Thursday, April 26, 2007

vocal re-hashing

I have just come out of an extremely busy vocal period of time. It has been fairly strenuous and I am now paying for it. Luckily I have a little bit of down time, meaning no performances for a while, of course I still have seven and a half hours of rehearsal a week, what would I do with my life if not for that. Not wake up at 6 to do school work?

My voice teacher asked me how I felt with the Schostakovich piece I sang for the Jewish Music concert. After mumbling something about the inadequacy of one week to prepare a Schostakovich piece in Russian I came up with the real answer. I feel as if I sang that piece on my "fake voice", the sheen that lives on top of my real voice that I sing with when my real voice is on vacation.

How to explain this...

I do a tremendous amount of choral singing (something that will certainly be changing next year, I love it but I need to not do this to myself). Choral singing inherently requires a different manner of singing than solo singing. This is a huge struggle for everyone who pursues both solo and choral singing. I tend to control too much in my throat in choral singing, straighten and darken my tone, this is because no matter how much we attempt to flee from the little boy sound, that is the tone quality that so much choral music was written for boys. (speaking of which check out "I am the day" creepy!, also ask me to do my choir boy voice for you some time...years of emulating that song has created a monster)

Anyhow the larynx comes up and I tend to cover my mouth, this is my default I'm tired and will just do this to promote blending. However, the "problem" is that I can call this fake voice in for "real" singing as well. Just push it up and out of the system. The thing is many people can't tell, they still come and ask me to sing them to sleep (yes that has happened more than once).

Real singing is an effort of the lower body, everything is engaged and you feel invigorated all over afterward. The analogy that I frequently use is that your belly is a submarine and all of the business on top is just the periscope...good for looking out of, but not much else. Another frequently used analogy is that all sound is supported below, and then happens above your top teeth. Your head is like a house of mirrors that reflects the sound but does not hinder it.

So that's what I did in my voice lesson, tried to re-find my voice. It worked fairly well, I just have to keep it up. Interestingly, "real" singing sounds quieter to me in my head, but from the out side I'm told it's louder than "fake" singing. I guess that's because when I'm singing poorly the sound gets caught up in my mouth and such and is louder to me. So if I look lax tongued and air headed, I'm probably doing something right...unless I'm taking a test, then we have a problem.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Something that I have recently given a lot of thought to is how to deal with insult, or criticism with grace. We certainly can not expect that we will always be received with the reaction that we think that we deserve, so how to deal with this?

I recently had a really unfortunate run in with voice teacher...who was simply down right mean with me. I am certainly not blameless in the situation, but he called my professionalism in to question and told me that if I were in conservatory I would be kicked out of the program for such behavior. This was not true, as I found out later there was a lot of other things going on to miff him, but still unnecessary.

However the timing was terrible, my senior recital was days away and I still needed to work with him and my accompanist together.

How to deal with this...for me this first involved sobbing on the phone to a past voice teacher who had once studied with this man as well. And then it involved a lot of resilience. I dressed up nicely for my lesson, and steeled myself. My father used to tell me (in reference to arm wrestling) that steel is strong, and it does not need to push back. I decided to take this advice.

We ultimately got work accomplished...he did not mention anything to me, nor did he really talk to me, he mostly talked to my accompanist. I have since had my voice lesson canceled and have had 2 rehearsals and 2 performances with him and run into him at the local coffee shop where I do my readings on Thursdays.

I have been incredibly nice, polite and pleasant with him upon every occasion. I think this is the best thing to be done. Perhaps he regrets what he said to me, perhaps not, but being nice confuses him at moments and makes all situations more pleasant. I had to get over quite a bit of hurt to be able to get to a place to be nice to him, but it really only took me a day to do this, and now two weeks later I have no animosity towards him.

We'll see what happens tomorrow at my first post recital lesson with him. I think that the important thing is that I dealt with my hurt with out negatively engaging him. I certainly did point out to him that his words were unnecessarily harsh, but I got over my hurt and anger away from him. Now if we need to talk about this I at least will be able to do it in a productive manner. I have no idea if he will be able to, as he has a history of burning bridges.

