February 7, 2012

I’m in it for the journey


I’ve felt that I’ve made kind of a lurch forward, singing, this week.  I’m not spending as much time practising as I would like because I’m a little absorbed just at the minute* in work.**  But I’ve been aware that whatever Nadia did to me last week about dropping my breath deeper down and farther in had in fact come home with me rather than staying behind in the Teacher Magic Room and waving and saying ‘see you next Monday.’***   It is very odd because once you are doing something† it tends to be ‘well, why weren’t you doing this before?  It’s not like it’s quantum physics.’††  Why should it be so hard to remember to breathe?  Blerg.

            So anyway this week I’ve been breathing down into my abdomen and supporting all this noise I’m making.  And it’s been fun.†††

            And then last night . . . I had no voice.  What?  What happened?  This Your Instrument is Your BODY is SO WEIRD.  Cheez.  I did whack myself silly last night over SHADOWS since I had a guest post, but one of the great things about singing‡ is that it’s so different.  There is certainly the absolute-energy level that you have to stay aware of, especially when you have ME or any of its many grisly relations, but generally you get an instant boost as soon as you shift to a different activity.‡‡  And I opened my mouth last night and . . . this tiny little squeaky sound crept out. . . .

            I was better again this morning, fortunately, and I sang like mad while brewing tea and getting dressed and taking the indoor jungle outside again‡‡‡ and writing cheques§ and, of course, hurtling.  I was back to breathing from my gut and making a reasonable amount of noise.  But what frelling shut me down?  I was talking to Nadia about it (of course) and because I swear singing is more Freudian than any mere human analyst could intimidate you with, it may have been some reflective business between the bit of Maggie’s story I’m revising, where she’s trapped in a situation she sees no way out of, and the way I was feeling just before I made the decision to quit my bell tower.  But the way your/my voice pursues its own view, I said it’s almost like having another critter about the place—two hellhounds and a singing voice.  I don’t know how professional singers do it:  Nadia says, as she has said before, that it’s about the level you can attain when you are off the wall, melting down and/or in doolally extremis—that if you find you can’t rely on producing x level even under contrary conditions, then you can’t be a professional singer.§§

            Yes.  I get that.  And fortunately I don’t have to worry about professional standards.  But the journey is still the journey, whether you’re hoping to open at the Met next year as Rosina or Orfeo or merely to be in the amateur choir singing for a little local wedding in two months, and I’m in it for the journey. 

* * *

* Did you know there are 43,200 minutes in a 30-day month?^  Sounds like plenty, doesn’t it?  Part of the reason I’m so bad at maths is that numbers are so misleading.  43,200 of anything sounds like a lot. 

^ I know.  Calculators and the internet make this kind of thing really cheap.  Remember the old ‘when I was your age I had to walk to school seven miles in the snow and alligators’+?  My generation’s version of this is ‘when I was your age, if I wanted to know how many minutes were in a month I had to sit down with a pencil and paper and figure it out.’ 

+ Special snow-proof alligators.  They prefer mountainous country where they sled around on their bellies.  

** As of tonight I’m a page ahead of my daily count.  But I’m having an adventure tomorrow which is going to suck up a few hours.  But it will be worth it because I will come home inspired.

^ And speaking of inspiration.  I am slowly and limpingly starting doodling again.  Actually, the truth is, doodling—like singing—has become one of those things I do to cheer myself up.  Both activities use a lot of the same creative engagement muscles that story-telling does but at a slightly different level and strain—a bit, perhaps, like going for a nice brisk five-mile walk with some hellhounds instead of running a marathon with 1,000,000 fitter, better trained and more competitive people than you.+  You get your blood moving and your endorphins elevated and a few calories burnt off toward that chocolate you want to have this evening, but you don’t feel like you died and when you try to get out of bed the next morning you don’t wish you had.  But between the dreadful rush toward the climax of quitting the New Arcadia tower that I was theoretically earning bell fund money for and cramming the second draft of SHADOWS through to send in the end of last month, I stopped doodling for public disclosure.++

            But life goes on and the official doodle pen is once again raised.  The new schedule is that I plan to get another batch out the end of this month and EVERYTHING but the fancy one-offs+++ done by the end of March. 

            At that point I’ll take a deep breath focus on the fancy stuff.++++  

+I can’t face touring for a lot of reasons.   

++ Although I’ll probably post some of them one of these days just . . . because.#  Jousting Tulips.  Woven Hellhounds.  Six Knives in Search of Washing-Up Liquid.  Three Apples Just Sitting There.  The Thing That Lives Under the Sofa.  (Several of these.  Things That Live Under the Sofa.)  

# Because the blog is a time-engulfer and almost ANYTHING eventually gets pressed into service. 

+++ One of the not-so-tangential reasons I’m thrilled with my ribbed legwarmer(s) in its new utterly straightforward and unconfusing yarn is that it suggests that I will manage to knit the two squares that people have already paid me for.  That was one more crisis of confidence at a time I didn’t need any more crises, even little ones, when I was trying to use the snooty aristocratic variously-coloured and –threaded yarn and didn’t seem able to keep my knits and my purls in neat little rows.  The yarn I’m going to be knitting the squares in is very very plain.  

++++ Just by the way . . . wheeeee.  I’m looking forward to these. 

*** I not infrequently feel that if I looked carefully around the edges of Nadia’s studio I would see a whole series of little curled up Better Singing Selves belonging to all her students. 

† I won’t say right but let’s say less wrong or moving in the right direction 

†† I am very glad singing is not like quantum physics. 

††† I’ve also been trying to learn the vocal line to Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.  It being Bach and all I wasn’t exactly surprised that it’s more complicated than it looks.  Have I told you that the Muddles are singing for another wedding in April?  Which I am going to try to make it to?  They’re doing Jesu, the first part of the Vivaldi Gloria, and the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria.  I’m used—and Nadia says that’s how she knows it too—to thinking of this last as a flashy soprano solo, so I’m hoping they’ll just give it to Griselda and the rest of us can sit back and listen comfortably. 

‡ Or doodling 

‡‡ The absolute-energy level, however, rules how long the boost lasts. 

‡‡‡ Yes, I assume I will have to bring it in again tonight. 

§ Possibly one should not sing while writing cheques, but I think probably they went to the right people. 

§§ She also says the difference between what you think you sound like on a good day and what you think you sound like on a bad day is not nearly as audible to your audience as you believe.  Words to live by.  I’m only a choir singer.


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