Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lebo M : the official site

Lebo M : the official site
Listen to "rainmaker" and "one by one" to hear the music I was stressing about in the last few posts.

UPDATE:
6 October 2009
The link above no longer seems to be working, so here are links to the two songs
Rainmaker
One By One

NYC day 4: concert

And just like that, it's all over. NYC has come and gone, in a blaze of glory. Ok, so that's a bit of an exageration, but what isn't is the fact that I had an amazing time, and it's been a while since I last enjoyed singing that much. I always love it, but sometimes there is something particularly special about it. NYC is like that partly because it is a group of such different people, from so many different environments and backgrounds, who come together in such an intense situation, for such a short amount of time, and do something wonderful with it. I have received some clarity on the music I was so confused over. The two most theatrical pieces were composed by a film-scorer, Lebo M. So the theatricality has it's purpose. I am still not entirely comfortable with it all, for the reasons I already discussed, but I think I understand better. And for all the worrying and fretting I do over it, I still love it. I really enjoyed singing, and I enjoyed the audience reaction, especially to the African music. And the tears which I am even now fighting back are testament to how sorry I am that it's all over. It's a funny thing with music that because it happens in temporal space, it is so finite and fleeting. I can never have the performance we did today back. But the music is not over. Only that performance has ended. The music is about the change and variation. Every performance is different, and that is how it's meant to be, and that's part of what makes it special. For a space in time, the sound of a whole choir was coming out of my throat. A choir, and an organ, and a harp and percussion. I was a part of a whole. And I still am in some ways. That's what makes a choir a particularly special voice. It's about so much more than one person, one voice, one intention. It's about us, a collective, a choir, a community, an audience. Everyone is implicated. The music gets into my body, and comes out of it, and gets into the bodies of the people listening and singing beside me. We all move as one. We breathe the same air, and set it in motion. We share so much more than notes, and words, and intonation. We in South Africa can make meaning from the same music that moves Latvian's. And they can be moved by our music. As full of problems as this can be, it still moves people, and keeps them coming back. One way or another, it works.

NYC day 3

My consternation concerning the African music section of the program for this course is increasing. The problem is that while I really do feel that some of the "emotion" and "power" in the music is contrived, I can't help but sympathize with and admire the conductor. He is just too white, and just too male, and just too new South African to make me willing to trust him entirely, but I can't help believing that he is sincere when he talks about how important the music we are working on is to him. And I sympathise with his desire to keep African choral music alive. At the same time, I am a bit in awe of his abilities as a conductor. The last time I sang under him, he was a kid, who appeared to be just finding his footing as a conductor. Now, he's a larger that life character, who you'd swear was years older that me, rather than my own age, with a knack for leading a choir. The irony of it is that I don't entirely trust his musicality. And if we're judging things from the conventional standpoint, then he's not a particularly skilled conductor. I have yet to see him actually conduct, but he has achieved results with the choir that none of the other conductors have been able to. He keeps saying "energy is non-negotiable", and that is certainly what he gives and gets. Still, when I am instructed to "make a noise for four bars," and find myself at a loss for what type of noise to make, or of the actual effect of that noise to the music, I think back to that informant who commented that he didn't think that African music had much value. Hell yes it's fun, but really, how musical is it? And yet, on stage, it's effective. We'll have to see exactly what the effect is tomorrow, but I suspect that it will be satisfying. It's so easy to enjoy music like that, an the music just demands a response. If it's what people want to hear, if it moves them, and energizes them, what's really wrong with it? And what's really right with performing difficult, but "musical" music if the response is half-hearted? This director commented today that part of the reason so many choirs perform to half empty halls is that they are lacking energy. And he's probably right. Lots of people listen to this. Why are we really making this music?

