The ocean where we sing

Modifié le : 2019/08/04

It was a dif­fi­cult rehearsal last night at Ganymède. We are embark­ing on a marathon of learn­ing a piv­otal work from the male choral reper­toire, Shostakovich’s Sym­pho­ny No. 13. We have twelve weeks to take own­er­ship of this work. The dif­fi­cul­ty lies in the sung lan­guage, Russ­ian. I think the direc­tor wants to do too well by prepar­ing the pho­net­ic tran­scrip­tion for us, but I believe it intel­lec­tu­al­izes the approach a lot. The IPA (see Wikipedia) is not Russ­ian, but it is just as well. For the moment, we don’t make music, we chant words.

Nev­er­the­less, we will suc­ceed, of course, espe­cial­ly because we will not sing alone. We are join­ing the choir of music stu­dents at McGill Uni­ver­si­ty. So we will be more than a hun­dred singers talk­ing about Russ­ian. Then we’ll come back for the phon­ic subtleties…

The rehearsal atmos­phere is marked by a men­tal learn­ing process, which blocks the way to emo­tion­al­i­ty and expres­sive­ness. It is a nec­es­sary but exhaust­ing step. As Alfred Toma­tis points out in his book L’Or­eille et la voix, we sing with our ears, we are immersed in an ocean of sounds that the brain tries to reg­u­late. The acoustic atmos­phere of a place, the sounds that emanate from the struc­ture and from the beings that move in there affect our ear and, there­fore, our well-being. In an ane­choic cham­ber (see Wikipedia), where there is no echo, the human being can­not sing, because he lacks his sound air which lit­er­al­ly helps him to swim in his uni­verse. The brain that needs con­stant stim­u­la­tion is total­ly lost, and the anguish of not being there no longer arises.

We live through rhythms, and our ear is there to deci­pher this musi­cal score of life. This is not a free lyri­cism but a dai­ly real­i­ty. Singing is thus part of this reg­u­la­tion of our lives. Sim­i­lar­ly, rarely will dance deprive itself of music, nev­er will the brain, by ear, stop ask­ing us for infor­ma­tion. We sing, we rhythm every­thing. It seems that the qual­i­ty of our epi­der­mis is direct­ly influ­enced by the sound uni­verse that inhab­its and sur­rounds us. Our skin is a drum. We are in a good mood, the singing is ris­ing, we are sad, the notes are get­ting longer. We launch our calls in the jun­gle of a nois­i­er uni­verse than we are.

It is not sur­pris­ing then to hit your­self with pit­falls like last night in the choir. The base­ment where we rehearse is already not con­ducive to singing. The cho­ris­ters were prob­a­bly tired from their day, and the effort to learn the Russ­ian lan­guage, which occu­pied most of the rehearsal, did not involve musi­cal­i­ty. Let us add the themes dis­cussed : blood, bar­bar­ic vio­lence described by both Shostakovich and Weill (because at the same time we are learn­ing the Berlin Requiem). Ganymede’s musi­cal sea­son is a strong one, far from clas­si­cal man­ner­isms. It seems more chal­leng­ing to get your air.

Lucky for me, there are my singing lessons. I’m almost there like in a con­fes­sion­al. Did­n’t Vin­cent tell me last week that I had trou­ble with low-pitched sounds, but that it was “my busi­ness,” in the sense that it prob­a­bly involved unre­solved prob­lems ? Don’t I some­times sud­den­ly want to cry when he asks me to sing to ecstasy ?

I am evolv­ing slow­ly, prob­a­bly sure­ly. Yes­ter­day, I was tired too, and I did­n’t have as much ease singing with the choir. A sad feel­ing that was not helped by the words of a cho­ris­ter, after the rehearsal, who admit­ted that he hat­ed the cho­sen reper­toire. Every­thing seemed to be coun­ter­act­ing my efforts to free myself. But to free me from what ? I don’t know since I’m on a quest.

We sing to con­nect with the uni­verse. It is an ani­mal and reli­gious act. To see the artists in the video below dance and sing, we under­stand the full mean­ing of this statement.