Monday, May 5, 2008


Ventriloquism is an act of stagecraft in which a person (a ventriloquist) manipulates his or her voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere. The act of ventriloquism is ventriloquizing and the ability to do so is commonly called in English the ability to "throw" ones voice. However, the term "throwing one's voice" is misleading, because it implies that a sound's physical origin has changed, when really the change has been perceptual and not physical. The illusion of ventriloquism is just that, an illusion. A ventriloquist is skilled at speaking without moving his or her lips. The audience therefore actually detects the sound of the voice from the ventriloquist’s mouth, but sees only the mouth of the puppet moving. Thus, two modalities are in conflict. Vision detects the location of the speaker as distinct from where audition (hearing) localizes the speaker. When these two modalities are in conflict, our perceptual system must resolve audition in determining where objects are located in space. The unconscious mind, therefore, resolves the discrepancy between these two modalities by hearing the voice as if it is coming from the moving mouth of the puppet. This short-term change in perception is called capture. This specific capture concerning ventriloquism is an example of ‘visual capture’ because the visual system dominates the auditory system. While the illusion is extremely convincing, ventriloquists do not actually have the ability to ‘throw’ their voices. However, they are skilled at deceiving audiences through their practice of speaking intelligible sounds without moving their mouths and moving the dummy’s mouth in synchrony with the sound of their own voice. Indian Ventriloquist and Puppeteer Ramdas Padhye defines Ventriloquism as "An Art of throwing your voice and creating an illusion that it is coming from some other place" .
The Greeks called this gastromancy (Greek: εγγαστριμυθία) and it was often closely aligned with aspects of necromancy in that it was used to make it seem that the spirits of the dead had returned to pass on information retrieved from beyond the grave. In the Middle Ages it was thought to be similar to witchcraft. As Spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, so ventriloquism became more of a performance art as, starting around the 16th century, it shed its mystical trappings.
Ventriloquism got its start in ancient times, somewhere around the sixth century BC, it is believed, when it was used to supposedly communicate with the dead. The first known ventriloquist of this type was Louis Brabant. He was in the court of the French King Francis the First. It became a widespread belief that the spirits of the dead went to the stomachs of the prophets and continued to exist there. The prophets were then able to foretell the future by the spirits who were speaking from his or her belly. Hence the name "ventriloquist" which means "belly speaker" in Latin. Of course, it was the prophets themselves who had learned the art of ventriloquism so they could fool their listeners and claim to have divine powers. For a long time, ventriloquism was viewed negatively by the Christian church. Finally, though, it was looked upon as simply being a form of entertainment. Listening to the "voices from the belly" was no longer done. Finally, at the end of the nineteenth century, a comedian by the name of Fred Russell came up with an act whic he performed with his dummy. Russell became known as the "father of modern ventriloquism." Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden dummy named CHarlie McCarthy came on the scene years later in 1938 and ended up becoming an international celebrity. Buffalo Bob Smith and his cowboy dummy, who was named Howdy Doody, had their own television show for over ten years, starting in the 1940's. Then, Shari Lewis and her hand puppet, which was named Lamb Chop, became popular on television in the 1950's and 1960's.

Ventriloquism is a practiced skill that is achieved by throwing one's voice. That is, a ventriloquist use a wooden dummy or doll which he or she places on their hand in order to operate their movements. The ventriloquist then pretends to carry on a conversation with the dummy by moving its mouth and providing its voice. The dummy's voice actually comes from the ventriloquist, but since there is no sign that he or she is moving his or her mouth or lips, then the voice seems to come from the wooden dummy. Our eyes naturally try to zero-in on the source of the noises or the voice that we hear. But, by controlling the movement of his or her lips, and by not moving the mouth, a ventriloquist successfully tricks us into thinking that the voice we are hearing is coming from another source, such as his or her wooden dummy. We know better, but a good ventriloquist can make it seem that his or her dummy is actually talking even though we know for a fact that it is not.
You can learn ventriloquism yourself by studying the many books and videos that are available on the market today. You will need to practice in front of a mirror so that you can practice not moving your lips or your mouth as you speak for your dummy. In order to perform your new skill, you will also need to choose and purchase a dummy, of course, which will then be used as your sidekick.


Renegade Eye said...

Don't tell anybody, but I did it on stage before. It used to be a hobby.

Practice: Tea for 2, at 2 o'clock.


This was a great hobby.Why stop?