Friday, May 21, 2010
to the most barren, lonely lands
where fear and despair
run like salt water through our hands
We have nothing...no identity
not even our tears can give clarity
about who we are supposed to be...
is not a too recent invention
and with Love as our intention
we use the flow
of what we do know
to show us what we need:
knowledge that whispers
knowledge that screams
it speaks in emotions
like Mother Earth's never-ending springs
and hope flows under the surface
like ever-growing grace
Turn desolation to opportunity
Make an about-face:
be skeptical of every certainty
become a living Quest-ion
walking in Eternity!
It's can be lonely, yes, but if you are true
to all it is that you must do
to be all it is that you must be
it will become ever easier to see
your next step to saving
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
(where you long to be)
you are invited
to step in
breath seems to stop:
Deep in the core of You
you hear ticking...a clock...?
that becomes a Time
"Who am I? What am I? And how do I make it STOP?
I'm too late
I'm really wrong
I don't know the words to this song!
I'm too ugly, I'm too small.
I'm too fat, I'm too tall.
How do I stop it?!? Where can I hide?
Oh God, there must be someplace inside
And so you do.
You have the right.
You hold the map, you own the key
To what it really means to be Free:
"What is it anyway?
And why must I care?
I've got all I need
Food to eat and air
But here I cannot breathe. I do not have the air. What is it now? What is it that I need?
Whispers of childhood, traces of dreams, ecstasy I've tasted and...
Can it be
if I can taste it!?
If I can feel it?...if I can want it...?
Is it truly my 'plight'
to be this way,
to always have to fight
to always have to say
'...let me be, World!
Just let me be!
can I possibly be free
from this ticking clock,
from all this pain...
alone I am safe
alone I am sane!
Get me out of the SpotLight!
I didn't want it
You can take flight
from the Stage:
find a measure of Light
(in the SpotLight's absence)
far far away
where no one can come
and no one can say
"you are dumb"
for being who you are,
for wanting what you want,
for standing in the Light--
don't worry, this feeling
it's good, this place--
it's where you need to be
for a little while.
Though after some time
maybe a day
it could be many
or just a few
It starts to get lonely
in this place to where you flew
And you think
"wouldn't it be fun
to go out and play?
wouldn't it be fun to see the Light of day?"
Fear leads you
straight to what you need.
It's not bad
the tears that Fear makes flow
show you where you must go!
the Key to finding
what's True inside
has been hidden from you
in this frantic race:
your struggle to keep up
the maddening pace
just one step
that Time Bomb ticking relentlessly
in your ear
Until one day you stop and say
What if Fear is tricking you?
Fear is not something to fear
THE VERY CLUE
you really are
and what you really love:
the one key to opening the skies up above?
Away from the dark storms of being alone
Away from that feeling of having that huge stone
hold you down deep in your gut
making you want to do anything but
who you really are.
What if your Key is hidden
because you do not see
that Fear itself
began your plea
where you knew
how to be safe
how to be Free?
If Fear is the Key to You, to Heart and to Soul, what could you do? Who could you be? How do you find this elusive Key?
And follow your Fear
Chase it down!
Don't let her play with you
don't let her push you around!
Search up hill and through dale
no precipice can make you pale
For every place you go
She will always let you know
which means you're close
to your Goal
Until one day...
you catch up to your Fear!
between a sob and a tear
between that hollow in your gut
and the choking in your throat.
"Fear? It's nice to meet you! What a special day!
Love this place you've got here, wouldn't you say
it's a nice place to live, a nice home to give
my aching Heart
that's been running away
I think I'll take over
what do you say?"
And Fear, in Her gentle voice, replies:
"I was wondering when you would care enough
to get to know me."
At that, you stand stock-still,
alongside your Fear
it's not so uncomfortable here.
What you said in sarcasm
could really be true
why have you been running
when there's nothing wrong with you?
Why did you ever run? Why did you ever...
She really seems like such a dear!
So you and Fear talk away the night
and in the wee hours of the morning
you see there's a Light
in this place
beyond tension and Uncertainty: the place of Letting Go...
with a flame that spits
Like it wants to grow
Like it just might...
and suddenly you know
what you've always wanted:
You ask, since you and Fear are becoming fast Friends
"Fear? What is this place? What is this space?
