I’m always going to write some posts around your forum comments and then I forget. So let’s see if I can remember long enough to catch up a little.
. . . while reading tonight’s post [Chilly singing] I was humming the Gloria from Faure’s Requiem and was going to recommend Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna as I feel they have similar airy, light, and joyful qualities. Then I realized I was humming the wrong song. :/ The Lauridsen (and the Faure, for that matter) are still worth the recommendation.
I love the Faure but . . . Good old YouTube. I’m listening—first to Lux and then to the Songs of the Roses that Diane in MN mentions later in this thread—as I type. I’d never HEARD of Lauridsen. I’m so ignorant.
Although I could have done without the banner ad: How to sing, really sing. Breakthrough method releases your unique voice. Watch free video here!
I’m only interested if it involves chocolate and champagne. And I’m a little worried about the escape clause provided by that ‘unique’. *
Speaking as someone who’s seventeen, I always write drafts by hand – but that’s actually because I’m a really good typist. When I write things by hand, I can write one sentence and think of the next, then write that sentence while thinking of the next, and carry on. If I try to type a first draft, my fingers catch up to my brain and I get stuck.
YES. EXACTLY. I AM EXACTLY LIKE THIS. I TYPE A WHOLE LOT FASTER THAN I THINK. And it’s like falling off a cliff when you reach the end of your thought and your fingers are still whirring away wanting something to do.
It’s true that I write the blog straight on the computer—it would be way too much like work if I didn’t—and I start other stuff on the computer a lot more than I used to. Still. Paper is the real deal. Paper doesn’t disappear at a (usually mysterious) keystroke. And I have more little notebooks (spiral preferred, so they lie flat) with pretty or striking or tactile covers than any four people need. I tend to write drafts in pencil, but I take notes in ink, and I just like the process of an old-fashioned fountain pen gliding across the page.
Though I also just like paper–I usually type up the draft, then print it out to make edits and then type those in… But most people at school with me think this is insane.
When you win the Nobel Prize for Literature you will have the last laugh.
How many people are there in the Muddles?
Do you sing with piano or organ? I only ask because I am part of a group which can run to twenty or more and we gather in homes (those belonging to folks with parking not entirely filled with snow) where the living-dining-kitchen areas are one glorious (or not) space.
I know that kind of space is rarer in the UK, but we make do.
Both piano and organ, but mostly piano for rehearsal. As long as there’s an accompanying instrument I don’t think it matters that much till the next concert is getting close. There are something like forty Muddles members on the books but I would have said we rarely have more than twenty-five at practise, and we were about fifteen last week. I know. I think about this. So does Gordon, because I’ve spoken to him about it. But it’s unlikely anyone has a drawing-room big enough if all forty of us showed up—and since I’ve never managed to sing at a concert, possibly the last couple of rehearsals or so everybody turns out. Except the superfluous first soprano who is going to the opera, unless she has flu or a deadline rendered intolerable by said flu, and doesn’t go to the opera either.** My murky fantasy is that we start a splinter group of oh, twelve or so.*** There are lots of living spaces that could hold a mere twelve—including Third House’s sitting room. Mwa ha ha ha ha. I would throw in use of my cheap portable electric keyboard free.
Susan in Melbourne
I find that commercial and public interiors in the northern hemisphere are kept unnaturally warm in winter. [In the UK] I moved between hotels, restaurants, meeting rooms in universities, public transport, and everywhere I was too hot. On arrival in a new hotel room, I’d rush for the window to fling it open, and then to the heater to turn it off. A colleague who has recently moved back to the UK from Australia was telling me that she and her partner just had to leave a restaurant recently because it was too unbearably hot.
WHERE? This sounds like America to me, not frigid chilblained England. I acknowledge that I’ve been too hot occasionally, like in the Heathrow hotel room where Peter and I saw the original CSI for the first time (this was long ago) the night before flying to the States. And there are still, I believe, criminally insane stores that leave their front doors open to the street and blast the entry with the best their central heating can do. And anybody can have a Bad Wiring Day when the on switch gets stuck. But generally speaking . . . I like pubs with open fires, and then I want to sit next to them.
