Vocal Violence

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Sun Tzu

I have decided to no longer make violence against my voice. I would encourage others to join me in this fight. It will take enormous courage.

Everywhere I read that the voice must be managed, controlled, or harnessed. Like a wild animal it must be subdued, pinned down, adjusted, or even destroyed completely to be rebuilt again from square one.

  • The woman that twists herself into KNOTS to sing in the soprano voice part because she likes it better. If she could just manage to find the right breath system, she believes her success would be achieved. She grips desperately on her obliques and abdominal muscles in an effort to gain access to this control.
  • The man that REFUSES to allow himself to go lightly into the upper range on a diatonic scale, pulling the weight of chest up through the passaggio and beyond, because he ‘doesn’t like the sound or feeling’ of effortlessness that comes with the maneuver.
  • The woman that cannot dynamically modulate her sound because she views loudness as a virtue to anyone bearing the moniker “opera singer.” In her view, when she can cut an orchestra she will feel validated, not realizing that what gets over that orchestra might not be pleasant. Her singing becomes a battle: her versus the orchestra, her versus the space, her versus the audience. War.
  • The man that believes that if he manipulates his throat constrictors he will somehow manage to find more ‘space’ and gain greater resonance.

Why must we commit violence against the voice (and our own BODIES) in the attempt to sing well? Can there be any joy in any of this singing? Can there be any exaltation in the struggle? Can there be sweetness in sheer pain?

I have decided on peace. I’m reminded of Sir Henry Wood’s book The Gentle Art of Singing. Where is the gentleness for ourselves, physical and psychological? Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not kind to ourselves when it comes to singing. How tragic for us in our short lives that we should live a pedagogy of control and manipulation? And fear – So. Much. Fear.

I’d be the first one to put myself in front of the firing squad when it comes to my singing. But I can’t live making war against myself anymore. I’m tired of fighting. I want peace in my singing. I want joy in my voice. I want love in my music.

I can no longer stand by while others make violence in their bodies and minds in order to sing. I am saddened by those who have come to me to show their scars, or those who have openly wept in my presence from the pain and heartache of the struggle, having fought so long and so hard, and having lost so much.

My vocal world will be a place of peace. A place of listening and calm. A place of gentle guidance and a place to explore. Strength can be built in peaceful training.

War never solved a voice problem without another war needing to be waged somewhere else.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy

He was right.