Singing in harmony is lovely… but so it is playing with sound. To allow ourselves to stop and listen to the sound of the voices that are together, not worrying about being or not in a particular “tune”, and being able to pay attention to this cluster of sounds, and understand that it’s also a material that can be explored and it’s bound to be a fantastic experience.
I have many times been approached by people who love singing, and from whom singing in a group is a very meaningful experience. There are others who might enjoy to sit and listen, but won’t say they like to sing. When asked, the reply is variations of:
– I don’t like it because I don’t do it well
So the more self-conscious one is, the most likely to not enjoy singing if they are aware that they cannot follow a tune. But we did various experiments. Last December, at Kingston Center for Independent Living, I offered a session with both people who enjoyed singing and people who didn’t like singing. I said that nobody should do anything they did not feel like, and started to create a group dynamic and some fun warm up exercises. No need to leave your chair, no need to sing. But we started to produce sound, and do play and paint with our sounds in the air.
In less than 20 minutes we had a joyful circle of improvisers, who where happily participating in a common musical piece, each one at their own pace, with their own contributions. Those not so comfortable with tune, could do percussion sounds… or atonal melodies that where integrated in the whole circle that was becoming more and more happy!
Needless to say that those who “don’t like singing” had a great time too. 🙂
We did a similar experience at Leith Hill for the challenge event that Heritage2Health took there last October 2013. In this case it was people with learning difficulties, their friends, carers and families. And again we played with sound, using some techniques that have been used by free improvisers and contemporary composers. One discovery was to find out that sometimes people with LD where much more outgoing and daring to produce much more kinds of different sounds, that the people with no LD, so in this situation the edges between disabled and not disabled where very much merging. People who didn’t have LD but where much more self conscious, would need more time before they are ready to produce a variety of sounds without becoming very critical with themselves. Finally everybody bind together in sound production without many worries about how they should call the experience.
But people who is familiar with the work of Evan Parker, Fred Frith, John Cage, Morton Feldman, John Zorn, Eddie Prevost, Keith Tippet would identify this kind of approach to voice and sound. And those who don’t… it was pure joy and enjoyment on the freedom of the voice and the body!
I came back home on the copilot seat, relieving the scene in my mind and thinking on the enormous possibilities that playing with sounds can have to make us feel non judgamental, at ease with our voices and bodies, and free.