Robin, you obviously mostly inhabit private spaces rather than communal ones, and I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be burning fuel at the greenhouse-layer-thinning rate that commercial premises seem to be doing. Yours is the more realistic experience of the real (chilly) world outside.
Indeed. This is why my laptop and I crouch by the Aga in the kitchen. It’s not because my office is still full of stuff waiting to be doodled and I can’t bear to go in there with all of it staring at me reproachfully†. It’s because I get COLD in my office. At very least I’ll turn the central heating on and I’ll probably dust off the electric fire and open it up too. If I’m sitting by the Aga, if there are penguins in my office I don’t care.†† Also, there’s the hellterror. The hellterror does not truly grasp the concept of GO LIE DOWN yet, and her big crate lives in the kitchen. The Aga system is not popular with hellhounds, whose favourite bed, as I’ve told you, is in my office†††, but Pav will grow up. Or maybe I’ll just rope her feet together.
^ Also: token footnote. So no one complains about the lack of footnotes.
Seriously? You have very demanding readers if they’d complain about a lack of footnotes
DEMANDING. TOTALLY. VERY DEMANDING. MY READERS. THEY ARE.‡
* * *
* Nadia is a little cynical about poor old Dido. Drama queen, she says. ‘Remember me’ indeed. —I’ve always liked Dido although I agree that topping yourself because your boyfriend dumps you^ is not a healthy, balanced reaction. But—I’ve gibbered about this before—your attitude toward a piece of music changes spectacularly—unrecognisably—as soon as you start developing a relationship with it by trying to perform the sucker. However inadequately.^^ So I’ve been engaging with Dido on a whole variety of new levels as a result of trying to sing her. And it may be entirely the wrong kind of courage, but it does take courage to do yourself in. I think there’s some steel there—and some anger. I’d like to get that into my performance, cough cough cough, with the despair and grief.
Purcell is Radio Three’s composer of the week. Today we had Dido. The presenter went on rather about the recording he’d chosen, and I have loved the soprano in other roles and agree she has a fabulous voice. And when we got to the famous Lament, for which no stop has been left unpulled, I’m all: STOP FRELLING WHINING YOU MAUDLIN COW.
^ I don’t find his offer to defy the gods and stay very convincing. Just by the way. Aeneas the creep. Aeneas the faithless. All he is is a pretty pair of biceps.
^^ Which is about as much explanation and excuse as anyone needs in answer to my craven question, why should mediocre amateurs even bother? This is why. Because performing widens and deepens your understanding of a major art form. Your brain and your emotions are not limited by your technical skill. Horizons beckon. Angels+ whisper. Doodah doodah.
+ Or supernatural being of choice. Djinns. Fairies.#
# Out hurtling hellhounds today I saw a van. Gremlin Landscaping I read. I blinked and looked again. Gemini Landscaping. Okay. That’s better. I don’t think I’d hire the first guy. But I think I may have a creating-my-own-reality problem.
*** Assuming SATB, four part music, there have to be at least eight of us because I’m not singing all by myself. If there are second sopranos we have to be at least ten.
† Believe it or not, all you amazingly, astonishingly, superlatively, supernaturally patient people, I’m still turning the frellers out at about two a week. Or I was, up till the last fortnight when there was too much generalised illness in this household and I lost the plot for a while. But I should be starting up again next week. But you are all aware of the refund button on the side bar of this blog? Not only is there no disgrace^ to asking for a refund . . . remember that some day in the fuzzy distant future WHEN I’VE FINISHED THE BACKLOG Blogmom will put up a doodle shop where the refund button is at present and you can reorder. We will be taking commissions at a strictly-enforced rate of about two a week.
^ The disgrace is all mine+
+ Including my continuing failure to knit square squares which means the rose and pawprint requisitions are still in the aaaaaaugh stage.
†† As long as they clean up after themselves.
††† And this was true before the arrival of the hellterror.
‡ However there is no footnote shortage today.
