November 26, 2013

Singing and other things



It was not going to be a good day.  I didn’t get enough sleep and have been behaving like it.  I managed to catch the edge of the loaded breakfast kong on the edge of Pav’s crate, thus spraying the cottage kitchen with soggy kibble and wet tinned rabbit mince.  And then, bolting into the mews for an urgent pee, having been out hurtling and watching hellcritters pee* I unhooked my belt buckle** and with a sudden, sleep-deprived jerk . . . threw it in the loo.  Inadvertently.  Of course.  At least it was Monday morning and right after Peter’s cleaning person had been here:  it was a shining clean loo.***


I’ve also had a bad couple of days with the ratblasted ME and the hellhounds are only eating on alternate Thursdays when the moon is full.  When the moon is full, the proper sacrifices have been made, their paths have not been crossed by any black cats, hedgehogs, rabid snails or mad gypsy fortunetellers prone to throwing the wrong babies into the fire†, and they have not been put off by the unseemly delight of a hellterror disembowelling a kong.

But Nadia makes everything better.††  I won’t say I had the most brilliant voice lesson I have ever had today—I’m still too post-ME floppy—but I’m having lots more fun, now I have something more nearly resembling a voice to play with.


This is like being a real [music] student

Good golly, miss molly!! And gorblimey *@#&$(%&^ (drat is about all I really fill that in with, but asterisks look more menacing), YOU ARE A REAL STUDENT and have been for a VERY LONG TIME!!!!!

Feh.  I forgot you music teachers would be all over me for that remark.  It is difficult to take yourself seriously when you have no visible talent at something that there are Joyce DiDonatos out there doing at stratospheric professional level.  You can tell yourself you’re doing it because you enjoy it till you’re blue-with-spots in the face and that joy is important and fabulousness is not the only measure . . . but it’s still difficult.

I’m so glad you’ve been having and noticing progress with your voice! And I’m so glad everytime I read something about Nadia’s wonderful talent and helpfulness in getting you to find and use your voice.

A friend recently sent me an article from the NEW YORKER about Joyce DiDonato and I was completely riveted by descriptions both of her teacher and herself giving master classes:  so much of what is quoted is exactly what Nadia says.  Speaking of a teacher taking her students seriously, whether they’re ever going to do more than torture their dogs with their singing or not.  But this is clearly why I am making progress.  I have a good teacher.  ::Beams::

But, goodness gracious, as Blondviolinist and I have said many times, you are a perfectly wonderful student. If you lived in the States (or I in England) maybe I would badger you into wanting viola lessons . . .

Snork.  As a result of this frelling blog I now have several friends who play stringed instruments, and it’s like Oisin and his organ:  if I were thirteen and talented I’d be taking organ lessons—and lessons on something with strings, probably either a violin or viola.  I like both the size and the tone.  The bigger stuff and the stuff you mostly strum or pluck doesn’t appeal to me as much††† although I have the standard romantic crush on harps.


go on You Tube and find a couple of PROFESSIONALS I like singing it and PAY ATTENTION.

And then tell us which ones so we can hear what you’re aiming for!

It came down to a choice between DiDonato and Cecilia Bartoli—and to my own surprise Bartoli wins by a seven-league-boot stride.

Voi che sapete is such a cliché and every mezzo voice student in the known universe has to sing it—I assume because it’s not disastrously difficult technically and because the story line is fairly straightforward.  Even though it’s a trouser role, still, teenage [person] in love with every other teenage [person, possibly but not necessarily exclusively of the opposite gender] is a pretty obvious emotional arc that most of us can empathise with.  You don’t have to be a frelling philosopher to get into Cherubino.

But the very straightforwardness of it I think is maybe a slight trap for the unwary.  Or the ungifted or the clueless—but that shouldn’t include the professionals.  And it’s interesting, listening to rafts of professionals.  I didn’t hear a bad one, but I heard a lot that didn’t really have the fire in the belly that I would expect a teenage boy singing about love to have.  DiDonato is almost too lyrical for me:  too put together.  The passion is all planed and shiny smooth.  Bartoli, who in other repertoire sometimes eats too much scenery for my listening pleasure, gets Voi che sapete dead right for what I’m trying for—HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA—there’s fire in her/his belly and I’m not going to call it roughness, but as if the passion is going to break out occasionally, as she sings her beautiful accurate frelling professional line.

I suppose it’s also that I’m stuck with using what I’ve got:  and there are a lot of imperfect voices out there that can put stuff over.  I want to put it over.  I need role models that suggest a way to do this.  Bartoli gives me a little crack of light in the wall of my own . . . erm . . . limited competence.


(And I want to watch those viola lessons! ) . . . Maybe I could disguise myself as a really large stack of sheet music. Or a double bass.

:: falls down laughing ::  Listen, you two, you’ve been hectoring me, in your kindly, well meant ways, for a long time now.  Come to England, and we’ll meet on a blasted heath somewhere and do something . . .  blogworthy‡‡‡.


Indeed, isn’t the Facing Down of Personal Demons exhausting? Reading this post was funny for me, because in my case I sing just fine (not great, by any stretch, but fine), but am lately facing similar issues – of fear about being heard, revealed, about speaking out – but mine are in re: writing. Sigh. 

I so hear you.  Nadia says over and over and over and over that singing is very revealing, that you have to get used to this.  I am, I guess, getting used to it, which is why I’m finally beginning to make a, you know, noise.

Writing is also very, very revealing.  But it’s revealing north by northwest:  as I’ve said probably with even greater frequency than Nadia reminds her students that singing is revealing, my readers know a lot about me:  they just don’t know what they know, because there’s no A equals B about it.  Even the blog is consciously and emphatically shaped.  But this is a rant for another night. . . .

* * *

* . . . every five feet because that’s the way critters are.  I was hoping hellhounds were unusually bad because they’re entire boys, but Pav, an entire girl, is nearly as bad.  Siiiiiiigh.  I’m an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it person and I don’t whack my critters’ bits out without a reason but going for a walk/hurtle without stopping every five feet for a pee sounds pretty attractive—none of my spayed girls were ever this obsessive.

But watching some critter take yet ANOTHER pee I often think of Calvin having to get up in the night after Hobbes has been evilly whispering sweet nothings in his ear about running water. . . .

** It’s made to come apart in two pieces, and the open-and-close half to detach from the leather strap

*** I do not have a cleaning person, and the loo at the cottage is never what you would want to call shining clean.

† Il Trovatore, okay?  I’ve been eyeing her aria again in my mezzo book.

†† As the mother of two small children, she would find this remark amusing.

††† Which is pretty funny, since up to two or three years ago I never really engaged with strings.  And then I had a Transformative Experience listening to one of those solo violin Bach things driving somewhere in Wolfgang and was so ravished I actually had to pull over to the side of the road and listen.  In hindsight I think this was a kind of practise version for the real Road to Damascus doohickey a year ago September—the Bach conversion was also pretty overwhelming and changed me.  Although one of the less usefully wonderful side effects was that pretty much everything I had or have composed or had a stab at composing since then has looked like trash.^  Sigh.  I’m having another go at setting a couple of lines from a favourite psalm. . . . Stay, erm, tuned.

^ This is not wholly Bach’s fault.  But sitting by the side of the road consciously, attentively listening to genius seems to be where it started.

‡ And probably embarrassing.


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