Blogging from A to Z Theme: Bringing Me Joy
Having grown up with music all around me—with Mum singing as she did the household chores, and Dad singing us to sleep at night; Mum and Dad throwing parties when 45s spun on the turntable and everyone danced and sang along; with music not considered an add-on at any of my schools but an integral part of our education; joining every possible kind of group, from rock bands to choirs to choruses, so as to sing with others; attending concerts where the entire audience routinely joined in; singing to Baby Nikhil for hours with a special bedtime songlist; entertaining myself on long solo commutes in the car by belting out every song I knew; and my dear friend Marianne always breaking into song in mid-sentence—singing has always come as naturally as—no, more naturally than speaking. For we are born to sing.
Because I have always talked too much and too loud, and have had to do so in my work as well, I developed a throat nodule in my forties which was distressing in the extreme; for every time I opened my mouth to sing, nothing would come out but cracks and squeaks. I had to go for voice therapy and learn to change a lifetime of bad habits: not drinking enough water; not modulating my volume; not knowing how to release tension; breathing from my throat instead of from my diaphragm; and forgetting to b-r-e-a-t-h-e altogether. In the process I learned that a lot of my problems with singing were also problems with the way I handled life. I modified my behavior enough to lessen the strain on my voice while teaching, but not fundamentally or consistently enough to bring the proper breath support to my singing. Now, some fifteen years later, it’s time for me to dig up the old voice therapy file and start doing the exercises regularly. For in order to soar like Shelley’s skylark, or to find the full-throated ease of Keats’ nightingale, one must sing with one’s whole being.
When we were younger, we had music on all day long. In the days of vinyl, our record collections were our pride and joy. We played our favorite tracks again and again until we had memorized all the lyrics. When cassette tapes came in, we recorded special playlists for parties and long car trips. Later, with compact disks, we painstakingly transferred our cassette tapes to CDs so that we could play them in the new players as the old ones were phased out. And now, with iPods, iPod touch, iPhone, iCloud, Bluetooth, I have thrown my hands in the air. With four generations of semi-obsolete equipment knocking about the house in a tangle of loose cables, my only recourse is my own plain, unamplified voice. When all else falls away, it still remains.
In discouragement and despair, singing gives me strength; in sorrow, it offers me solace; in anger, it opens my heart; in emptiness, it fills me with joy.
How Can I Keep From Singing? Singing brings me joy.