I asked several people today what their favourite sections in the music are, and unlike yesterday, while everyone expressed pleasure at the African section, the vote for the Latvian music being the favourite was unanimous. Is it more musical? I can't tell. I also can't tell what stereotypes it reinforces, because I don't know what is stereotypical to a Latvian musician. I do know that it's satisfying music to sing. And it also makes use of theatrical devices like drums and symbols, and in one case, even patter singing. In fact, if we're looking at theatricality, so does the Chichester psalms. So is there nothing we are singing that is all about the music? Perhaps they all are. Perhaps the music is theatrical and dramatic, and that is what it's all about. After all, don't most composers seek that elusive 'hook'? The director who I spent the first part of this entry obsessing about related a bit of conversation he had had with a composer, who said that he felt that everything, compositionally had "been done." He then went on to comment on the value for a composer of living in South Africa, with it's diversion of cultures. And yet there's my conducting teachers "white noise" concept to consider. Is it possible to achieve multi-racialism without reaching overkill? Is a choir in which the bases are singing an ostinato pattern, the tenors are singing a fragment of our national anthem, the altos are singing a fragment of "bobejan Klim die Berg", the second Sopranos are singing another fragment of the national anthem, is two different languages, and the first sopranos are singing "Mbube" producing white noise? On the other hand, wasn't it Mozart who said that only with music can you have twenty people singing completely different things all at once, and still make sense?

NYC this year really is an Africanist's dream. We have everything from a flamboyantly gay Afrikaner, to a liberal, white, English modernist, to a group of young men and women who grew up in a township, and traveled to Chicago last year to perform an opera; from those for whom music is a hobby, to those for whom music is life; all levels of experience, all walks of life, a variety of attitudes, beliefs, passions, and reasons for being there. And yet we manage to produce music. Why would I possibly want to be anywhere other than exactly where I am right now?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

NYCC day 2

Today was different from yesterday mainly in that we spent the entire day at NYC. In fact, the only continuity break, for me, was about a half an hour I spent with a friend from ethnomusicology who had missed the last lecture, and wanted me to explain some of what we had covered. I did, but the step out of context, even though it was only brief, was rather disconcerting, and I don't think I helped her much as a result. On the other hand, the experience of NYC is just as rich and exciting as ever, and I am really glad to be doing this again at last. While yesterday was spent trying to talk to, and become acquainted with, as many people as possible, today was different in that I found myself largely fitted into various groups. I guess it's perfectly natural for people to get into groups based on who they have the most in common with, or who they know best, but I still find it disconcerting. I have my whole life. Still, I spent some time chatting to one young man who has only recently returned from an eight-month sabbatical in Australia, where he was sent on a singing scholarship. Nothing substantially research related came out of the conversation, but it was interesting nonetheless. I also made the acquaintance of a young boy from Heidelberg, who I spent quite a lot of time with between rehearsal sessions, and I got better acquainted with some of the other people I met yesterday. Strangely, I had no contact with the few people I knew from the last course, including with a young woman I spent a lot of time with last time. Still, that's the way things work, I guess. The whole dynamic is different from the last time, but I think that's mainly due to the sheer volume of rehearsing we're doing. Last time there were several other workshops and activities, and lots of time to socialize. This time, rehearsals dominate, and the environment, while perfectly pleasant, is less conducive to socializing that was the environment in the Drakensberg. Reminded me how much the physical space influences the social character of the choir.

Just a couple of observations today: the Soprano sound has a surprising amount of vibrato, but none of the conductors have yet commented on it. Vibrato is a big thing with some conductors, so I was rather waiting for it to be raised. There is a lot of emphasis on bass sound in the African music we're performing, while the Chichester Psalms and the Latvian music appears to be surprisingly high for bass, and everyone, in general. Even the deeper pieces among the Latvian music are not as waited toward the bass part as is the African program. The music from the African part of the program has so-far made me a little uncomfortable, because it is so loaded with primitivist stereotypes, and so 'big' and theatrical. Lots of percussion, movement, sound effects, and the like. We workshopped a medley today incorporating "Pata pata", "Mbube" (which was introduced with the usual story of Solomon Linda and his unpaid royalties. No mention of the possible folk origins of the music, or of Linda's collaborators), the national anthem, and "Bobejan Klim die Berg". I guess what makes me uncomfortable is that while I recognize the stereotypes, and the problems in the music, I also enjoy it, and want to enjoy it, and am very aware of the extent to which those around me enjoy it. Every person I spoke to in the last break of the day commented that they were enjoying the African music. Not compared to the other, necessarily, but the energy and enjoyment is obviously high during these bits of rehearsal. The conductor's energy and character have something to do with that, but its also in the music.

