Tag Archives: music

Song of fragility

These precious wooden eggshells
Out of their tough cases they are vulnerable
But locked away they cannot sing –
when singing is their reason for being.

There is always a tender tension
in a good musician whose instrument
is resting on a chair
even as he chats with colleagues
in an orchestral teabreak.
part of the mind is always attentive
to the fragility he has drawn
out of its case. An attention
not guilty, but born of gratitude
for the open trust
that allows them to sing together.

The defenceless fragility of the walls
is what allows them to vibrate.
The strength of a tree planed down
to this delicate membrane of music.
And something is betrayed when these
fragile cocoons of sound
are ruptured by carelessness or spite.

My body is a dusty guitar
strung by the hair that falls
past the curve of my waist.
Wounds patched, barely visible now,
wholeness restored by patient hours of healing
until the intact walls are ready
to sing again. Yet still the dust lies thick,
undisturbed by the waves of emotion
that once shrugged away both dust and time
The waves of emotion that used to make me tremble
flowing up the shell of me and coming out in sound.
The waves that were stranded in the doldrums
when the songs of my heart
and my body
were silenced by the pain of love’s abandonment.

Unplayed, an instrument
grows stiff, loses its sweetness
must be coaxed back by the gentleness
of patient fingers. As if the wood
knows how fragile its defences are
and fears to once again
be twisted to play uncongenial tunes
by hands that force its fragile walls
not to resonate
but distort.

Yet a body that has once known the joy of song
will always yearn to sing again.
And the music that is in me
cannot be silenced
for long.

This responds to two prompts – the picture above, by crzycowgrl046 at photobucket, which is the Monday Mural at Poefusion, and this week’s prompt at One Single Impression – defences down.

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Being melody

(Click here for a recording that goes with this poem)

A garden of sweet strings softly lit by
The warmth of flute and clarinet
Rises into the air, inviting my entry,
Into flowing landscapes of sound

And now I hear those notes that are
For me a cue to prepare my body
To take in air – every inch of my torso,
A balloon whose walls are poised muscle.

Smooth inevitability of the passing bars
Leave me no choice but to join the dance
And suddenly the internal space of my head
Is throbbing with sound – my voice lives.

Who am I? A mournful abandoned lover
Every emotion raised to operatic intensity
By the magnificence of the pouring harmonies
That awaken powerful echoes in my heart.

The endless lines must flow unimpeded
By self-doubt or adjustment. I try to float
And trust that the sound will ride secure
On the smooth strength of the tensing muscles.

Suddenly a change of key brings out the sun
Rushes optimism through every bar
The heart beats faster as if obeying
The quickened pulse of the conductor’s arm.

A new challenge now – cascades of notes
Too fast to think, or fear mistakes
Just following, setting the voice free to fly
And soar above the racing orchestra.

Now tension builds towards the climax
My breathing deep, my throat relaxing
To soar above the frozen orchestra
And plummet down to the final note.

Responding to a prompt at one single impression to write about melody, I thought I would try my hand at a poem that trys to capture a singer’s perspective of singing one of my favourite arias – Bellini’s Qui la voce sua soave from I Puritani.

To make this a multimedia experience, I’ve added a recording of me singing the aria I had in mind. It was recorded at home on my computer so it’s neither great quality sound nor my best quality singing – but I thought it would give you an idea of what the experience I’m describing sounds like from the outside.

Creativity and constraints

Creating is a strange process. Something that holds you back from creating something one day can actually be a huge spur to creativity, once you get past being held back.

I’ve always felt that being a rather incompetent pianist was a real disadvantage in composing songs. It rather restricted the mood of what I was writing – so I could write slow pieces with delicate textures, but not wild and dramatic outpourings of notes. Not that I wouldn’t have liked the wild and dramatic, but I just would never have been able to get my fingers round the notes, even with the help of multi-layer recording!

Anyway, I finally decided that I want and need to write some songs, and that my piano skills will have to do! I’ve been working on one song which is slow and delicate, and I can play the accompaniment myself but I would also really like to set a poem that I wrote a few days ago called heartsong. Which is wild and passionate – about harps and wind and song, and I knew my piano skills aren’t up to composing the sort of music I want to write on their own.

So I needed to get some ideas from somewhere to make up for my inability to play the piano well enough. In a very short time my research came up with: the true aeolian harp (i.e. a wind harp), Chopin’s Etude Op25 no 1 (called the Aeolian harp), a piece by Henry Cowell called Aeolian harp which involves sweeping the hands directly across the piano strings, and the aeolian mode.

So much inspiration! At the moment the Chopin seems to be perfect for the mood of what I want to write, so I want to see how I can draw on the elements of it that I love in my own piece. I have found the midi files and the sheet music, but it’s still very challenging to start messing around with a masterpiece!

If that doesn’t work I’d be really interested to try something involving stroking the piano strings directly – even a pianist as incompetent as me can do that!

Here’s a gorgeous recording of the Chopin:

More songs to heal a broken heart?

Anyone know some good songs to encourage and console people who are feeling broken-hearted?

I’ve noticed that several people are arriving at my blog by googling various phrases that appear in my post “Songs to heal a broken heart“. So clearly I wasn’t the only one looking for songs about love that give an encouraging message to people whose love lives have fallen apart.

