Thursday, December 3, 2009

Learning to Sing Amidst the "Pots and Pans"

Understanding of good principles and techniques of singing often comes to me at odd moments, and when I least expect it.  When I walk into Frescamari's Practice Room each day, I go in there on a treasure hunt, looking for important vocal discoveries, but I often emerge empty-handed.  To my surprise, it will be later in the day while I am ironing, or emptying the dishwasher, or driving my daughter to school, that I will get my best ideas and revelations about technique, often when I am not singing at all.

When I was younger, I read about a saint , Teresa of Avila, a famous mystic who reputedly "achieved" all these transcendent experiences of contemplative prayer.  I always found it confusing that this same saint is the one who claims that "God walks among the pots and pans."  What I have come to interpret this to mean is that much of what we desire when we strive for a deeper experience of something will manifest itself while we are immersed in the ordinary moments of daily life.  As a young person seeking more exciting experiences, I didn't want to hear that performing an ordinary task of normal life might be part of how I would get to where I wanted to go.

And yet this is exactly what has happened as I learn to sing while I go about the tasks of being a wife, mother, and housekeeper. In the ongoing quest to develop a deeper experience of the human voice, I find that the greatest revelations and discoveries do not occur while I am actually trying to have them -- i.e. during the time I've set aside to practice -- but more often catch me off guard, while I'm in the midst of performing some ordinary task of life.

This happened only yesterday.  I was itching to get into Frescamari's Practice Room, but if I did not get a laundry in, the family was going to have to spend the next day without clean underwear.  The laundry had to be done first.  I reluctantly, but dutifully descended the basement steps and took my place before -- not the "pots and pans" in this case -- but a pile of dirty socks.  As I sprayed and pretreated the wash, I started playing around with my voice and getting it warmed up for the singing I planned to do as soon as I was free to head back upstairs.

It was while I was warming up with the dirty socks that I discovered some applications of using the "Y" and "W" positions in singing.  Yes, that's how my great mystical singing moment happens.  My moment of "ecstasy."  Not in the practice room -- where I often experience "dryness" and feelings of the quest being worthless -- but in the basement -- where I apply the stain stick --  that the "truths" of singing present themselves to me.  The fruit of the labor in the practice room emerges out of an ordinary pile of dirty laundry -- like a phoenix arising from the ashes -- similar to the way I now imagine a contemplative mystic reaped the benefits of her time spent at prayer -- later -- during some monotonous task in her monastery kitchen.
I have finally posted examples of this work with "Y" and "W" in Frescamari's Practice Room.  Click here for "Discoveries about "Y" and "W": 'You'll Never Walk Alone'"  Also, a related post called "Kung Fu Drills That Can Be Used While Playing With Dog")

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