National youth choir course day 1

Today was surprisingly interesting, mainly because it was so full, professionally. I started off with an life-history interview with a friend that, while I expected to find it interesting, turned out to be far more illuminating on a personal level than I expected. It's a cruel irony that it often takes seeing someone else's pain to put your own in perspective. In this instance, I couldn't believe how many similar issues we've dealt with, at relatively similar points in our lives. Another irony is that the few differences between our histories that do exist, I think, almost entirely determined how we differ as people. He has been told over and over how smart he is, and yet he is, and is aware that he is, an under-achiever. I, on the other hand, have been told one time to many that I'm incapable, and the result is that I am a complete over-achiever. And in fact, I think, our motivations, despite the different results, are similar. I really do think it's all about recognition. You see, if he achieved his potential, there would be nothing out of the ordinary about that. On the other hand, if I only achieved what was expected of me, there would be nothing out of the ordinary about that. My whole life is devoted to this projected career, and as my brother once delecately put it, I "have no life." Not that I mind, I love what I do, I find it extremely satisfying, and I am happy, but I do crave recognition. I wonder whether I would have taken this route if my highschool music teacher hadn't devoted so much time and energy to helping me "catch up" (I started music as a subject only in my second-last year of school, and so had a lot of catching up to do. The result was many hours of one-on-one supervision with said music teacher, the development of a really close friendship, and a real sense, for me, that I was in some way significant in his life). And I wonder whether I would be doing what I am now if my supervisor hadn't devoted so much time to helping me do it. I don't think working hard, for any reason, is a bad thing, but I think needing recognition for it may be. Am I capable of doing this with or withour that recognition? Am I willing to risk finding out? Perhaps not. So after all that, my point is that all this talk about fieldwork being as much about the researcher as the researched, is very true.

The second thing that made today really great was the start of teh National Youth Choir Course. I love this for the personal experience, but right now, the fieldwork potential is also huge. I really did try to observe it all, "suck it dry," as my anthropology lecturer says, but it's difficult when there is a personal investment in the process. I have to shut off certain levels of stimulus at certain times, because I will have real difficulty learning and performing the music if I don't at least try to give it my full attention. On the other hand, between singing, there are just so many people to talk to. I spent lunchtime chatting to a girl from the choir at North-West University, which, among other things, caused a mental lightbulb which had beed flickering for a few days already, finally come on. When I was in Finland, I got some comments indicating confusion over my use of the term "choral." The problem is that a particular variety of South African choir is commonly called a "Chorale," and this type of choir sings "Chorale music". While I still have to attempt to develop a full definition of this type of music, it seems to have a religious connection, and a general hymn-like structure, with conventional four-part harmony. Another thing that stood out for me, was the repeated emphasis on "propper technique," and its connection with "using your diaphragm." I understood this technique as rather old-fashioned, though I certainly was raised on it. I also understood it as producing what I perceive as a very "Western" sound. I interpret diaphragm singing with headvoice, restricted chest voice range, and a static body. I wonder whether there is any connection between the emphasis placed on this technique, and the relatively European-influenced "chorale" style.