I am so cold. I am SO TIRED of being so cold. I’m at the mews, positively bent over an electric fire—which I have propped up on a stack of knitting books to get the heat source nearer—and I have been for the last hour . . . and I’m still cold. I’m still bringing my geraniums indoors every night, so it’s cold anyway, but Muddles practise for the next concert started tonight* and . . . what is it about little old country churches? And are little old country churches as gelid on the continent as they are here? Or in the Yukon? Or Siberia? Some of us were huddling around one of the so-called radiators during the break, nursing our cups of hot tea and pretending the radiator was actually radiating anything, like heat, and musing about our options. How much higher a subscription rate would our members bear for the sake of better practise space?** We could barely get the words through our chattering teeth. One woman suggested we look forward to summer. Then it turns clammy, I said. Walk into St Frideswide on a hot summer day and it’s like being slapped in the face with a wet fish.*** The woman I walked out with later said that her throat is usually sore by the end of practise, and that she needed to sing at home more. That’s not practise, I said, that’s the cold. I was feeling bitter and freaked out however after Galen, as he declared practise over for the evening, said that he felt that the Gloria was too easy and we needed an extra challenge between now and the end of May. WHAT? I went up to him on the way out and said that this might come as a shock to him but not all of us had ever sung Vivaldi’s famous Gloria before, and he looked at me as if I’d just offered him a tuba when he’d asked for a soprano, pulled himself together with an obvious effort and said airily, oh yes, I know.
On the other hand the Wall Man† has showed up several days in a row. He even seems to be building a wall. But I was out with Pav while he was wielding his trowel—he spends as much time hauling bags of sand and making his cement-mixer go ta-pocketa-pocketa as he does slapping bricks together—and we bonded over being dog owners and how the rest of the non-crittered world thinks we’re barmy. So I’ve decided he was clearly the right choice. So long as the wall doesn’t fall down. Again.
* * *
* We are singing the Vivaldi Gloria, which is, of course, a transcendently gorgeous—one might almost say glorious—piece of music, I love it to pieces, and I’m thrilled to have the excuse to be learning it. But . . . another local choir, with far greater pretensions to fabulousness than we have, as well as a lot more local profile, are also doing it this spring. I even pointed this out and the response was a casual, yeah, rotten luck, isn’t it? —Um. Do we have a death wish or something? The main comment about the latest concert I wasn’t in^ was that it was poorly attended. Given our expectations about audience numbers this is pretty dire. Were there more choir members than audience? Did the audience consist of the caretaker and the caretaker’s dog? And now we’re going to put on something that a better local choir did only a few weeks before us, and will have done so so inspirationally rivetingly that everyone in the audience went home and pulled out their Vivaldi Gloria CD and has been playing it nonstop ever since, and will have no desire to hear a less good small local extremely amateur choir butch—I mean, perform it somewhat inadequately, especially in comparison to recent relistening of John Eliot Gardiner and Neville Marriner and Riccardo Muti and their choirs—? Reality check.
I think we need a new approach to marketing and public relations. I wonder if we’ve tried kidnapping? Or a programme of Marty Robbins’ Greatest Hits?
^ I didn’t go to the opera either. I was at home with frelling SHADOWS. How many ways can you lose?
Proofreading and errors –
Yes. *weeps* Yes.
I have a feeling [publisher] is trying to get everyone there moved over to electronic copyedits. Before, I’d been doing what you’ve been forced to move to — copyedits done in track changes, then printed out, which meant some of the changes were super confusing and hard to see. I mean, I think I’d still go over the [copyedited manuscript] three or four times, because I’m like that, but the invisible changes made it really important. And now I’ve been hearing others have been getting their copyedits through the emails. . . . Do not want. I will make sadfaces to get my paper with their invisible marks, if I must.
You comfort me. I was expecting your generation of writers—do you compose straight onto a computer? Do you ever, or have you ever, started with, you know, a piece of paper and a pen or pencil?—to have the electronic/virtual/no-hard-copy editing options totally sussed, and to look at people like me+ pityingly and a little impatiently. I don’t even understand what track changes are. Except that they are a ratbag. And if it’s general that they’re confusing and hard to see, if it’s not just me and some random gremlin in my editor’s assistant’s printer, why don’t we go back to yellow stickies and red pencils and automatic hard copy?++
+ Who still have my beloved IBM Selectric I typewriter in the attic, even though I haven’t been able to get parts for her in about eighteen years.
