The Institute for Applied Improphysis®

The Institute for Applied Improphysis® was founded by the singer, vocal coach, trauma and systems therapist Iris Hammermeister.

The technical achievements of the past years led to people being regarded and treated more and more as machines. This led to more and more people moving away from their true nature, as well as from their natural vocal function. Alienation followed. This also includes the voice, which moved further away. The human being and the human voice are still not considered as a holistic body-mind-soul system. Thus, in vocal pedagogy, only parts of a person are addressed.

As a trauma and systems therapist, Iris Hammermeister‘s specialty was exploring the impact of the two world wars on our voices. She devoted herself intensively to the transgenerational transmission of trauma and found that there were also significant influences in the cultural and music industries. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang-Andreas Schultz describes in his professional articles and books very impressively the influence the two world wars had on our cultural development. Artists after the 2nd World War showed a kind of armoring and no longer had the connection to music, because they considered themselves more and more separated from their true nature. This resulted in music that became rather cerebral, academicized and distanced. The spirituality and transformative power of music was forgotten.

Our historical legacy is reflected in a view of man and a pedagogy of singing that considered the voice separate from the body-mind-soul unity. The individual with his true self has been banished. Thus one tries to adapt the voices of the singers to a common ideal of beauty and pays less attention to the very own individual sound. This raises the question of identity. What does a singer identify himself with? What happens when he adapts to external expectations? In singing pedagogy, the effects of the two world wars are not taken into account. However, when singers report that they can no longer access their voice and feel they are singing against glass walls, we are facing the very effects of the two world wars. 

In addition, creativity and beauty have disappeared from music. Not only that, singers can barely feel what they are singing, let alone sing with a connected heart. They are ultimately searching for a connection to themselves, and there we cannot ignore the spiritual dimension of art. Every singer chooses to sing out of love for his profession. However, he often finds himself in the dilemma of not being able to live and express this love. The dependence to economy and state with the commercial interests connected with it, lets each artistic liberty nip in the bud.

Iris Hammermeister sees the solution in the Polyvagaltheorie, which was developed by Stephen Porges and made well-known 1994. Stephen Porges discovered that the autonomic nervous system has evolutionarily added another nerve cord, which is crucial for all the issues described. This one is responsible for bonding, security, contact, empathy…. and is not active in most people, so that they usually have a dysregulated autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is formed in the first years of life based on the experiences made in our environment. In addition, this nerve cord supplies the very muscles we need for vocal function. Autonomic nervous system and voice function are therefore symbiotically interwoven, which holds the chance of regulation. This requires knowledge of the effects that initial bonding and contact experiences have on our musculature, which also influence our vocal function. 

Voice and speech is an extensive process that requires knowledge from a variety of disciplines. This has Iris Hammermeister taken into account and developed a voice work. She bridges the various disciplines of developmental psychology, psychotraumatology, mysticism, medicine, polyvagal theory, neurobiology, vocal physiology and vocal pedagogy. She guides singers, musicians and amateurs with her unique knowledge, extraordinary listening and perceptual gifts, back to a deep connection to their voice, self and potential.

Our historical legacy is reflected in a view of man and a pedagogy of singing that considered the voice separate from the body-mind-soul unity. The individual with his true self has been banished. Thus one tries to adapt the voices of the singers to a common ideal of beauty and pays less attention to the very own individual sound. This raises the question of identity. What does a singer identify himself with? What happens when he adapts to external expectations? In singing pedagogy, the effects of the two world wars are not taken into account. However, when singers report that they can no longer access their voice and feel like they are singing against glass walls, we are facing the very effects of the two world wars. 

In addition, creativity and beauty have disappeared from music. Not only that, singers can barely feel what they are singing, let alone sing with a connected heart. They are ultimately searching for a connection to themselves, and there we cannot ignore the spiritual dimension of art. Every singer chooses to sing out of love for his profession. However, he often finds himself in the dilemma of not being able to live and express this love. The dependence to economy and state with the commercial interests connected with it, lets each artistic liberty nip in the bud.

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Iris Hammermeister sees the solution in the polyvagal theory, which was developed by Stephen Porges and made famous in 1994. Stephen Porges discovered that the autonomic nervous system has evolutionarily added another nerve cord, which is crucial for all the issues described. This one is responsible for bonding, security, contact, empathy…. and is not active in most people, so that they usually have a dysregulated autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is formed in the first years of life based on the experiences made in our environment. In addition, this nerve cord supplies the very muscles we need for vocal function. Autonomic nervous system and voice function are therefore symbiotically interwoven, which holds the chance of regulation. This requires knowledge of the effects that initial bonding and contact experiences have on our musculature, which also influence our vocal function. 

