Thursday, March 22, 2007

hodge podge

I've kind of been laying low recently while waiting to hear back from the music schools I applied to. Well, the ones where the decision is not already apparent, anyway, hee hee.

The reason for this is that the process was a personal weed-out challenge as well. After many discussions with my mother (Curtis-trained, herself), we decided that it would be best to put some sort of time limit on pursuing music as a primary means of earning a living, i.e., neither of us really wanted me to be trying for like ages. So the idea was to apply to a lot of selective programs, not only to get the best instruction (theoretically) should I get in, but also to see if people thought I had the goods to "make it" in this field. So it's entirely possible that I could be searching for another field come April -- hence general reticence.

That's why in the meantime, I've been busying myself crocheting. Yes, crocheting! I evidently have inherited the "serial hobbyist" gene from my mother. In terms of crafts-type activities, I usually pick them up as a result of wanting things for myself: ("I want pumpkin I'll learn to make it!"). So I found this post about a moebius scarf and then another post about a certain crochet stitch. BINGO. New project. Currently, I've been at it for 3 days, and I've already passed 3 feet of scarf. Tomorrow, I should be able to stitch the seam together and make myself a moebius scarf. I'm excited!

Of course, during all of this, I'm still singing (though currently have a bear of a sore throat) and oddly enough, I think I have another breakthrough in the works. I've been very aware of how my larynx does funny things, and how I've gotten use to it. Lately, I've been trying to focus on it more and more, particularly in my speaking voice, which is "unnaturally" high for the range in which I sing. This discovery came about while I was fiddling with vowels while walking on the way to work. I had noticed that my high notes tended to come with...not spreading, per se, but the way my face felt as I went for notes, say high g and higher, was distinctly different from the approach there. So I thought, well, ok - so if I avoid the sensation of spreading (which is, indeed, quite close) but adopt the feeling of two horizontal points spaced the width of my face apart, what happens?

It turns out that the larynx tends to stay right put. Incidentally, the is the same feeling (in my face) when I smile. It feels much more horizontal to me than a vertical lift of the "fauces" or zygomatic arch. In any event, this has been an aid not only in purifying and raising the troublesome eee and oooo vowels, it's helped to clean up the ah vowel and give it some more resonance. I'm going to have to fiddle with this a little bit more, but I feel it's on a pretty good track.

Of course you didn't think I would abandon my scouring of teh internets, did you? Here are two lovely youtube playlists:

1) Rehearsal footage of Dawn Upshaw preparing the role of the Angel in Messiaen's St. Francois d'Assise.

2) Pilar Lorengar singing two of Donna Elvira's arias. (If any of you have been turned off by her prominent vibrato as recorded, give these a listen. In the house, she must have been something else. Also, my sense is that my high notes (when I finally straighten them out) will probably be harmonically structured similarly to her high notes -- which I am totally stoked about!)


Valerie said...

Thanks for the clip of Dawn Upshaw, Alex. She is truly an amazing artist. I also happen to love the way Peter Sellars works, although not everyone agrees!
Had the privilege of hearing Dawn live at the Ojai festival last year singing Cathy Berberian and Golijov, and completely fell for her!
By the way, I think your audition strategy is incredibly brave. The most important thing to remember is that come what may, you can choose to keep singing all your life if it's what you love.Our society can be rather strange in that way-- thinking that something is only worth doing if you're doing it professionally. Not true!

alex said...

Thanks for your comments. I definitely plan to continue singing regardless of what happens come April.

And not a problem re: Upshaw. I have definitely grown considerably in my appreciation, and I find that watching someone work can be monumentously helpful both from student and audience perspectives.

I guess I still don't know what I think about Peter Sellars' approaches. A post is forthcoming on this subject, but more specifically about Lulu and Berg's serialism (and hyper specific production notes).

Valerie said...

Hi Alex,

I got fired up and blogged about Dawn Upshaw and the Messiaen-- check it out if you like!