And why do I feel like we're floating?"
"An excellent question"
Fear says in her kindness,
"This place is the Center of You."
"But how could that be?
I do not know this part of me...
it feels...it feels..."
Fear says with a joyous smile
and you watch
as with a sweep of her hand
all around you dissolves to darkness and
billions of little points of Light
just like the one you discovered
at the Center of You
fill the night
"What are they?!" you exclaim--
Suddenly Fear feels again like Fright!
"They are your friends"
"everyone you know...and some, well not quite
"But how could that be? How do you know??
I'm not sure I like this...maybe I should go..."
"You cannot" says Fear
"You have come too far...
there is nowhere to go
once you've found your star."
"What do you mean? I don't have a star!
Inside of me is empty! Inside of me is dark!
I've spent so much time there
I know there is no spark
deep inside of me."
"What does it feel like here?
Now, I mean, after you've seen
all those stars?"
asks Your Gentle Fear
"It feels like...huge...
like outer space...like no time,
no space, has ever existed...
I feel free to move, I feel free to be...
I feel I can be...just me!
There's no one watching, no one laughing.
No one jeering, no one clapping.
I just see all these lights and hear all this
it feels like life. It feels like life!
Like watching a flower grow
or learning once and for all
what you've always known
Like I can choose
what it is I want to do!
And who I am is who
I'm meant to be"
"Good" says Fear, "this is Good and Right
And now my Dear
you may end your fight
end your tears and end your plight
Own your Light."
So, you turn around, for you've learned to listed to Fear.
And there, you see
A ball of Light
akin to that candle which showed you
what it was
you needed to ask.
"Oh My God!" you gasp.
"Indeed" says Fear with a bow.
Speechless you can only stare
at this pulsing Light, this great, warm sphere
of pure power, of energy...of...
"...Love...?" asks Fear, for She can read your thoughts.
"Yes, Love. It's Love!!" You say with a start
"that erases all pain
and erases all struggle
and shows me One direction
when once there was only muddled
input, lots of lies
and stormy violent skies
...oh, thank you, thank You God!
thanks for this reply
to all my seeking and all my tears
to all the disappearing, and to all my Fears...
wait...FEAR! Where are you? Where have you gone?
I do not want to go on
Stay with me!"
A response in a voice just like your own comes from somewhere deep
inside the Orb:
"I will always be with you when you pass through into Love--
I will be transformed
I will be You:
the True Me
"What do you mean?" you may ask, "You will be there, Fear? but not?"
"Do not worry my Friend. I will be there. Go, and see! Find out! Give it a shot!"
into the Light
at the Center of Who it Is You Are
And time stands still.
You hear no clocks.
But you do hear beating: a-chug, a-chug, the sound of your own Heart.
You have found the place of safety, the place you've always been
where all feelings are beauty
and all thoughts are but a whim
which are not Love
You have been engulfed by what you once thought was up above:
Heaven has found you on Earth
or rather you it...
anyhow you can decide which!
All that matters is,
You're here now
Take a bow!
And be proud to be
in the SpotLight
where you belong.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Spiritual Impulse
Why do some of us seek for higher truths? Why is it that certain individuals are driven blindly, madly, and passionately to transcend their own limitations? Why do we, at times, feel ourselves being compelled to improve ourselves, not only for our own sake but for the sake of a higher cause that we sense yet can barely see? Why is it that in those precious moments when we are most conscious and most awake, we seem to intuit a deeper sense of purpose that is infinitely bigger than our personal worlds could contain? What is that soft vibration that tugs on our hearts and beckons us to courageously leap beyond the small confines of the separate self so that we can participate in the life-process in a much deeper and more authentic way? That vibration is none other than the spiritual impulse, which is the impulse to evolve at the level of consciousness. And I believe it is that very same impulse that caused something to come from nothing fourteen billion years ago, that compelled an entire material universe to miraculously emerge from complete emptiness. To me, at least, it seems that there is no doubt that a great and mysterious energy and intelligence with enormous power is driving this entire evolutionary process forward in every moment. And our own direct personal experience of spiritual inspiration is the most tangible expression of that very same drive.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
What does learning to sing actually MEAN? What is the purpose of dedicating our lives, our sweat, our tears, literally our hearts and souls, to singing? Why do it? To earn more money? To stand on the biggest stages? To be on the big screen and to own the fanciest dresses? Perhaps. Are these reasons enough to justify our struggle?
