Singing and the soul

I sung at karaoke last night (the small room kind, not the one where you stand in front of a hall of people). And both then and now, I’m reminded of some excellent words that I came across via Longform.org in a GQ essay (seriously, go check it out – it’s a good read):

What is singing? Voice coaches often try to demystify it, call it a mere vibration of vocal cords due to a movement of air. But that is a lie. Singing is nakedness. And it is a far more fathomless form of nakedness than that achieved by the removal of clothes…

[Quoting from Deborah Lapidus, a teacher at Julliard] “Your Steinway sounds like your Steinway regardless of whether you’re sad or happy, or whether or not you stayed up all night smoking. But when you are your own instrument, it gets very emotional. There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. That’s why the things [Idol panelist Simon Cowell] says seem so violating. He’s not telling these kids they’re poor musicians or that they selected a bad song. He’s saying, ‘You are ugly. Your soul is ugly.'” And then she added something truly provocative: “To do singing right, you have to get in touch with something deeply personal about yourself. It is almost impossible… to lie when you sing.”

I don’t know that I’d go that far – but then, I rarely sing in public, and a karaoke bar with people I know reasonably well who’ve had a few (or several) drinks is not that critical an audience.

But I was interested that several other people there – whom I’d normally assess as being much more extroverted than myself – didn’t sing, or at least not until they had a few more drinks in them. Vulnerability is a strange thing, and I’m still learning more. But it’s interesting to questions of vulnerability in not just what we reveal, but how we do it.

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