the same time a work of art and an artist, in an expressive web of the sensitive (FRAYSE — PEREIRA, 2010, p. 185). Reflexive and self-aware, the singer focuses on himself in the action of singing:
To perceive the sounds more and more. To sharpen the senses and foster the awareness that my whole body vibrates and the whole body participates in the emission of sounds. To perceive the subtleties that occur with a simple movement of the tongue, lips, control of the air. The quality of the sound that vibrates in me and that vibrates in everyone coming into tune. Harmonization of sound, reflecting in space, in us, in our soul. (Beth, 52)
4. Final considerations
The studies and reflections of this article became of my own experience in several dimensions, include my masters and doctoral research. On my personal journey, singing was the means that allowed me to find my expression, to delve deeper into myself, expand my perception in relation to the other and the world. I discovered myself as subject, artist and educator. As a singer, I discovered that, in singing, I wove with my singing the narrative of my own existence, composing a unique and singular song. Over the years, working with individual students and with diverse groups, I have observed that, on different levels, the same was true of the people who sought my work. As a somatic therapist, I discovered in the Biosynthesis, in the life fields by David Boadella and in the energy resources by Silvia Boadella, a way to integrate the singing as resource of healing and personal transformation, first in myself, after in my work with others. I’m very grateful to both.
I hope that this brief article can inspire reflection on integration, not only singing, but the arts in general as resources for somatic psychotherapy in Biosynthesis and of the aesthetic experience and aesthetic engagement as an aesthetic resonance field for enlarge sensibility, transformation and personal healing, where the being can express himself in his potency and truth.
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