++ You know it’s almost impossible to get red pencils any more? You have to find an art department that sells coloured pencils individually, and raid the red.
** One of them suggested we do it by voluntary donation. Um. I’m not willing to pay more while some other joker who doesn’t mind the chilblains chooses not to . . . and still gets the better space on my money. Let’s hope this isn’t the draft legislation that is put to the vote.
*** I used to ring their bells. You could get heatstroke in the bell chamber, no problem. Of course this does require a summer that includes sunlight and warmth, neither of which were in evidence last year.
† Who is clearly made of strong, cold-resistant stuff
IT IS SO COLD. It is the 24th of frelling February in southern England and when I got up this morning it was SNOWING. Snowing and lying.*
It has not been a good week for peace of mind so I determined to get to the monks extra-early for the Saturday night silent-contemplation-before service prayer so I could have a long enough sit (I hoped) to produce some insight.** In pre-contemplation mode I considered the weather. And took a BLANKET with me. The blanket, indeed, in which I wrap myself up in my own sitting room when I do my Zen Christian zazen thing. There are DRAUGHTS at floor-sitting level, even with an Aga on the other side of the wall, and while I’ve discovered I can sit*** in jeans I’m usually sitting in my dressing-gown, which was not made to keep you warm sitting on the floor with the central heating turned off and the snow falling outdoors.
I was very glad to have a blanket last night. As well as the two cotton turtlenecks, the two woolly jumpers, the leather jacket, the two pairs of socks and the longjohns under my jeans. And the fleece-lined leather gloves. My circulation has always been rubbish—arguably I’m a fidget because I’m trying to stay warm, and not all the hurtling part of the daily hurtles is for the hellcritters’ sakes—and sitting still, I swear the blood all withdraws to my liver and has a party.† And I’m going to be very glad to have my blanket next Saturday morning when I try yet again to go to Aloysius’ frelling early silent prayer service. He says the chapel they sit in is COLD. Where has spring got to? Drinking Mai Tais in Hawaii? What?
* * *
* I thought, okay, get thy tail to New Arcadia tower this morn, they will have need of thee. Like horsefeathers and bulltiddly: they had ten ringers. I should have stayed in bed.
** Nothing like upsetting your own apple cart. I didn’t think I was observing all that challenging a Lent. Evidently the personal status quo disagrees.
*** That is, cross-legged on a cushion. I did yoga fairly seriously for a while too and while I could (for example) do the splits with what I fondly believed to be a straight pelvis, I never quite made it to full lotus, not to stay anyway. I could sit in half-lotus however and it’s a nice stable base when you’re settled, and you can forget about it and concentrate on your breath. The books I’ve been reading lately insist that you must learn to sit properly—and the accompanying photos are of course of rows and rows of utterly calm and centred-looking people sitting in PERFECT full lotuses with both knees firmly against the ground and their laps perfectly level—and therefore their curved hands are perfectly level too. Well I decided I ought to be able to get my half-lotus back. And promptly pushed it too hard MCKINLEY THIS BODY IS SIXTY YEARS OLD CAN YOU TRY AND REMEMBER THAT and have managed to outrage one hamstring so seriously I can barely sit at all. Arrrrgh. I told Aloysius this tonight and he tried hard not to laugh, but he also said that at the very serious zendo he sat at before he came to St Margaret’s everyone had a different assortment of pillows on which they sat differently with different props and supports. Speaking of good enough.
I was planning to pull some of the comments out of the It’s All Performance. Isn’t It? thread and the Good Enough. Mostly. Sometimes thread . . . but they’re all good, some of them are too complex to cut intelligently^, and it’s also a conversation so if I tried to haul any of it out here I’d have to haul most of it out here. But let me recommend that anyone interested in performance, in the arts, in human creativity and in being good enough should go read those threads.^^
So just a random thought or two to be going on with. I’d like to think EMoon’s and my generation^^^ will have been the last to get really mired in the If You’re Not Amazing Don’t Bother mindset, but that’s probably naïve. But Shalea reminded us of that excellent old adage: Perfect is the enemy of good. Yes. And blondviolinist, who is a professional musician, added that the concept of ‘perfect’ makes her nuts, because it makes it sound as if there is One True Way . . . and there isn’t. She adds: I’m blown away by the rich possibilities for creativity as individual people bring their own imagination and heart to their music. (Or visual art, or dancing, or writing, or….) And someone else somewhere—sorry, I can’t find you right now—quotes Mahalia Jackson: God don’t mind a bum note.