Music is so powerful – sometimes sad music that expresses all the agony of heartbreak is what we need, but I quickly found that if I only listened to that sort of music, it made me feel worse rather than better. So I started looking out for music that gives a more positive message – that it is possible to survive the loss of love, to rebuild your life either happily alone or with someone new. Songs that talk about regaining your strength, of putting yourself and your life back together!

I’d love to collect some more songs about healing the wounds of lost love – it would be a lovely theme for a concert or a CD! (talk about making lemonade when life gives you lemons!)

So please leave a comment with your favourite medicine for the heartsick!

To get you started, here’s one of my favourites – Pink Martini’s Hang on Little Tomato – with a lovely slideshow that someone posted on youtube:

A world of emotions

Have been spending a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching some amazing speakers at http://www.ted.com/index.php

I really recommend people who’ve not visited it take a look!

Some of my favourites:

On music –Evelyn Glennie shows how to listen
On Saturn and its moons – Carolyn Porco flies us to Saturn
On the wonders of the human body – David Bolinsky animates a cell
On the emotions expressed by bloggers all over the world: Jonathan Harris tells the Web’s secret stories

The image above comes from one of the sites mentioned by Jonathan Harris – it’s called “we feel fine” and it depicts the emotions from bloggers all over the world as random dots, as phrases, photos with quotes, or even as wobbling jellies – weird and wonderful!

Taking a risk – in singing

A few days ago I wrote about how surviving a very personal rejection made me much more confident in expressing my own truth (taking a risk). I also wrote about my fears about contemplating a professional career as a singer (creativity, confidence and love).

Today I was amazed by the way these two issues came together in a singing lesson. (Not from my regular singing teacher, who’s not around much at the moment, but one of her former students, whose doing very well at present!) Essentially her approach was to focus on one very specific sensation in the cheekbones, and follow that sensation, allowing the rest of the body to be relaxed and responsive. And not to manufacture or influence the sound in any way.

It’s really hard, because up until the last 2 years I’d been doing all sorts of little tricks to make the voice come out the way I wanted. But the intervention actually gets in the way of the full resonance of the voice. It makes the voice much more “produced”, and less immediate and intimate.

I’ve been working to get rid of all the little tricks and tensions – but every time I felt a little nervous about a note, or wanted a phrase to come out a particular way, they would creep straight back in, and I’d lose more than I gained. A frustrating process.

Anyway, towards the end of the lesson the teacher said that what I really needed now was to own my voice. To dare to reveal it the way it is. To stop tweaking and listening and interfering. To let go of expectations of what sound I want to produce, and just let my body sing the way it knows best.

And so, in effect, to present my authentic voice – as I had been learning the confidence to be my authentic self.

I’d been thinking that the break-up, in stopping me singing for a few months, had really got in the way of my professional aspirations. But the break up also taught me some important lessons about confidence and trust in myself, and above all shown me that I can survive being rejected. I’ve taken a real step forward in applying that confidence to my life. I want to see if I can now apply it to my singing.

Rejections come thick and fast in the early stages of being a professional singer, and some people never get beyond that stage. Having your voice and performance rejected by a panel of auditioners, often without any explanation, is painful, because both voice and performance are very personal.

But I have survived a rejection of me on a deeply personal level, at the hands of an intimate and trusted lover. Why should I be afraid of being rejected as a singer by an audition panel of strangers?

Masculine and feminine creative forces

Further thoughts on creativity, confidence and love:

I’m still reading Women who run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes), and came across a very interesting section that’s relevant to my last post:

“By classical Jungian definition, animus is the soul-force in women and is consdered masculine… Animus can best be understood as a force that assists women in acting on their own behalf in the outer world. Animus helps a woman put forth her specific and feminine inner thoughts and feelings in concrete ways – emotionally, sexually, financially, cretaively and otherwise…

“But when there is damage to the animus through all the myriad forces of culture and self, something very weary, or mean-spirited, or a deadness some call ‘being neutral’ interposes itself between the inner world of psyche and the outer world of the blank page, clear canvas, waiting dancefloor, boardroom, gathering.

“There is an odd phenomenon in the psyche: when a woman is afflicted with a negative animus, any effort at a creative act touches it off so that it attacks her. She picks up a pen… thinks about applying to school, or takes a class, but stops in the middle, choking on the lack of inward nourishment and support.

This really strikes a chord with how I have been feeling lately about my efforts to take forward my singing. And I think I can see a bit more of why I have been feeling this way.

My emotional life and my creative life are deeply entangled. While I was together with my ex, he was like an external animus so powerful that it left me with very little need to draw on my own internal resources. Ironically it was him who told me how, by trying to meet others’ needs, we can end up unintentionally weakening their ability to take care of their own needs – I didn’t realise until it was too late how much he was doing this to me. Unfortunately when he tore himself out of my life, he not only suddenly withdrew that support, but also damaged my confidence through the reasons he gave for leaving. So in many ways I am left with my inner animus weaker than it had been before, and I have a lot of work to do to rebuild that.

“How to banish this pollution? By insisting nothing will stop us from exercising the well-integrated animus, by continuing our soul-spinning, wing-making ventures, our art, our psychic mending and sewing, whether we feel strong or not, whether we feel ready or not. It is essential, even though often painful, to put in the necessary time, to not skirt the difficult tasks inherent in striving for mastery. If you would avoid hambre del alma, the starved soul, name the problem for what it is, and fix it.”