First Steps with Virtual Nature in Performance Training

Nature can play a significant role in embodied voice work by providing an environment that appears as a safe and familiar platform for the experiential learning experience. The calming affects of nature can be measured by heart rhythm, blood pressure, amount of stress hormone levels in blood and muscle tension. When we calm down it becomes possible for us to perceive the outer environment (in music it could be the ensemble, in presentation the audience) and our inner emotional states. When we perceive our inner emotional state, we become present.

When experiencing high levels of stress, it is assumed that there are restorative benefits of simply looking at nature in stress-related situations.
— Ulrich

According to research, to develop our bodily and inner perceptions, we need supportive environments. They should be experienced as comprehensible, accessible and secure. The more pressure we feel, the greater is our need to find supportive environments. The studies relate to the human development over millions of years in a physical environment, where the physical environment mainly included nature. It can be assumed that already because of our history, we ‘understand’ the natural environment, which means possibilities to regain resources and explore environments (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989).

There are still very few studies about the long term effects of virtual reality, but what already has been found out in health care seem to support the experience we have had of the benefits of using VR in our Nature Oriented Voice and Performance Training®.

Link to a recent article in the Guardian

You speak wider because you have way more space to see... and the emotions can reach further.
— An actor working on lines with virtual glasses

HOW A NATURE LOVER FELL FOR VIRTUAL REALITY

The first time I tried virtual glasses was at a meeting with a consulting firm. They had a virtual dentist’s office set up in their lobby and I was invited to try the VR experience while there. I asked if they’d have a nature scene for me and all of a sudden I was in the middle of a beautiful nature in Lapland. I felt an instant urge to sing. Similar to what you experience when you are on the shore of a still lake and you let your voice echo over the land. It was very clear that this was a possibility for voice training... Later in the Fall I had already bought VR glasses but had not really used them for performance training yet. One time after over six hours delayed flight I arrived in my room feeling overwhelmingly exhausted. I remembered the VR glasses in my suitcase, took them out, looked for a beautiful natural scene from the library (mountains are my favorite but ocean does it, too) put on some bird singing and started improvising with my voice. The view took me to a relaxed, open mind space, the sounds were flowing with the view and after two minutes of improvising I felt refreshed and restored, ready to take on the next challenge.

I saw there a picture of my childhood, it relaxed me on a spot.
— Singer warming up with virtual glasses before a performance

Check out this video from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles where VR has been tested to possibly reduce pain. You can read the whole story here.

BRINGING VR INTO ACTION

I have used virtual environment as one of the tools in our training program since last summer, often when warming up, preparing for a presentation or when the task gets bigger than the person. The customer chooses his or her favorite nature scene and we pick a picture or a video for the glasses. The natural environment gives a wider personal space and brings the focus away from the details and mistakes, allowing the singer, speaker or musician to perceive the view and the feeling of sound.

No thoughts on technic, just feelings.
— Student after a vocal impro using virtual glasses

It has been interesting and inspiring to experience that by combining body awareness with virtual and acoustical experiences both speakers and musicians seem to feel better supported in connecting both with their inner and physical voices and the surrounding environment, in other words in gaining a better presence, especially in the moment of potential stress.

This encourages us to bring the virtual nature connection to a further use in recording studios, concert halls, auditoriums and practice rooms, to begin with.

 

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