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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Late developer

FIRST SINGING LESSON
Like some unwanted old bassoon,
Sad comic of the orchestra,
Conduit of mistaken farts and groans,
Now left to gather attic dust,
Reeds split, keypads unstuck, the case
A velvet nest for mice and memories
Of Bartok and a starring Mozart role,
My voice responded only to a daily round,
Of supermarkets and desultory chat,
Of booking dentists and of movie seats.
An aural calling card but nothing
More, no call for skills or pleasantry.

But under tutelage it stirred at chords,
Aping their sonority. Catching the
Flight of clear soprano s├ęductrice,
Adapted to instructive work.
My God! Such wanton eagerness!
Unhampered by those obstacles
Of hoarseness and of ignorance. This was
Immediacy, a sense that would improve,
That would disgorge the mystic dancing dots,
Their tones, their times, their links to all
Those godlike names and temperaments:
And there’s a jeux de mots to start the course.

Modest repeated echoes of a phrase,
A line, a verse and then the whole damn song,
The voice alone engaged; I left my mind
Behind just then; later I’ll comprehend
How sounds elide, combine and ultimately affect
Those cords – not chords – within the throat,
And I become a child again, helpless yet,
But loving it, the willing victim of a force
That, through adult complicity, tells of a
Language I may speak with competence,
Newly equipped and willing to discourse
About the better side of things.

Note: Rewritten before and after lunch.

7 comments:

mikeM said...

Not just willing to discourse, but giddy. I think sticking with the posh euro stuff is smart for now, lest you get too exuberant. If you delve into African music stay clear of the upbeat stuff. Some blues maybe. I could see you doing some scat too. Call it "exercise".

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: I love "posh Euro stuff"; you're a great wordsmith when it counts. The problem is PES is burned into me yet many will think it represents just more of my self-admitted intellectual snobbery; it isn't but that's a cross I simply have to bear.

Blues, yes, but another problem arises; all my rehearsals, etc, are taken from the score. My memory's poor these days and I need reminders of the instruction. I shudder to think of being faced with:

I we-e-ent down to St James Infirm-a-ry..."

or

I went down to St Ja-a-mes Infirm-ry

and being forced to adopt one or the other simply because it's written down.

Scat's alien I fear; I'm so heavily influenced by the lyric-rich nineteen-thirties that I bleed internally when Ella puts Lorenz Hart through the mincer. Exercise in the sense that enduring fifty lashes might be considered exercise.

PS: I'm reminded often of you up the bell-tower or doing all that mowing and find myself reflecting on the paradox: "a rural New Yorker". Yes, I know NY's a state (the Empire State of all 21st-century burdens) but try telling that to the weisenheimers who hang out at Mindy's (or is it Lindy's?). Do you take on a different accent schlepping through Times Square?

mikeM said...

I've never been to The Big Apple. Too askeert. Been to Beantown a few times. I've assumed a few accents in the past,they can be quite contagious - Trump's putting the "Noo Yawk" thing out of bounds though, rather like Hitler eradicating an entire style of moustache. Toe the score if you must. For now.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Love the song, especially Louis Armstrong's version. The way I've always heard it and sung it (in the shower) is:

Ah wen'down to Sainjaims infirm'ry
An'saw mah bay.....bee dere
etc.

In other news: you said a while back that you can't read music. You must be able to tell what the notes are if you're following the score?

Roderick Robinson said...

Natalie: Not that there's any reason why you should (except you did say you were following the acccount of my singing lessons) I touched on the matter of the score in my first post on the subject:

"But having V accompany me vocally and on the piano meant I could use the score as a rough guide to the details. This is how V got round my inability to read scores."

And subsequently.

In fact, my growing familiarity with musical notation has been a blessing second only to progress with my voice and my musical comprehension. Away from the lessons I practice obsessively and I need some sort of reference. To begin with the score - at the lowest level - shows whether notes go up or down. As I pointed out beginners can, amazingly, fail at even at this basic level:

"I sing symmetrically varying phrases backwards-way round; thus "...for (down) your (up) lack (back down)..." becomes "...for (up) your (down) lack (back up)..."

And after a few minutes of looking at the score, other faults become evident:

"I sing whole words as whole words instead of splitting them up and glueing them to other word parts; eg, "stepped away" where I should have sung "ste... -e- (sustained note rises here)... pta-way".

None of this consists of "reading the score". It's just a matter of understanding what musical notation stands for; the Internet can tell us that. The much more difficult task occurs in trying to implement this new-found info.

PS: There's no definitive way of singing St James Infirmary. But to explain the differences a score can be a help.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Sorry, I should've gone back and re-read what you wrote earlier. Now I understand.

And, when you listen to a recorded performance of a piece you're learning, it must help with getting the phrasing right. Even if there's no definitive way of singing it.

I am indeed following your singing progress with interest.

Roderick Robinson said...

Natalie: Phrasing can be a problem. In learning the Mozart aria I was able to listen to singers on YouTube who more or less followed what's written (though there were some interesting deviations here and there). However the Irish ballad, She Mov'd Thro' The Fair, turned out to be a lot more popular than I'd imagined and there were significant variations among different singers' versions; virtually all of them ignored the long sustained notes which was exactly where I was having problems. Leading me, this afternoon, to order a metronome by express delivery in the hope I can get in some practice against a timing device that doesn't wobble off 80 beats/min unlike the imperfect piece of horlogerie buried in my brain which is a very whimsical fellow. I know, it all sounds distressingly technical but it's got to be learned before I'm entitled to let myself go a little.