I haven’t written in awhile. Something has been bothering me, something important… crucial even… and I haven’t been able to find the right words until now. It is simply this: singing is a vital expression of FREEDOM.
Everything we do in our training and exploration of our voices, including countless hours spent drilling scales, deepening breath support, and exploring (and/or writing) various songs, is all supposed to render a distinct feeling of freedom when we sing. This feeling is both physical and emotional, and it is the very reason that we endeavor to raise our voices at all. From this powerful personal experience comes a revelation that is available to everyone.
Margaret Atwood, in her seminal novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”, reminds us that there are two kinds of freedom: freedom from, and freedom to. In this case, when we sing, we are seeking freedom from vocal strain, tension, and breathlessness. We are also seeking the freedom to express ourselves in a deeply personal and satisfying way. Whether or not we impress others with our voice is irrelevant. The opinions and responses of an audience, though always a part of the performing arts, have no actual bearing on our personal experience of freedom when we sing (unless we let them!). But our job as singers is to move through any and all restraints, be they physical or emotional, and produce a sound that feels unencumbered and true to us, moment by moment, as we sing. This act is deeply personal, and even spiritual, but make no mistake: it is also political.
The world does not owe us anything. We are bound to this earth by mysterious forces of love and fire, the heat-shimmer of our cells’ friction rising up from our fragile bodies as we age, gravity’s mortal thunder booming louder with each passing day. Are we here, present in this miracle? Have we used our voices to the fullest extent? Have we protested injustice, asked for help, called for change? Have we asked after the health of our loved ones, and the state of their hopes and dreams? Have we sung our children to sleep?
Things are not yet as they should be, but we can sing the change we wish to see in the world. Each of us contains a voice -a musical instrument inside our body!- that is waiting to be set free. Once we have felt this freedom for ourselves it becomes unthinkable that anyone should go without it. When we sing, we stop everything and breathe. We are present in the moment, mindful, listening intently. We push out the sound that comes from deep within us, and hope it will travel as far as it can. This is our most human state of being, and it will connect us to each other, and sustain us through great adversity. So go ahead, do it now! Stand up, inhale, and let go.