I don't think so.
I am convinced that there is a deeper meaning to the desire to sing, beyond simply wanting success and fame. It has to do with who we truly are. And therein lies the key to the survival of our art form and the reason for opera's existence.
For the last year and a half I have been lucky enough to study with a voice teacher who understands and teaches just that. For him, singing is not just singing. Singing is prayer: it comes from the deepest depths of who we are as humans.
He is the teacher my heart brought me to, and I thank God that he exists and that he has dedicated his life to understanding vocal technique to the point that he can now mine for the gold which exists as the True Voice of each and every singer. This is, in my opinion, the very purpose for applying oneself to the Classical School of Singing: to become so well versed in what it means to be practicing our discipline that our bodies, these instruments of Spirit, are so subconsciously, efficiently trained that we may be active, empty, vessels for the music we are called to express.
It is incredibly exciting to be alive and to be a singer at this time in the Evolution of Singing.
Roughly explained, if I am correct, opera singing itself existed before the advent of the Classical School of Singing. Singing and how to teach it clearly evolved together, but singing came first. In its most raw form, the technique of singing opera was demonstrated with the first baby's primal cry...the foundation of singing itself is older than we can imagine. But I digress.
The Classical School of Singing has served as a way of mapping out the process one must go through toward obtaining what humans have loved to hear for hundreds if not thousands (think back to the ampitheaters...) of years: a free, exciting, complete, efficient vocal production, whether in speech or in song.
Learning this freedom, this dedication to music and true self-expression, to something much bigger than our mortal selves, is a spiritual path.
Finding Jean-Ronald, my teacher, was the culmination of a long fifteen plus years of self-discovery and soul searching. Probably every singer would recognize and sympathize with my path to this teacher who has real information to share, and a clear plan toward releasing my voice in all of its completeness, and in freedom. It was a series of 'wrong' turns, looking for truth from the world's perspective, from the viewpoint of academia and concrete goals, from the standpoint of achieving fame and winning people over or beating the 'competition', that whittled me down to the point where I knew that ultimately I was seeking something much much more than the "big win" or the "big break". I was looking for myself.
I am lucky to have been just barely accepted at Oberlin Conservatory (I was originally on the waiting list), so when I arrived, I began immediately the painful process of realizing that for me, the paradigm of "singing as a competitive endeavor" had to, somehow, be broken down in order for me to survive. I could not hope to ever 'compete' with the plethora of incredibly talented, and in many ways almost finished voices and personalities of my colleagues. Unfortunately (though I see it now as fortune, no singer should go through this, thus the writing of this blog, in which I hope perhaps a hurting singer may find peace) for the fledgling singer fresh out of Oregon, what inevitably happened is that this paradigm had to break me, or more accurately, the Ego, before I could learn to be free of it. But this is the stuff of a later post...
The true singer knows she must follow the path to her True Voice, no matter what. If we listen closely, there is no real reason to why we study, why we seek out the teachers who will help us become who we truly are...until we realize that "who we really are" IS the point of study. It's not the dresses. It's not the fame. It's not the HD telecasts and the public broadcasting specials. It's not the getting it "right". It's not the "winning". It's the constant being and becoming that the Classical School helps us embody which is the point of our every endeavor as opera singers.
What we see in today's world is a break between spirituality and performing arts that does not and should not exist.
Who do we see when we go to hear a great singer? The greatest performers we have ever experienced don't give us merely a vision of who they are. They send us into ecstasy because they show us, in their inspired performance, who we are. And so my burning question is:
If this quality, this "IT", this ability to transcend the individual and reach the heavenly heights of collective human experience is to be found in great performance, why is "It" so sorely lacking in music education?
Perhaps we performers would rather have this inspiration remain a secret, the very path to it obscured so that it is easier to sell. This is a most cynical explanation, which I am not ready to admit is true. But it is tempting to sell our art this way. We say perhaps to the public: come and experience something that you cannot experience on your own. You need years and years of practice to do this, to be this way. I am unt0uchable, I am the star and you the stargazer.