I do have a slight Well she can say that she’s Mahalia Jackson reaction to this last. But all of this (and other comments I haven’t mentioned) point to what I wanted to say further about my own need to believe that I’m allowed to engage with—in this case, music, from the making it side as well as the taking in someone else’s making side, live in a concert, live in your sitting room, on the radio or CD, or Met Live at your local cinema. Performance at any level, I think, changes your relationship to music—broadens it, deepens it, makes you go oh wow in a whole new thrillingly-more-informed way when you listen to your favourite Beverly Sills CDs. For this alone it’s worth trying to play or sing, however badly, even if you have to send your husband to the pub and leave your critters at the other house while you practise. Which, because I am very fortunate, I don’t.#
The other thing—the big thing—is that if you can really ENGAGE with the music—if you can inform it, inhabit it—express it—well, God won’t mind the bum notes, and, chances are, neither will your audience. When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died last year, there were millions of words of obituary about what an astonishing singer he was—a lot of people think he is the greatest lieder singer who ever lived—at least since recording equipment got good enough for comparisons to be made. I knew that. What I didn’t know is that quite a few people also say that he did not have, by nature, a first rate voice. He had a very good voice, obviously, a professional-quality voice, but it wasn’t absolute top value: what he did have was overwhelming commitment and insight, and an unmatched ability (yes I’m a fan) to get inside the music he’s performing, and give it to his audience. Perfect isn’t only the enemy of good, it’s also the enemy of fabulous.
. . . Okay, I want to get to bed tonight, so I Will Continue This Later. . . .
^ At least at this time of night when intelligence is getting a little thin on the ground anyway
^^ Note that if you want to comment yourself you do have to join the forum, but anyone can read the threads.
^^^ I know there are few more 60-pluses out there but I don’t want to drag anyone out of the shadows who doesn’t want to come.
# Peter continues to insist he likes hearing me sing, and the hellterror has mostly stopped erupting when I try. Chaos may still leave the hellhound bed to walk over to the piano and stare at me earnestly—especially on evenings when the high B is considering making an appearance—but he doesn’t make an issue of it.
† As I like to say, probably too often, I’m cold all the time, except occasionally when I’m too hot.
I should be carrying on with the copyedits for SHADOWS which are at this point overdue . . . I’ll finish tomorrow, really I will. But by this stage of a book I can’t frelling focus on those frelling words any more* and I don’t think that right this minute I can stand to handle the pages any more tonight . . . which is my own fault for needing hard copy, but if I were doing it only on screen I’d have pixelated eyes by now as well as an advanced case of Technicolor heebie-jeebies. As it is the heebie-jeebies are displaying quite a tactful, restrained palette of peach to salmon to rust with occasional highlights of green. . . .
Part of the problem is that I’d be a perfectionist if I could . . . but I can’t. My brain won’t hold that sharp an edge, however energetically you hone the soggy thing. So you have to go for good enough. What you hope is good enough. What, some of the time, you believe is good enough. Is sometimes even . . . plain unmodified good.
But not while you’re dealing with copyedits.
But good enough is something I’ve been thinking about since last night’s blog—since Bratsche’s first harp post and my Monday singing lesson. I think good enough is sometimes really hard to define.
I’m a good enough dog owner. My three hellcritters have daily walks—walks plural—a warm place to sleep, the almost constant presence of the hellgoddess (which is supposed to be a good thing in dog pantheon terms) and tasty sustaining food (when they eat it). They are not trained to a high standard**, especially not the recent addition to the family***, but they have some concept of what training is, and they’re nice to have around (mostly). I’ll share a sofa with them any time. They’re all bonkers, of course, but I pretty sure they’d be bonkers anyway, although a more dedicated trainer might have reshaped the bonkersness more than I have done.
