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Frederick Matthias Alexander - who was he?

F. M. Alexander was born in Tasmania and lived from 1869 till 1955.
In his youth he was a very devoted amateur actor and considered making a living of his acting and reciting. He developed, however, a serious problem.
He lost his voice.

Frederick Matthias Alexander simply called his working method ”The work”, but his students named it after him. That´s why ”Alexander Technique” has such an insignificant name.

Australia
In the 1890ies, FM found out, that his voice was fine when he rested it, but as soon as he began reciting again, it became hoarse and not working well. No voice expert or doctor could help, and as it became obvious that the problem was caused in the way he used it, he began studying himself in front of mirrors in the hope that he could solve his problem. In his book ”The Use of the Self” , he describes how he became obsessed with finding out, what caused the hoarseness. He certainly did. However, what he found was not a quick fix!

Mindfulness in action
He came out with some principles, that helped him change from a weakling to a well functioning and healthy person with a strong back….and, of course, a strong voice. After months and years he discovered, that these principles could be applied to any other person.

What started with a voice problem, ended with a simple, holistic, physical and mental approach to getting better or simply working with your self on the basis of mindfulness.
What he didn´t know at that time, was that this was the beginning of a lifetime engagement, that in the future could help thousands and thousands of people throughout the world.

You can read about how excactly he developed his technique and the principles that are the basis of the work in ”The Use of The Self”.

London
In 1904 he settled in London and began teaching. Singers, actors, musicians and doctors came along, as well as people with various diagnoses or health or voice problems.

He was known as “the Voice Man”, and it was him, Lionel Logue, the speech thearapist who helped King George VI as told in “The King´s Speech”, left Australia to see. “To see the Voice Man in London”, he wrote in his diary. This story is told in the Australian teacher´s organisation´s newsletter, but apparantly Lionel Logue never met FM. At least there are no such appointment in FM´s left diaries.

In 1931 he started his first training course, which he ran until his death in 1955.


Unfortunately he never received the Nobel price in medicine. It seems as if
Nikolaas Tinbergen, who was awarded with the prize in 1973, did not agree with that, as he spent most of his Nobel Prize lecture telling about FM Alexander. Here he wonders why there has been such a small interest for Alexander´s work. Today, one still wonders.

I recommend the biography from 2004, Michael Bloch´s The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander, Founder of the Alexander Technique