We see the results of this striving for individual "Diva-hood" in opera. As a public we are fed the names of singers we are supposed to think of as great. We go to performances in search of spiritual experiences and amazing music, to be taken away to that place that only music can take us. Often this happens, and even more often it does not. The undisciplined listener will, for the sake of honoring her investment in the tickets and to have something to write home about, attempt to invent some meaning or to express some sort of appreciation. But has the real goal for music making been met?
What is the real goal for making music?
It is, merely, and most importantly, an expression of the Love that makes up each and every human being, and everything in the universe.
Any performer who excites the listener, who brings people to tears and to their feet through sharing great music, must acknowledge that the "It" which does this is much much, in fact infinitely more, than the singer is themselves. This is the challenge I am sending out to myself and to my fellow singers, many of whom already understand and embrace what I am trying to express. And many of whom sing, but do not yet realize perhaps the depth of meaning which lies hidden in their profession and their studies.
The experience we have when we visit a truly great performance is not unavailable to the every day person. Anyone who has delved in even a little bit to who they truly are knows that there is a heavenly well of beauty within each of us which can be expressed even in simple things like walking down the street.
So if the experience that we are seeking as performers is available to us at every moment, why perform? why make music?
I can only use an example from my development as a singer to help answer this question myself:
In my first years of study in Vienna, my vocal cords were not approximating. This is, I know now, a common occurrence in the development of a singer, but back then, for my tender student's soul, it was the end of the world as I knew it. I "could not sing".
I did not see a way out of this fear-filled predicament, this "voiceless" existence. I knew that the deepest part of me had to be expressed through singing, and it could not be! I was living in a state of deep depression and hopelessness, though no one but my voice teacher at the time could have guessed.
What was it that brought hope to my soul? A recording of Maria Callas singing the famous aria "La mamma morta" from Andrea Chenier. I listened to this recording over and over. It brought me a feeling of freedom, of flight, of hope...there is no mistaking why this aria was chosen to be featured in the movie "Philadelphia", where the main character also finds ultimate freedom from death and pain in listening to it. The piece has the power to transform, and Maria Callas had the vision, the power, and the absolute dedication as a singer, to allow the music to be as transformative as it could possibly be.
I was carried away. I danced. I meditated to it on repeat. I experienced the vulnerability of what it means to surrender to absolute beauty and love in the privacy of my sacred, personal space, so I could begin the gradual journey of allowing that expression of beauty to inform every moment of my everyday life, even, and especially in the presence of other people.
Maria Callas started me on the journey to freedom. Love itself (and her singing is Love incarnate) continued the job.
So what does this, in the end, mean to us singers, truly? To me, it means having the courage to say that what is most important to me has nothing to do with singing itself, per se. It has to do, only, with Love. We follow the path of singing to experience Love, whether we are aware of it or not.
Can we embrace the possibility of this truth? Can opera become more than a spectacle and a vehicle for the next "Diva" or "Divo"? Can it be more than a money generating machine? Can all of opera realize what is truly driving the music and every singer who sings its, at their core? If we could, we would never have to worry about the fate of the art form. There would never be another "undiscovered" voice or singer in pain. We would all realize what truly matters, and making music, singing opera, would become as natural, as essential, as breathing and thinking, and as every-day beautiful as life itself.
What is the next step, then, in the Evolution of Singing? I hope that it lies in singers who realize this truth coming together and seeking perfectly true and free vocal production to such an extent that anything that is not the "real thing", or 100+% Love, would be overshadowed and pale in comparison. I think that the next step involves finding ways to bring everyone who feels moved to be a singer to that point of complete and true Love. I believe that it means not accepting the idea that it is "impossible" to train a voice that is lost in fear and hopelessness. I believe that the key to the freedom of thousands, if not millions of voices, is Love itself. I am excited, because I see the many ways in which Love is already, if not always necessarily by name, being expressed in voice studios like that of my teacher.
I want to proclaim it from every rooftop! I want to dare skeptics to try to prove Love wrong! Along my long path to these first inklings of my own True Voice, I have been pointed to nothing but this Truth.
As always my most humble thanks to the Source of All Things, and in complete dedication and devotion to my teacher Jean-Ronald LaFond,
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
What was our relationship to singing before we learned to listen to ourselves? In this question lies the road map for the beginning of our journey to True Voice.