The discovery of singing continues. Just yesterday, at the end of my class, serene energy invaded me. I know that the road is long, but I don’t look that much at this horizon, because singing is in itself energizing, beyond simple relaxation.
As my teacher Vincent said, the French human voice usually walks within three or five notes (between a third and a fifth). To get out of this comfort zone requires a lot of energy, and to sing well, a minimum of know-how.
I am curious to return to the choir with the little knowledge I have acquired. I know that, for warming, I will have to be careful not to listen too much to the director. I don’t question the technique he teaches, but I know it thwarts what I learn with Vincent. For example, if our director makes us practice a lot by singing on a “u,” my teacher suggests that I discover the “e” which, he thinks, will help me to correct a severe deficiency. I don’t have a severe problem, but an issue of serious ones, having difficulty reaching specific low notes. I partially know the cause, because, for the past fifteen years, I have been trying to make my head vibrate a lot since I was told that everything came from there. Well, it seems not… If I sit my low-pitched sounds correctly (and therefore with more chest voices (and not throat voices), I will be better able to make my high-pitched sounds resonate.
He also insisted a lot that I should not “breathe,” that is, not to do anything on purpose to get some air, not to inflate the lungs unnecessarily, which inevitably forces me to arch, to harden myself. This seems to be in line with the words of the phoniatrician Alfred Tomatis in his book that I look forward to reading, L’Oreille et la voix: “If listening is ensured from a quality hearing, if the feedback that establishes all the automatisms on which the regulations operate at different levels: larynx, pharynx, tongue, lips, etc., are in place, if the whole vocal system works perfectly, then singing is a matter of breathing. But only then.”
We can translate this learned sentence as follows: if the instrument is not ready, there is no need to blow into it, and when we blow into it, we won’t need as much air like that.
Yesterday, I understood better the posture to use. By widening the upper back muscles, the rib cage swells naturally, the lower muscles anchor in the pelvis and the neck, sitting on the shoulders, rises and moves forward. There is undoubtedly a tension here that is due in large part to a lack of exercise in this area, which is very little used by us, the Westerners, usually seated. Over time, my teacher promises me, this posture will be more natural for me.
This feeling of righteousness immediately reminded me of the cobra who swells his back and stares at you. The singer’s position is one of pride, of economical but practical stature, of pleasure in occupying the air around him and making him vibrate with his body. This is about expressing a high degree of self-expression. It is then easy to understand why people are so shy when they have been dragging the weight of judgment, the wounds of quibbling, since childhood. Then asking them to sing beautifully seems to be an achievement.
My choir director is very successful in bringing his amateur singers beyond their shyness. He also continually fights their fears. However, when the energy is there, the tensions disappear a little, and the bodies rise up and very great musical moments occur. On my side, I aspire even more, because I often sadden myself about my own fears, about my limits, and I feel even sadder when my singing companions don’t seem to want to follow me in this exploration process. But they have their own lives, their own adventure. I do not judge them in any way and will still be at their side. No, the desire to travel differently is feeding me right now.
People will tell me: you already have a beautiful voice, not us. Certainly. And then no. My voice is not exceptional, it is little old all the same (I am the age of Jean Charest!). My voice is quite fair, perhaps only because I insist on wanting to realize myself.
Whoever lives will see. And may the cobra of the voice live in all of us.