MADELINE MCNEILL | MADS
I am an opera trained singer and a creator of body philosophy. As a performing artist and intellectual, I envision new culture that conceptualizes self as body, which I explore in solo shows of music, poetry and philosophical prose. I also write plays, direct, and collaborate with a variety of artists including singers, dancers, electronic music producers, digital artists, and poets.
WHAT IS BODY PHILOSOPHY?
Body philosophy is a theory and a discipline. It's a way of investigating human experience by mapping inner movement and sensation of the core muscles. Utilizing vocal training as an investigative practice, the core muscles (muscles of the torso, neck, and head) become the landscape for exploring emotions, mind, consciousness and the soul experience. I argue that these deep human experiences are body processes and so arrive at the conclusion that self IS body. My methodology draws significantly from my training for sixteen years as a classical singer. Singing, and in my case, opera singing, trains a detailed awareness of inner movement and sensation within the core. Ultimately, I imagine a culture in which people celebrate humans as bodies and collectively organize a post-industrial society that cultivates and cares for a variety of humans as bodies.
THE SHORT STORY
I started college in pre-med, but along the way, disillusionment with the medical system made me rethink my choice. I explored alternative medicine and spiritualities, fascinated but still not convinced. Having completed three years of college, I wasn't sure what to do, so I decided to take a year off. I did a little traveling and after some thought, decided to come back to school in music. I never studied voice prior, but I knew it was something I would regret if I didn't try. I hustled myself an audition and was accepted into the music department at Western Washington University. The director assigned me a voice teacher and I soon fell in love with voice training, particularly the discipline of opera.
Despite a tense voice accumulated from years of physical and emotional strain, I improved with dedicated practice and graduated three years later. Passionate to master operatic technique, I continued to study as well as make lifestyle changes to balance myself including changing my diet and undergoing an intense self-massage overhaul which lasted five months. The muscles I massaged included abdominal, back, chest, neck, jaw, and face muscles. I also creatively applied techniques of meditation, yoga, and Body Mapping to further develop my voice. With these changes, it was soon after that my voice leapt to improvement. But there was also an unexpected effect: I began having ideas...epiphanies really. I always enjoyed asking deeper questions and searching out answers, but this was different. I was imagining ideas I'd never heard anywhere else, self-generating thoughts based on interdisciplinary thinking and years of dedicated work. The ideas elated me at first, but after experiencing several new ideas every day for months, I became extremely overwhelmed. I went into a deep depression. My old ways of thinking broke down and I struggled to build a new foundation of thought.
I experienced my first epiphany ten years ago. I have since emerged from the depression and created a basic infrastructure for a comprehensive theory which defines core muscles as active and sensory components of human experience. I wrote a book entitled, "Is There a Soul?" I also created a talk "Body Consciousness." With the groundwork built, I passionately create art-performance to communicate my theories. Ideas still come and show no sign of slowing, ha. I'm used to living with daily epiphany. I enjoy creating performance and sharing my ideas with a live audience. As I do research, I see other people putting together theory in a similar way and I am excited to connect to more people who include the core muscles in equations for exploring human experience.