On the other hand, when we began working with the conductor who is taking the "African" section of the choir course, the contradictions were many. He spoke several times about "using your diaphragm," but usually in relation to achieving full chest voice in higher registers. He also mentioned mouth shape in relation to sound. He demonstrated a rounded mouth shape, with lips forward, and called it "too European." He then suggested that "more space," which he demonstrated by smiling, and producing what I would interpret as a "flatter" shape, as "more african." The choice of music was also incredibly revealing, to me. This conductor does a lot of his own composing, and while I haven't yet determined this for certain, I suspect that the piece we worked on tonight is one of his own compositions. The last time I sang one of his pieces, it was an "African Gloria," which combined some words from the gloria of the Catholic mass with fragments of words from the South African national anthem, both in their original language, and in English translation, and essentially textural sounds, which sound like, or are in fact derived from, Black Southern African languages. There was a mixture of drum and piano accompaniment, and the effect is, in his own words, "powerful," and "moving." The piece we worked with tonight was similar. the music is "effective," and "affective." Everyone I spoke to during the break had enjoyed the music, and no one, yet, has questioned its "African-ness." To me, there is evidence of the influence of popular, particularly gospel, music, and a definite exoticist slant to it. I also enjoyed the music, and had fun singing it, though it was a huge challenge. We learned this piece by ear (the last one was in score), with only words for a guide. The words were also really only a guide, as they were not sung exactly as written. There is again much use made of "African sounding" textural words, and simply sound effects, and one section calls for the inclusion of improvised praying by a specific chorister. The solo sections are composed, but designed to sound improvised, as does the drum section, which may have been workshopped between the composer and the drummer. The conductor/composer commented that he felt that "this music shouldn't be written down," and a chorister I was sitting near related an annecdote relating to the music. It's called "Rain Song", and according to said chorister, on the choir camp at which he taught this piece to his own choir, after a full day of hard work, just as the song was finally learned, it started to rain. Things changed as we worked. Choristers who had been singing this piece for a while noted unexpected changes, or re-taught sections to the conductor when they had changed. Much use was made of the piano, both to teach melodic lines, and to support the choir with chords which assisted, but did not mirror the singing. I found it interesting that this piece was included in what is usually a section of the program focusing on so-called "traditional," or "folk" music.

Another interesting part of the rehearsal, and what proves to be interesting about the course as a whole, is related to the presence of a visiting Latvian conductor and his wife. The conductor speaks some English, and his wife, who took today's warm-up, speaks very little. It was interesting to note how they demostrated what they could not explain, and how effective this was for things like phrasing and tempo changes. On the other hand, they had great difficulty over matters of sound production, because, while they could demonstrate some of what they wanted, and it could to a certain extent be mimicked by the choir, a lot could not be immitated because of technique differences, which were difficult to explain in a foreign language.

I also took note of the effect that different conductors had on the over-all atmosphere, and the seating arrangements that choristers selected, both during and between rehearsals. While there were general groups based on who knows whom, and how well, by and large, there was lots of racial mixing, and, as far as I could see, no particular attention. One girl was excited to discover that I had an english, rather than an Afrikaans accent, as the majority of the white choristers are Afrikaans speaking (nothing unusual about that. same is true for UJ choir, and many other mainly white youth choirs). A few people expressed annoyance at the grouping of people, and one girl said that "everyone is too scared to talk to anyone else", and commented that she didn't like the "atmosphere," and one girl felt excluded by a particular group of girls, however I did not notice anything different.

The third thing that made today special was what I hope is the first signs of a rebuilding of a relationship I had feared was irreprably damaged. but that, and my contemplations on it, are for another space.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A different rehearsal

The most recent choir rehearsal I attended with the recently combined choir was completely different from any others I had hitherto attended. For starters, the director was different. While the usual director still took the warm-up session, the young man who has been hired to conduct the african program took this session. The effects were immediately obvious. He did not work with conventional scores, as the choir usually would. Instead, he had the words written on a white board in a semi-phonetic form. he had marked them with various curves, like slurs in western notation, which I later realized were linked ot matters of phrasing and intonation. And he began the rehearsal by reading through the words. They were not read exactly as written, and not every voice group read all the words. different sections were done by different groups, at different times, and repeated, sometimes for the sake of memorizing, and sometimes to correct particular enunciations, or linguistic manners. Rhythm was then added to the words, and at this point, some choristers who already knew the song, began singing. While the melodies were mostly taught by the conductor, by rote, some bits were learned by choristers from one another. At one point, a particularly tricky rhythm began causing problems, and the director decided at this point to introduce the movement. while the movement itself caused some difficulty, both rhythmically, and in body co-ordination for some people, it seemed to have the desired effect on the rhythm, as the director did not mention this again. At some point, someone asked for a translation of the words, and the director appeared to brush the request off, however, when he returned to it, his telling of the story was made the more effective by his dramatization of it. He sat down (the song mentions sitting in the dark thinking of my love), leaned forward, and spoke in a slightly hushed tone, an dthe choir listened. When he mentioned particular slang words which are incorporated in a pidgin form into the text, the choir laughed, and he encouraged them, by commenting on the words.