When I was still riding, I was a good enough rider for a certain kind of horse; a horse I suited I could groom and exercise and have (mutual) fun with, and even bring on a little in its training, possibly with the help of a trainer for me. I’m a good enough cook.† I’m even—marginally—a good enough bell ringer, since there’s a shortage of any kind of ringer in this area, and bells and the upkeep of bells still exist in exchange for calling Christians to church services. I’ve rung a lot of services where I as an available pair of hands was absolutely good enough.
But the line about good enough is always blurry, and sometimes it’s so blurry it’s just a smudge. Would those horses whose training I contributed to have done better with a better rider? Probably. I’m a good enough cook if you like brownies and roast chicken—not so much if you want Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. And I’m not a good enough ringer to be invited to ring quarter peals any more often than some patient teacher type can bear to organise.
The farther you go over a different line into territory that might be considered art, I think the concept of good enough gets harder and harder to define—or possibly to accept. As long as you’re tending to a critter’s basic needs—and that includes comfort and contentment, not just food and shelter from the weather—good enough is fairly straightforward. Brownies and roast chicken hit the spot, even if they’re not glamorous.†† And you don’t have to be able to ring Snorkel Upstage Flugelhorn Major to tell people to get their shoes on and stop dozing over their coffee.
I don’t know what good enough singing or piano-, harp-, violin- or flugelhorn playing is. I think music does fulfil a basic human need, but I’m not sure how to describe it. I’m really enjoying the conversation going on in the forum right now, beginning with the response to Bratsche’s first harp post and gaining momentum last night after my Monday-singing-lesson-aroused response to one of Bratsche’s comments. I hope you’ll keep talking. Please.††† I think I’m learning something.
* * *
* Except for those occasional, flaying moments when you realise THIS ENTIRE CHAPTER MAKES NO SENSE/CONTRADICTS WHAT YOU SAID IN CHAPTER TWELVE/UNDERMINES THE ENTIRE PLOT IN A SUBTLE WAY THAT NONE OF YOUR READERS PICKED UP WHEN YOU STILL HAD ENOUGH BRAIN LEFT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT/IS GENERALLY SENSATIONALLY, PRODIGIOUSLY, SUPERABUNDANTLY STUPID . . . etc. But you’re frelling lunchmeat about this book by now, and you just have to hope none of your other readers will notice either, because any significant change you tried to make now would probably turn out to be like adding chopped liver to the strawberry shortcake. Unwise. This is, however, when you start reading the job ads for openings for shelf restockers and file clerks. I didn’t know they still had file clerks. Maybe only in small backward Hampshire villages.
** ::falls down laughing::
*** ::injures herself falling down laughing::
† When in doubt, add chocolate.
†† Although I feel this depends on your brownie recipe. Brownies can be very glamorous.
††† Not only because I can probably get another comment post out of what’s been said so far. . . .
I don’t think that not playing an instrument well should stop anyone from getting one, if they plan to play it. The pleasure of playing at whatever level you can (and it will surely grow with time) is important. I know I’m preaching to the choir (so to speak!); but I think it’s even more important to reinforce that as it continues to become easier to listen to professionally recorded and performed (and possibly edited) music, because music should be also be made enthusiastically by non-professionals.
