Today I had my first voice lesson in months...result of brown stuff meeting rotating blades in the Life category. The hiatus, not today's lesson (and you thought I was a writer!)
I knew I'd regressed because I hadn't been practicing every day and also the choir's been off and on-ish. I was afraid I'd slipped back to the lowest rung of the ladder or below, but apparently not. I've mentioned before that one of the things I like best about my instructor is that he's a perfectionist when it comes to the music. Everything's right or else. We are dealing here with undoing the bad habits of decades--lots of them--including old "tapes" that remind me I'm not allowed to stand out, not allowed to claim talent, etc, etc, etc.
There were scale-ish things to start with, some of which I had to sing bending over with my arms hanging down because one of my bad habits is tensing shoulder and neck. Then again, standing up, and imagining my arms weighing more so they'd relax. Then there were the bad initial notes ("That's not a musical sound. Do it again") and bad middle notes ("Right there--you got hooty on that middle section") and bad final notes ("You're pushing...just sing it...") I didn't sing an entire exercise all wrong, but it usually fell apart somewhere, at least until we were well into the hour. There were reminders that singers should not visibly and audibly gasp for air like someone drowning. Then came little melodic bits, to sing expressively and musically, not mechanically. ("That was perfectly on pitch, but without any resonance." "Musicality is intentionality--that didn't have any intention." )
Finally we got to the music itself--the Britten arrangement of a Scottish folksong is now out, and I was aimed at Purcell's "If Music Be the Food of Love" which is gorgeous and sensuous and should sound (in my head, does sound) like bathing in cream with a streak of chocolate through it. It does not sound like that when I sing it. The first eight measures, over and over. I'd been singing it wrong because (having tried to learn it before my new glasses) I'd been reading it wrong--missing dots to some of the notes, adding them to others. GRUMP at self. I didn't write it, so I don't get to change it. Finally got that cleared up and made it through without falling into either the hooty ditch or the thin one. Then the next eight measures. Then A and B together. Then A and B and an attempt at the next eight measures, so of course I made the same mistake I'd made before. Twice. It's a wonder my instructor puts up with me.
It's rather like my experiences in dance and fencing...my muscle memory was never particularly spry, though once I do know something I have it...but I'm slow. I make repetitive mistakes before finally (six or seven tries or more) I get it right.
On the other hand, even I can hear that when I do get it right...it sounds better. A lot better. I'm still at the stage where trying harder produces a worse result, because I'm stiffening everything up rather than doing what it needs--I still can't feel what it is it needs, at least only sporadically. But when it comes right--there's something there. An advantage of never having had real voice lessons before is that it's improving, unlike, for instance, the knees, shoulders, hands, etc.
It's a lot of fun, and it's scary, and it's pushing me on things I never had to push on before. This is good.
Next week I'm supposed to have the Purcell memorized and have started on the other pieces handed out today.