Wednesday, January 21, 2004

On Singing

I've watched the new American Idol auditions for the last three evenings. It's hilarious. I've never watched them before. I can't believe who attempts to audition - haven't they ever recorded themselves on tape and listened to themselves? I think they must be desperate for their 2 minutes of fame, no matter how they embarrass themselves and look like fools.

I've had friends who were tone deaf and thought they were good singers. That is a very tricky situation to find oneself in. Their singing is almost painful, but they look like they're enjoying themselves so much, and you don't want to hurt them by saying, "You two sound like dogs howling at the moon."

I decided to lend them my kareoke machine so they could sing on tape and listen to themselves. It worked. They were shocked at how horrible they sounded, and never uttered a single note again.

I do feel for them - I am empathetic. This is why....

When I was a child I sang in the choir, like all good Lutherans. I believe I had a good voice - I was very loud, and everyone complimented me on my singing voice. My mom and dad always said with a big proud smile, "We heard you in choir and you sounded wonderful!"

In grade 5 (or was it 6?) our singing teacher had us sing "I'm leaving, on a jet plane..." I remember singing loudly and beautifully, with just the right vibrato at the right points. Then the asshole who was my classmate said to me, "You sound like a girl." That shut me up for the next several years.

Then at age 11 or 12 my voice changed, and I became tone deaf. It didn't help that didn't bother practicing. But I didn't give up hope, and decided to learn how to sing again. I've taken singing lessons from about four different teachers. None of them were good, except for my last teacher, who taught me about breathing and how sound is related to the chakras.

She helped me to become aware that each tone reverberates with your chakras - all 7 of them, and if you pay attention, and breathe deeply from your hara (the middle of your belly) and send the breath up your spine, make a sound - you know you're making exactly the right sound when you can feel it reverberating within your chakra. So after a year of practice, I finally became tone perfect. The other thing I worked on was how to shape my mouth in order to create the right vowel. This too takes a lot of practice. There are certain ways to shape your mouth and tongue in order to make an "a, e, i, or u." It's a little unnatural, but when you shape everything right, the sound that comes out is crystal clear.

Then I also worked at singing from my belly - the hara. Imagine that there is a central point within your lower belly. Imagine that all breath is inhaled from this point. When you connect with this point, then you feel the song. You experience the emotions. Then the emotions must be expressed through your 7 chakras, by breathing up your spine. I know it sounds a little complicated, but only this singing teacher manager to get a beautiful sound out of me. It really works for me.

I think I'm a good singer. Here are some nice moments.

When I was taking acting lessons, we had a class where the students could do anything they wanted - bring in a monologue, sing, or do a movement piece. So I decided to sing a song by Barbra Streisand (okay, yes, I know what you're thinking) called "Some Enchanted Evening." I was so nervous - I've got major stage fright singing in front of other people, but I thought I should do it to get over the fear. At the end of the song, about 50% of the audience were crying (I think it was because the song was emotionally moving - at least I hope so). That make me feel good. Also, where the song gets loud and passionate, I actually saw everyone in the audience move back, as though my voice had hit them in the face. One woman said, "I must have you sing at my wedding."

Another good moment was when I auditioned for a singing group called, International Gospel Group. It's a well regarded group here. At the audition, there was a pianist and a director. She had me sing some notes that the pianist played, first, and she said, "Wow, you ring with the notes." I could actually hear my voice resonate with each chord of the piano. It even blew me away. The director appeared quite fascinated with my voice.

Then I sang (believe it or not) Madonna's "The power of goodbye." It was a new song at the time, so not highly recognized. When I finished the song, the auditioners outside clapped and cheered and hollered. She asked me who the song was by, and I said, "Madonna." Her jaw dropped. She didn't know what to say. But she loved it. I did get accepted into the group, but after attending two rehearsals, I realized I wasn't ready to commit my time to the group.

I've also auditioned for musicals, for which I got accepted. I didn't go through with them for a variety of reasons. One audition was in a dance studio, with loud music blaring away in the next room, and I actually sung above the noise. Another one...I had to audition after a brilliant male vocalist, who used lots of vibrato and stuff - I was totally intimated, but they told him "no" because he was too stylized. They disliked his vibrato. I sang without one. So I got to do the second audition where we danced. Anyway, I couldn't do it after all, because it interfered with my work.

So that's my sad career as a singer. A psychic once told me that I was a famous singer in my last life. So perhaps it's not to happen in this life.