My initial impressions of this conductor were based in part on my own experience as a new conductor of an established choir. He did seem nervous, and while he asserted authority by refusing certain information when it was requested of him, and giving it later, when he was ready, he also appeared to adjust the order and manner in which he taught elements of the music in response to what he read from the choir. I'm not sure whether the usual director does the same, but if she does, it is not obvious. Her rehearsals feel more structured. On the other hand, the energy level was high. Not all positive energy, I sensed some people, used to the other director's very efficient rehearsal style, growing impatient with the process, particularly when the director was focusing on a different voice group, and there was quite a lot of extraneous talking, but when the dancing started, all I sensed was enjoyment. I participated in this rehearsal a lot, standing or sitting at the back of the room, behind the juncture between the alto and tenor sections, and I joined in warm-ups, and the learning of the new song as an alto. I found it amusing though, the level of anxiety that the warm-up evoked for me. I really enjoyed the experience of participating, but I was listening very closely to my own voice, and other voices I could hear around me, and keeping my voice soft so as to "blend." Every time the director turned toward the altos, I dropped my voice to almost nothing, ostensibly not to interfear with the sound of the choir, but really because I was afraid of being picked out as the voice that "doesn't blend." On the other hand, I knew the song we were working on, though in a slightly different arrangement, and with slightly different rhythms, and so I felt confident, and rather impatient to sing. I joined in the singing early on, while some choristers were still grappling with the words, and tried, though not explicitly, to help the choristers around me by singing out. I also felt far less anxiety over missed notes, or mistakes I made based on my knowing a different version that I did when I was participating in the warm-up. The whole environment was less intense, and quite fun. During the tea break, I found, to my delight, that I was no longer quite as "outside" as I had thought I was, when several people chatted to me, or included me in their conversations about matters other than the choir. I am starting to become part of the social circle, and that feels great. On the other hand, a chorister who I had chatted to about the choir before the rehearsal suddenly indicated after the rehearsal that she was no longer willing to be interviewed. It was not an unpleasant encounter in terms of the interpersonal interaction, but it was uncomfortable for the researcher in me, because it felt like I was intruding on her space. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, individual choristers have little say over their participation. The fact that their director has agreed that the choir will participate in the research means that they, as choristers, are to a certain extent, coerced. Of course they are free to refuse individual participation, and I would never try to force participation, but I feel a little uncomfortable about the fact that some people may not like being filmed, or observed, and their voices are overpowered by the whole. I don't know whether that was the reason for her refusing consent, or whether she is just uncomfortable with the idea of being interviewed, and has no problem with being part of a researched group, and I did not feel comfortable asking her that at the time, though I will attempt to broach it later, but it would be useful to know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Native American Flutes and Music

Native American Flutes and Music It's so exciting to find someone else blogging music. And what an interesting site!

Monday, March 14, 2005

www.theory.org.uk Resources: Anthony Giddens

www.theory.org.uk Resources: Anthony GiddensHave just been reading "Music as a technology of Self" in Tia DeNora's Music in Everyday Life (2000, University Press: Cambridge), and Giddens keeps coming up. I have read so many theorists in the last while, I'm starting to become a little fuzzy on who said what and whose Ideas are whose, so this is just a nice summary to refresh my memory. The whole site, in fact, summarises various theorists, and their impacts, and brings some of the ideas together in relation to media studies. I have referred to the section on Judith Butler so many times in the past year or so, I almost know it by heart.

