January 30, 2014

Florence Foster Jenkins lives



Interested to hear how the recording went.

AAAAAAAAAUGH.  AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.  Anybody not know who Florence Foster Jenkins is?*  If you are so fortunate, allow me to ruin your evening/ morning/ afternoon/ life.  Go google her and come back.  I can wait.

You now know everything you need to know about my singing.**  ::Bangs head against wall::***  Nadia did warn me last week, when I took the recording doohickey in for the first time, that recent events were audibly weighing on my voice and if I was going to record and listen to the recording, to try not to be discouraged. . . . †


Nadia has also said that contrary to apparent reality, tuning is not my problem and that it’ll come right when the rest of it comes right—like not cranking your horse’s head in to get him/her on the bit.  Concentrate on getting your seat and legs right and the front end will sort itself out.  So my musical seat and legs equivalent still need a lot of work.††

When I wrote the blog entry for last night I hadn’t played this week’s lesson back yet.  I had listened to last week’s recording before this week’s lesson and had more or less managed to absorb the punishing truth, which is that I sang more flat notes than accurate ones but that was last week.  This week I went in prepared to lighten up a little††† so that my voice wouldn’t keep breaking its fingernails trying to hoick itself up over the edge of the right note.

Well.  I may have thought I was prepared.  HOW DOES NADIA STAND IT?  WHY DON’T I JUST TAKE UP KNITTING? ‡


Speaking of erratic leaps forward… they don’t really happen for everyone who slogs, you know.

I imagined it.  I take it all back.‡‡

The teacher has to be good

That I have in full measure.  Have I mentioned lately that Nadia walks on water?‡‡‡

& the student has to be honestly trying to change things, not just putting in hours . . .

Dunno.  We may have a slight semantic difference in the definition of slog.  Slog as in dragging aggrieved hellhounds through hip-deep mud, well, no, this does not improve with practise.§  Slog as in loyally doing your grindlefarbing vocal ratblasted exercises and learning, so you thought, the notes to your new song . . . yeah.  I think that catches up with you eventually.  Sometimes it’s more catchy and sometimes it’s more eventually. . . .

Although thank you for being supportive.

I’ve met plenty of—well, let’s call them musicians for lack of a better term—who’ve been stuck in the same place for years. They’ve essentially hit a musical wall, either through bad teaching, no teaching, or pig-headedly not listening to advice.

Yes, like bell ringers who don’t want to learn anything past call changes, or maybe trebling.  They’re not going to learn methods and you can’t make them.§§

That you’re getting More Voice (and I’d lay money that people besides you & Nadia can hear the difference)

Yep.  They can, poor things.  I’m LOUDER.  I’m seriously louder.  I’m not loud like Nadia or Joyce DiDonato is loud but I’m loud compared to the average congregation member at the annual carol service.  Siiiiiiigh.

is credit both to Nadia’s excellent teaching and to your own engagement with the process.

Oh, engagement, schmengagement.  Yes, I love singing, but then . . . so did Florence Foster Jenkins.  The thing that I was leading up to last night—before I heard this week’s lesson playback§§§—is that I’ve been formally invited to join the ‘band’ for the evening service at St Margaret’s.  You know, singing.


* * *

* I’ve mentioned her here before but you may not have been paying attention.

** Except I haven’t learnt the notorious Queen of the Night aria yet.^

^ Ha ha ha.

*** This will doubtless have an enormous positive effect on my singing.  Doubtless.

† Of course it’s possible that Little Recording Doohickey is possessed by demons.  Most of my tech is.^

^ Everyone’s favourite trick at the minute—that is desktop, laptop and iPad—is suddenly to go, This page cannot be displayed because you are not connected to the internet WHEN I’M CONNECTED JUST FINE ON THE OTHER OPEN TABS.

†† I was never much of a rider either.  Siiiiiiiiiiigh.

††† I’d brought a crowbar, you know.

‡ Oh . . . right.  And I don’t show any great talent for knitting, either.

‡‡ The leap forward anyway.  Possibly not the erratic.

‡‡‡ Which with the weather we’ve been having is a very useful skill.

§ Neither does the hellgoddess’ temper.

§§ This is a somewhat controversial and contentious subject in the ringing world.  I think if you enjoy ringing call changes, especially if your tower is short handed, which most towers are these days, and you don’t want to break your brain and insomniacify your nights with learning methods, you shouldn’t have to.  But at the same time I can’t imagine not wanting to go on, to try for the next level, and most of the people I’ve known—a limited group I admit—who have stopped with call changes have Other Issues, including being taught wrong.  Either wrong in an absolute sense or wrong for them.  The problem with difficult skills is that there’s also more than one way of learning them and bell ringing is volunteer and most towers are lucky to have anyone even relatively able and willing to take on the frequently discouraging and onerous^ task of teaching at all.  There’s also a controversial and contentious conversation going on about teaching ringing teachers and setting up some kind of system whereby a teacher has to pass some kind of competence standard . . . and if you’re asking me, it’s going to end in tears.

^ Because of the spectacular attrition rate.  Bringing a beginner on is a colossal investment of time and effort from the entire band, especially the teacher, and then they go and quit, usually at whatever point where it realio trulio dawns on them that ringing is a DIFFICULT SKILL and is going to require BRAIN and COMMITMENT.  I don’t blame people for deciding they’d rather stay home and shampoo the cat, but I wish they’d figure this out a little earlier in the training process.

§§§ All right, yes, I did sound better this week.  BUT I’M STILL HORRIBLY FLAT.  What I do notice, and I can’t decide if this is hopeful or even more frustrating, is that every now and then when I hit a note more or less like true and full . . . it’s not bad.  And it’s spectacularly not the thin sour noise I was making several years ago.  If all my notes sounded like that, which they do not, I could get into that goodish choir.  But I was saying last night that my new voice doesn’t feel old, it feels young?  My relationship with what I’m trying to sing is a whole lot like watching a newborn foal try to get up on those four spindly things stuck on the corners of its tiny squished-together body.  Now, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  Um.  Well, this one goes here . . . WHOOPS.  And so on.  I always used to think that whatever my shortcomings I could carry a tune, and . . . apparently I can’t any more.  And this feels like the result of having more voice.  Nadia even said as much—not on the subject of carrying a tune;  she’s tactful like that—that it’s like when you shift up from the 13 hand pony you actually outgrew a couple of years ago and you’re on a 15.3 hand thoroughbred and . . . WHOOPS.

Maybe I’ll figure it out.  Whimper.


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