Singing and speech is an extensive process that requires knowledge from various disciplines. Iris Hammermeister has taken this into account and developed a voice work. She bridges the various disciplines of developmental psychology, psychotraumatology, mysticism, medicine, polyvagal theory, neurobiology, vocal physiology and vocal pedagogy. She guides singers, musicians and amateurs with her unique knowledge, extraordinary listening and perceptual gifts, back to a deep connection to their voice, self and potential.

What is the attitude and philosophy behind this voice teaching?

In voice training according to Iris Hammermeister, a differentiated guided stimulation takes place in order to establish a relationship with the sound, body and nervous system, which develops the expansion of the individual perceptual capacity. The refinement of auditory perception, the development of the sound spectrum and the responsiveness of the body to sound play an important role. Sound feedback is of central importance in this process. Enabling sound vibrations in the body tissues guides the self-organization of the voice and the whole body. It is always about processes and experiences or the description of what is experienced. This creates an inner orientation on the basis of which constant further work and development is possible. The deeper we dive into these inner spaces, the closer we are to our essence or the true self.

Learning happens mainly through the stimulation of sensorimotor functions. It is less about DOING or MAKING, and more about perceiving, feeling and listening. It is a journey of discovery to oneself. Where do I limit myself by habits, by restraint or pressure to perform?

Voice training is based on experience. This means that the singer is led into a process of experience in which learning does not have to do with the acquisition of knowledge, but is learned through experiential learning. Learning teaches itself, as it were. 

Voice training according to Iris Hammermeister is not about a singing technique, no optimization strategy or vocal aesthetic orientation. Rather, it is about stimulating the unfolding of the voice, without effort or pressure to perform. It involves musical or artistic thinking. It means seeing in a new way, stepping out of something familiar so that a process is opened up. It involves expressing the uniqueness of each artist and letting it come out of the true self. This voice work is not just about expressing feelings, but about diving into deeper spaces where one’s own history, emotions coupled with memories no longer play a role. It requires much more depth and the courage to enter unknown territory. It is a journey back to our origins.

The relationship between teacher and student is elementary here, because it requires from both sides a deep engagement with the unknown, which makes the beauty of any art possible. In this unknown, this mystery, we find our true nature, for which we all long. Here it takes a good sense on the part of the teacher when to intervene in a process and when to give impulses. It is a process of letting go of all conditioning and also knowledge. This is not so easy for studied singers, because they have to say goodbye to a lot of things they have painstakingly trained themselves to do. The great art of a teacher is to lead the student again and again into freedom, so that he can recognize himself in his mirror. In this freedom the student can discover his own programs and patterns by himself and together with the teacher he dives into deeper layers where he meets his true self. Exactly there is our voice, which was already perfectly created in us, only got no room to unfold and grow.

In most singing methods, the conditioning or the false self is worked on. This also applies to programs from hypnotherapy or NLP. These last a few years and then have to be renewed again. This voice teaching, on the other hand, leads to deeper layers that sit below the conditionings and which remove the feeling of separation. Thus, singers no longer have the feeling of singing against “glass walls” because they are connected to their true self. The unique and authentic voice resides in the true self, also the potential of a whole person. 

Physiology plays an important role in voice training, but it is not enough to change deep psychological structures or to reintegrate what has been lost. Important knowledge of developmental psychology and polyvagal theory according to Stephen Porges are elementary to accompany the singer into his true self. The regulation of the autonomic nervous system is the basis of all processes of change or unfolding, because the voice can only unfold itself when the vagus nerve is activated. Activation of the ventral vagus nerve plays an important role in this voice teaching, as does work with the muscle systems and fascial tissues. The voice is a self-regulating system. Thus, all bodily functions, as well as our nature, are self-organized systems that can be reactivated if we do not interfere with regulating processes, but give the system enough freedom and impulses to regulate itself. Therein lies the art in this voice teaching, which requires a very good ear and feel for the sound and the singer to be able to accompany him individually. 

In the end, it is about accompanying the student into freedom, in which old conditioning no longer works. Thus, the singer frees himself, his voice and the sound / tone.