Over the past few months I have found myself in a restless place. It came, I suppose, from being both contented in my life, professionally and personally, and simultaneously feeling that I was beginning to spin my wheels – most of my days and even the seasons ordered and familiar and basically happy – a state I have hitherto rarely experienced. It is quite unsettling.
Because it seems so comfortable and settled in, I began to suspect I was losing momentum. I then decided that, if I was suspecting it, it had already happened.
However, I am a woman of a certain age – a very certain age – and am in a place where happy contentment traditionally is to be hoped for. I am supposed to be losing momentum.
My problem is, I have just never gotten over the wonder of singing. Or of learning how the human voice works on pitch and in speech. Or of thinking about the nature of musical sounds, so that I could help guide my students towards singing ones that are unique to the person making them.
But I have songs to sing, too, as long as I can sing. Also, I can only bring to my students what I hold within me. And life is too short to hold enough.
So, I got one of my friends, Marc Irwin, who is a very fine jazz pianist (I am lucky enough to know more than one) to give me piano lessons on reading charts and improvising accompaniments. Not for the technique. Not for the repertoire. For my ears. For my mind, to jog it out of its ancient ways of listening and thinking about music. It is already happening in the practice room: I am starting to look at the piano keyboard differently. I will talk about that in subsequent posts.
In addition, I have been singing a lot of cabaret of late, including jazz, tangos and show tunes. It is wonderful music, but its production puts your voice in a certain somewhat easier place technically - perhaps suitable to a woman of a certain age? So, I decided to ignore that certain age rot and go back to my voice teacher and work on some really hard late-19th century German and French Song. Ruth Drucker is the one to ask. She is connected to German Lieder by birthright and by upbringing, to French mélodies by temperament and lifelong study in France. Best of all, she has a way of making you think singing this stuff is easy. More of my adventures with her in later posts as well.
Music-making is about connection. Connection to other players and connection to audience. Its universal nature carries the best of it on through generations no matter the changes in style or musical taste. My students have been patient in introducing me to what is current in theater and pop music over the years. I have had to change my mind about music I might have dismissed if it weren’t for their asking to work on it in lessons. I have had to grow in that way. To learn to listen differently. What they bring may not always be a first choice of mine when I am alone (though sometimes it is). But, it is a part of their language, a part of who their generation is and that makes the good stuff very interesting indeed. And the best of it is well-connected to the generations that came before and will serve as a conduit to the next. The worst of it is not.
But, name me the worst of Beethoven’s generation or of Mozart’s or Schubert’s or Bach’s.
You can’t. It did not survive the leap.