Monday, March 07, 2005

feuding choristers?!?

I am in such an uncomfortable situation right now with a choir that I sing in, but am not researching, specifically. There has been a split in the choir. One half supports the chair lady, who does not like the musical director, and has unceremoniously and unilaterally fired him, and the other half support the musical director. I joined this specific choir because I had sung under the musical director before, and want to continue to do so, and so by default, I support him. I also support him on pronciple. But there is a greater issue at stake here, and that is, why do I, and other members of this choir want to sing in a choir at all? The answer from my side is: it's all about the music. Of course that's what its really all about. But then why don't I just join another choir? One that isn't in the grips of revolution? Because part of what I feel is important about the whole process of singing in a choir like this is integrity. I want to sing in a choir, but I also want to sing good music well, musically and physically/technically. I feel that this particular director is capable of facilitating my doing that. I am interested to know what reasons those who don't support him have.

A ceremony and a concert

Friday saw an interesting field 'outing', in that it was the membership ceremony and first concert of the recently combined choir. It was held in the art gallery of the university, which, while a popular concert venue, is perhaps not ideal as such. there is no space for chairs, and so the friends and family of the choir who attended stood around in a huddle, trying no balance a good view with the need to not jostle or damage the artworks. The room is small, which is great for sound, but affords all but the luckiest audience members little more than a bad view.

But despite the surroundings, the concert and ceremony were a success. The ceremony involved each chorister collecting a candle, and lighting it from a larger candle held by the director, and then placing it on a stand in the general arrangement of the choir benches on which they stand. They were also each given a pledge, and their names, fields of research and hometown were read out. It was a lovely ceremony, and has the potential to be quite touching. It made me think about the way in which loyalty to a body like a choir is actually constructed. Certainly, the element of music plays a role all its own, as the use of, for example, anthems, for non-musical organisations as a way of evoking feelings of loyalty suggest. But beyond that, I have always had a sense that the actual act of singing, and the fact that people are sharing a physical space with sound, and eachother, binds them together, even if only temporarily, in a very evocative way. I have a little speech that I give my choir when I feel its needed that deals with sound activating air particles, and each chorister sharing the use of that air with every other chorister, and with their audience. I use it as a starting point for discussions on musical integrity, where I suggest that because we are sharing such a basic element in such an intimate way, we have a responsibility to our audience and to one another to make the best, most honest use of that possible. It may sound, from the way I've written about it above that it is just some hackneyed bit of rhetoric that I use to get what I want out of the choir, but it really is something I believe in very strongly. Standing in that little art gallery, surrounded by sound and positive energy, as the choir sang after the ceremony, I was reminded of the specific impact of sound itself, and more that that, of vocal sound. It really is enervating and quite moving, and that fact is difficult to explain. Sure, the words, in some instances, are what touch a person, and in other circumstances, a specific music has associations for a person that makes it significant. Sometimes, its just that the music is beautiful, or that it is a particularly skilled choir, or that one is moved by the situation as a whole: being in a performance, at a specific place and time, surrounded by specific people, or within a particular context, but there is something that overides all that extraneous stuff, too. it has to do with the physical act of singing, and blending your voice with the voices of others. It has to do with hearing sound interact with the space you are in, and knowing it comes from the people you are with. It has to do with the act of creation, and recreation, and sometimes, with the simple act of doing, in tandem with others. I still find it amazing, at times, to hear music coming from the complex organism that is my physical body, produced by organs and tissues that are specialised for other purposes, but that just happen to be able to work in tandem in this way. And I find it amazing on occasion to realize that I am contributing to the sound I am hearing. In Hereford Cathedral last August, I sat in a wooden choir bench, and quite literally felt the sound the choir was making through the wood. And then the organ started...

