The Anatomy of The Voice

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The Anatomy of The Voice

Emma Trenorden

“Breathing” by Florence Ivy is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

I confess my partner and I love watching a reality singing show. Every now and then someone steps up onto stage for their first ever public performance. They’re not that confident, you feel nervous for them, but when they open their mouth to sing – wow! The human voice is wonderful in all its many, varied forms. It is delicate, powerful, vulnerable and can move the listener and singer both in unexpected, spontaneous, and deep ways. But as mystical as the voice can seem, it is as much science as it is art. Most, dare I say all, the singers that grace the stage in our addictive reality singing show have been finetuning their vocal instrument their whole life – whether it be mimicking their favourite artists at home or through regimented instruction of some sort.


I’ve been reading about the anatomy of the voice. The science of vocal technique is something that’s written about and studied in detail; a litany of tutorials and classes pop up in my social media feed every day. There’s no shortage of avenues for you to learn about the physics of breathing, the diaphragm, lungs, and abdominal muscles to support the breath. Or the physics of making sound, the larynx, vocal folds, intonation. Did you know that there are resonators throughout your whole body that you can make use of as a singer, to create different vibrations and tones?


And, of course, using your voice is the push and pull between having something to say – the joy or release that can come from expressing yourself – and the desire to be heard by another. When we’re swooning in the shower it’s unadulterated self-expression and release. When we’re up on a stage performing, it’s about connecting with an audience, having something of intention to say and wanting this to land with the listener. Every note, pause, entry, rise and fall has been practiced and intentionally placed with care.


But why am I rambling on about the singing voice when the matter at hand is the First Nations Voice to Parliament? There are some that argue we shouldn’t give First Nations people special treatment, shine them in the spotlight. That we should just listen to them and treat them like any other Australian. In a lens of everyday interactions with fellow citizens, as a person of colour I agree that we should treat all people with equal care, consideration, and respect. As someone who has worked with remote Indigenous communities over the past twenty years – the past ten years alongside senior Indigenous leaders committed to delivering health and wellbeing resources for their families and communities – I can’t help but rise up to look at the bigger systemic picture.


Just as good breathwork requires moving air from alveoli, through bronchiole, and branching back to the trunk, or trachea, wouldn’t it be great to find ways for community members in the most remote communities of our country to feed back their concerns and ideas to – and through – a national voice? Let’s put in the work to connect the branches and not just leave it to chance, waiting for remarkable individuals to step out into the spotlight. They are the exception. Let’s find ways to hear the unremarkable and ordinary everyday voices of our First Nations peoples.


This will only happen if we put in the groundwork to build the mechanism to support it.


Then one day we might have a practiced voice,

a national framework

with the required breathwork to support it,

in which every note,



rise and fall

has been intentionally placed

with care.

About the Storyteller

Emma Trenorden is a writer and musician based in Mparntwe, Alice Springs. In 2022 she was selected to further develop a collection of poems through an Arts NT Varuna Writers Fellowship. One of these poems has been shortlisted for the NT Writer’s Centre Poetry Award. She shares insights into her songwriting at

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