Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in Tasmania, Australia in 1869. As a young man Alexander showed great promise as an actor and Shakespearean recitationist. However, he faced one great obstacle to his theatrical ambition: he tended to become hoarse, and sometimes lost his voice, when he performed. These vocal problems eventually became so severe that he thought he might have to give up his acting career. Alexander had observed, however, that his vocal difficulties only occurred when he was performing, but not when he spoke in ordinary conversation. He concluded that he was doing something different with his voice when he performed and that this “something different” was causing his difficulties. With this hypothesis he began to experiment, observing himself speaking and reciting. He found that his hypothesis was only partly correct. First, it was not “something different” that he did during performance that caused his vocal problems, but a habitual way of interfering with his coordination that was present in everything he did. He merely did more of it in performance. Second, it was not something he did specifically with his voice, but rather the way he was using himself as a whole that was at the root of his problems. Through persistent, systematic self-observation Alexander eventually discovered basic principles of human coordination and functioning, and developed a technique he could use anytime and anywhere that ensured his best quality of performance in any activity he chose, including, but not limited to, his acting Performance.
Alexander gives his own account of how he came to make these discoveries in “Evolution of a Technique” which is the first chapter of his third book, The Use of The Self.