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.