So my advice extends to him as well. He needs to support the people who he hurt who are now hurting him back (read the University). It's not about being the better person, or even necessarily the bigger person, but knowing how to let go of things that are in the past and should no longer be prevalent. I don't know how to describe it other than you have to unwrap your ego from the situation and subsequently make the best of it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

just some things

just some things for your amusement.

First something to appeal to those who love Gypsies
in fact check out that entire page if you like the top one...this has to be the best thing I've found (via someone else of course)

then for those who love strings

if you like the strings then check out some history

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


am I arguing this with any accuracy?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Pub

I was at the pub last night, after a fairly tumultuous day, which I won't go into here, however one of the people who I met there asked me about musical notation.
namely he wanted to know why we have so many different clefs and why we don't just make all of our instruments transposing.
I looked at him and told him he was confusing would that be. To have a c on the staff but any variety of actual notes played.
Then I was like is that really more confusing than different clefs.
I still stick with yes. From a practical standpoint you want everyone to be able to play the same notes when you call out a letter name, and while good instrumentalists who play transposing instruments know exactly what's going on...
interjecting thought says that if you learn to read music with your instrument you just associate that space with whatever note it indicates on your instrument.

My explanation was based in vocal music. Notation was initially created by and for vocalists, and the different ranges of voices are separated by about a third (please correct me if I'm wrong) and this is why clefs are as they are...maybe

except for that c clef is move able

I don't know, I still think that having all instruments be transposing is nuts

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The piano

I was reading an article for class about the piano's dominance in the mid 19th century and was struck by one of the arguments. For the most part the article addressed the growing popularity of the piano at this time and attributed it to growing literacy in the working class in New England and other fairly interesting ideas.

However what struck me was the use of the piano as a historicizing instrument. It was during this time that quite a bit of key board music from the baroque and classical period was brought back into the realm of performance. This is not surprising as the romantic period in general (not just musically) had a certain obsession with the past. However for me it called into question the way that we perform and study "classical" music now. (The scare quotes are because the time period of classical and the notion of classical music that we have ore really not quite the same thing, however I lack the vocabulary to find a more suitable word to cover the formal music canon of western Europe and later the united states)

It seems that the mid 19th century represented a flip in the way that we study and perform music. Simply: we used to study music of past masters and perform contemporary music. One would simply not go out to hear Bach or Handel (Handel some, I guess)while you could go out and hear the latest work of Mozart. One certainly would not go hear Dufay or Tallis. However if you studied music to write it you knew all about these people. The performance realm however, whether in private salons, or later in Vienna in public theaters was of the latest music that was written.

Now the most avantegarde "classical" music that is being written is virtually unknown to the public, in fact the only place to really access it is in the classroom. Instead we go to the concert hall to hear the work of past composers.

I know that my argument fails to take main stream music trends into consideration. This is something that I will need to continue wrestling with, trying to judge where it falls in comparison with everything else. (a strictly historical judgment, not aesthetic at all)

Anyhow that is a brief summery of ideas that struck me as a result of a mediocre class, I guess it's not too mediocre if it made me think.

Side note, I bought myself two books today!
This is Your Brain on Music, The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J Levintin
and on a lighter note
Fortissino, Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young singers by William Murray

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

a review!?

I sang this concert last quarter, and I had no idea that it was reviewed!
(I don't think I've seen a review about myself)
I had an advantage in this hall, it eats up lower voices, really soprano's are the only ones who can get past the first few rows...but yeah sorry I'm indulging myself!

With her impressive dynamic range, Embly stunned the crowd. Her clear, full voice soared to the carillons and sank expertly back to the cobbles in a matter of seconds. During her duet with Tenor in the Freudenlied section, Embly's ability to project had the unfortunate effect of obscuring Tenor's more hushed tone. Bass' rich, orotund bass-baritone provided a better contrast to Embly's seasoned soprano.

there are also live streaming files of me and I thought that googleing me was of no avail...because there are so many people with my name...mostly there are just different university sights announcing my senior recital...cools