Ok, tangent curbed. Back to the concert. I was so amazed to hear such coherent musical sound after relatively few rehearsals from this choir. The conductor said to me before that there was lots she still wanted to work on, and that it was "rough", and with some effort, I could pick up odd musical elements that needed tightening up. Certainly, the co-ordination of movement in the numbers that employed it could do with work. But more important that all that, a group of people have in no time at all become a choir. Of course, all these people have, as the conductor put it, "musicality," whatever that is, but even with that, I feel that they have achieved something remarkable. It would be interesting to see how a non-select choir fares. Of course, the conductor's role is not to be sneezed at here. But that is the topic for another space.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dancing and singing

My supervisor took issue today with my placing dance under the sub-heading of "Extra-musical features." The thing is, whether or not it is extraneous to music is dependant on the situation. Some music feels wrong without dance, and other music doesn't feel like it can be danced to. In some situations, the first type feels more 'right', and in others, the second fits better. I am busy teaching two 'African' songs to my choir, and I never even entertained the possibility of notmoving to them. For some of the choristers, however, the possibility of having to move and sing simultaneously is terrifying, and a physical struggle. One issue is, of course, that that choir are used to holding their music in front of them as they sing, and that makes moving difficult, if not impossible. I have always had difficulty holding music while I sing. I develop a sore back, and battle for control of my voice when I have music in front of me. When I was in Argentina with the Wits choir, I realised for the first time just how much I do move. Even when I am austensibly standing still, I tap my foot, move my head, sway from side to side, and even bend my knees and back in time to, or in sympathy with, the music. But last night, at the UJ rehearsal, the choir were very still. And my own choir stand very still. The Drakensberg Boys' Choir, on the other hand, move constantly. they sway and bob constantly, and even music that isn't choreographed (as much of their music of all styles is), is hardly still. Singing is such a physical thing. Music is such a physical thing. One of the flute students in this music department moves constantly as she plays, and thinking about it, so do most of the solo musicians I know. And yet, for some people, movement and singing are worlds apart, and difficult to link together. Is dance extraneous to the musical performance? Why do we put such an emphasis on standing and sititng in rehearsals? why do I start every rehearsal with stretching and moving exercises? Why have western choirs traditionally moved so little? Is the text I am working with sound or the whole performance? That last question was really answered for me by choristers bringing what I have hitherto referred to as "extra-musical" features into their discussions of choirs. I some contexts, the issue is the sound, and in others, it is the whole performance. But the fact that the whole performance can influence the sound makes it relevant.

two choirs

Last night brought something of an incongruous experience, as I attended half each of two choir practices. The first was the recently combined choir, who I visited in the capacity of researcher, and the second was a choir that I sing in. The first choir had a camp over the weekend, and were seeing eachother again as a choir for the first time since the camp. The mood was positive and excited, and the tension from the first rehearsal, while still tangible, is diminishing. During the rehearsal, the I joined in the warm-up tentatively from the corner where I was standing, and then went and sat on the end of a row of Sopranos to follow the score when they began rehearsing music. I find when I'm in the situation, the sensations of singing, and of being so close to the sound has a euphoric effect on me. It almost doesn't matter what is being sung, I just want to join in, and I enjoy the experience of singing, and of listening. But my capacity to listen critically is, i think, diminished. I don't always hear 'timbre', or 'intonation', or 'articulation,' untill I listen to the recording at home. The thing about the experience of the rehearsals, though, is that I am remembering why I started singing in choirs in the first place. I know it won't always feel that way, but there is something in the experience that is pleasantly addictive. Perhaps it's really as simple as all that. Perhaps the reason young South Africans sing is choirs is the same reason anyone sings at all. It is physically pleasurable.

The rehearsal that I attended afterwards, though, was far less pleasant, and in fact quite stressful. There is a lot of in-fighting going on with that choir, and that reached a head last night, but perhaps as a result of all of that, the music wasn't the central issue. The physical pleasure of singing is far outshadowed by the discomfort of the situation, and while I still enjoy the sound of the music, and the sensation of using my voice and my body in that way, there is no euphoria. It just reminded me how important the situation and the people involved in the experience are.