As I have already mentioned in previous blogs, I am having singing lessons. I have made the connection between these lessons and my inner world before, linking it to the experience of hearing voices, being heard and having a voice. Today I want to try and reflect on the link between words and music- not a new idea, I know ! Also about having a voice that is allowed to express something. Throughout my childhood, adolescence and adult life I was always told that I couldn’t sing. (What was meant, of course, was that I couldn’t sing in tune. I can sing quite well in the privacy of the shower! Words matter. Moreover nobody volunteered to help me learn to sing in tune.) I was talking with my singing teacher yesterday. She was encouraging me to open my mouth more widely to allow the sound to come out. I replied that letting the sound out was precisely what I did not want to do! Why should she suffer whatever dreadful noise I might make? She laughed-kindly-and replied that a) here was the place to risk making a dreadful sound and b) that my voice was by no means dreadful. (Increasingly I am inclined to believe her on the second point as well as the first)
Some years ago a friend started singing lessons. Her teacher suggested that she allow herself to use the full range of her voice. As she sang she found that she ran out of voice at different times. She was unable to access some sounds and emotions. After a time she began to recall events from her childhood that she had forgotten. These were memories of abuse. I am now not surprised at this story, learning how much singing is about being able to access what I am inside. I am also learning that one develops a voice memory whereby one’s body learns the shape of a given note. So an F sharp will have a different shape to an E flat. (I think my body has a long way to go!) Given this memory, it is not surprising that my friend discovered body memories that her conscious mind had forgotten. The novelist Thrity Umrigar puts it like this “Perhaps the body has its own memory system, like the invisible meridian lines those Chinese acupuncturists always talk about…maybe the pain of memory is encoded into our bone marrow…after all, the body, like God, moves in mysterious ways. ” (The Space Between Us)
The link is to a piece about Stephen Sondheim.
There are several things that I like about this clip. Firstly the evident enjoyment shared by all the group. The gusto with which they sing. They are having great fun. Secondly their enthusiasm. These are not people who are embarrassed by their voices. They have something to say and they are going to say it! Finally the comment made at the beginning by the conductor , commenting on Sondheim’s work “There’s so much poetry and revelation about life.” (In Sondheim’s music.) To say much more seems redundant, but I will add a few more lines. From my own short “singing career” I am finding a joy and pleasure in singing that I had never dreamed existed. I am no Pavarotti– and never will be- but my voice sounds sweeter even to me. I like singing now! And I hear myself getting nearer to the notes my teacher plays. Which is the other aspect of the clip that moved me. These people are giving to each other as well as to themselves .Each member brings their voice to the group and each learns from the others. (For another perspective on the things involved in playing together the film The Late Quartets is compelling.)
This is probably my last blog about singing lessons for the the time being. But not for all time-there’s far too much more for me to discover and write about. But when I do my first solo I’ll post here. Meanwhile this final clip is of Cody Growe singing. “Enjoy” as they say!