Sense #5: Taste, and the Hot Cocoa Meditation

Have your cake and sing it too

You can have your cake and sing it too

These past two months we’ve explored singing with all the senses. We started with hearing, perhaps the most obvious one, and the importance of learning to listen with the inner ear, as well as how to love your actual ears. Then, with sight, we talked about using imagery to bring imagination to a song, and similarly, with touch, how to bring life to your voice through movement. We even managed to work in the sense of smell, through some practical aromatherapy for the voice. Now I’ve gone and saved the most challenging sense for last, and that is taste.

Originally I was planning on sharing with you recipes dedicated to great opera singers (Turkey Tetrazzini), and even one crafted by a composer (Tournedos Rossini), but unfortunately the average celebrity’s taste (let alone budget!) does not translate well to the modern home kitchen; that is, unless you regularly buy foie gras, hunt for truffles, or bake a turkey more than once a year.

Instead, let’s consider what taste has to teach us on a simpler, more elemental level. Continue reading

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How To Love Your Ears

floppy earsIf you step into an unknown room, standing still, eyes closed, what can your sense of hearing tell you? More than you might think. From hearing alone you can sense the size of the room, what materials it might be made of, let alone all of the noises, big or small, that tell you who and what lies within it.

Even though we don’t hear nearly as well as do owls, cats, dogs and elephants, and it seems most of the mammal world, as human senses go, our sense of hearing is still pretty spectacular. The human ear can hear about ten octaves, from 20-20,000 Hz. The smallest sound it can perceive moves the eardrum just four atomic diameters, and the loudest is a trillion times louder than that. We have no ear-lids, and hear even when we sleep. Most importantly, we have brains that can actually make sense of these sounds by creating and appreciating the subtleties of speech and music!

Unfortunately, overexposure to noise is the number one cause of hearing loss, and many researchers are beginning to believe that music–specifically amplified concerts, clubs, and headphones use–is playing an increasing role in this. Continue reading

CRASH Course in Vocal Health

CarriageOnce upon a time, young singers would study the art of singing daily with master teachers. When deemed ready, perhaps at the age of 16, they would travel to engagements in carriages, or in ships like floating hotels, arriving with a few signature songs, maybe a role or two, to perform with a light orchestra in an intimate hall. A full opera might be abridged, for both singer and audience’s sake, or a recital accompanied by the fortepiano, a much lighter animal than today’s Steinway, in a living room salon.

Nowadays, instruments are louder, the orchestras are larger, and the auditoriums more spacious, and we have technology to both curse and thank. Easier travel means more frequent performances, often for audiences with ears accustomed to the photogenic perfection of studio-recorded music. Indeed, add to this the ease of downloading sheet music, and one must have an enormous repertoire in order to stay competitive. How is a singer to cope with all these new pressures and changes?

According to Dame Janet Baker, “two things remain constant for the singer of today: the paramount necessity for an excellent technique and the development of an inner spiritual process which enables us to say something of value through the medium of the voice.”

To these two important constants, I would add a third: the maintenance of one’s vocal health. But rather than launch into medical jargon, or make yet another to-do list, I’ve simplified things with this handy acronym, a C.R.A.S.H. course on how to enjoy a long and fruitful career: Continue reading