Siiiiiiiigh. I struggle with this every ratbagging day. Well, every ratbagging day I practise some kind of music, which is most days, even if it’s only singing There Is A Tavern in the Town while doing the washing up.* I sometimes feel as if I’m back in psychotherapy, struggling with self-worth issues.** It is really quite amazing that you can do something like write stories for a living***—which means that people are spending money to read them—and still feel that you have nothing to offer. I have professional musician friends who admit to similar struggles, so it’s not just the notorious neurotic weirdness of writers.† But it is hard to convince yourself you should bother doing something like sing, when you’re not a professional-quality COUGH COUGH COUGH singer . . . when you can just slap Beverly Sills into the CD player.††
I was moaning to one of those professional-musician friends about this and she said that she guessed that I was moving the goal posts on myself: well, yes, but how can any half-intelligent amateur help it—when you can slap Beverly Sills into the CD player? Isn’t it the same for just about everything, anything that has a professional division, and what doesn’t? At least if you play tennis you’re getting lots of nice healthy exercise even if you’re not the third Williams sister, and if you like to arrange flowers your hall table looks nice. The Muddles aren’t dreadful, but they have trouble selling concert tickets because unless you’re a friend or a relative you’d much rather, and very reasonably, stay home with your CD player than sit on a hard uncomfortable pew and listen to a bunch of variously semi-talented dabblers feel their way through a selection of standard rep.†††
So what is the point? I personally find this to be a real issue. I love singing, and I’m not going to stop—and this includes voice lessons with Nadia—just because I can’t see the point. You’re all saying, if you love it, then why do you need a point? Well, but isn’t music supposed to be shared? That’s how I understand it—it’s almost part of the definition of music, that it must be shared. If a singer/harpist/trombone player falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear, does she make a sound? No. It’s like what I’ve always said about being a storyteller—you aren’t one unless someone’s listening. A storyteller needs an audience. So does a musician. A big part of the reason I’ve let my piano-playing mostly lapse and am concentrating on singing is because the piano is such a relentlessly solo instrument. Even if you’re playing with other people chances are there’s only one piano.
I know I’m getting somewhere with my singing not only because I’m a whole lot louder than I used to be but because of the stuff Nadia gives me to work on, to think about, the stuff I write down in my notebook—and then spend the following week trying to figure out what I mean, what Nadia said that I imperfectly wrote down. The music I’m singing isn’t, I don’t think, any more ultimately difficult than what I was singing for her eighteen months or whatever ago, but the stuff she wants me to aim at, to remember, to juggle, has changed—even allowing, I think, for the patient teacher’s hammering out the 1,000,000th way to say something again in the resolute hope that the frelling student will get it this time.
But—why? Toward what end? Singing in a group is fun, but the group needs a purpose—doesn’t it? Concerts are the obvious answer to that one—but then you have to convince people to come.
So, Bratsche, or anyone else, why should music be made enthusiastically by non-professionals? There are other ways of learning to breathe deeply‡ and hang out with your friends.
. . . Ah Beverly, you heart-breaker. Note that I am going to sing Una voce poco fa before my voice gives out due to extreme old age.‡‡ Meanwhile Nadia sent me home with a book of Mozart arias to try, recommending the easier one of Zerlina’s from Don Giovanni. I’ll start there, but . . .
* * *
* I can’t remember if I told you that I told Nadia that Tavern was a good song for practising getting in and out of my chest voice and she said excellent, bring it along. WHAT? I squeaked. But I brought it in last week and she said, that’s great, now I want you to sing it in lots of different keys so you’re climbing in and out of chest voice in different places in the song. —This turns out to be rather hilarious. Also, when it’s just me and the hellcritters, my inner ham, who spends most of her time wondering why I couldn’t have grown up to be Ellen DeGeneres or Whoopi Goldberg so she could have had some fun, emerges to startling effect.
** While Nadia tries not to pinch the bridge of her nose with her fingers till she leaves marks, nor to think loud balloon-over-head thoughts about other ways she could earn a living.
*** I don’t say a great living—remember that JK Rowling is a one-off—but it keeps me in hellcritter food and chocolate. I do try to buy fewer books. And less yarn.^
^ I’VE ONLY BEEN KNITTING TWO YEARS. HOW CAN STASH HAVE ALREADY TAKEN OVER MY LIFE?!?+
+ Stop that laughing. You know who you are.
† Although Nadia, who is a soprano, assures me that sopranos are the worst. Oh, that’s nice. Maybe I should work on my chest voice some more.^
^ And give up my high B and its possible friends? No frelling frelling FRELLING way.
†† Which I just have.
††† Although I believe the post-concert nosh is excellent. If you listen to the singing you get snacks.
‡ Zen-style sitting, for example. Which is difficult in an entirely different way, but does not require an audience.^
^ All right, don’t get me started on the benefits of zazen in company.
‡‡ Hundred Year Old Woman Has First Carnegie Hall Recital. Film at Eleven.