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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Steep stuff

And now the grind, except I must not see it as that. Doing so closes off the route to those eminences far higher than the Himalayas (mere physical excrescences): the range that includes Mounts Leporello, Marschallin and Erlk├Ânig.

It is V's job to teach. Her encouragement continues but mixed with less welcome matters. I am asked to reproduce continuous mounting and descending triads with octaves (doh-me-so-doh; doh-so-me-doh) legato style - ie, without gaps. Easy-peasy, I used to do this quite plausibly on the trumpet, moving up a note at a time.

But what's this? V tells me me that I sharpen the descending "so". By something less than a semitone, to be sure, but in music, just as in affairs between men and women, there is no such thing as "slightly" pregnant. And, a few minutes later, V unintentionally re-makes the point by filling the room with a sustained, powerful and glorious mid-range note of her own making that fictitious range of peaks seem much more distant.

But how can I rectify this fault practising on my own at home? Who's to guide me? I acquire recording software, and sing my Ghanaian warm-up song, Tu-we tu-we, Barima tu-we tu-we, into the computer. After ten goes all the notes sound to be there but it isn't really music - more the sound of a robot still in nappies (US: diapers).

I must be careful not to be despondent; there is progress and I know it. But that resounding soprano note - say, middle C - I heard days before in Little Dewchurch still echoes in my ears. I must have faith, and in so many ways. And this time it's not to be found in words I string together.


  1. I suggest keeping this definition of "steep" in mind:

    "Surround or fill with a quality or influence" (oxforddictionaries.com)

  2. MikeM: Very thoughtful of you - I really appreciate it. Wordy comfort to replace the lack of musical comfort. The recordings bring nothing but bad news: wavering sustained notes, non-musical sounds either end of the central octave, a strange, unnatural tone of voice in what I imagined to be my heroic rendering of O Isis Und Osiris. If I were a dilapidated building requiring repair I guess the architect would be seriously thinking of demolition followed by starting again from scratch.

    A salutary experience: whereas V is capable of witholding the whole truth in order to encourage me, the computer cannot. A time to grit my teeth. Progress once imagined to be leaping ahead a furlong at a time, will now be measured (Well let's hope there is progress!) sub-millimetrically.

  3. Is there ever progress without hardship, pain, difficulty? Getting from A to Z is a long and winding road. Even starting from somewhere closer to Z, if, as in your case, one isn't exactly a beginner in the musical mountain climbing expedition.

  4. Many, if not most people cringe at the sound of their own voice in "playback". It's an unusual experience (until it becomes a usual one), and my "tone of voice" always sounds unnatural to me in recordings, speaking OR singing.

  5. Natalie/MikeM: I note the times you both wrote: N at twenty-to-ten in the evening and M at quarter-to-one in the morning, both of course GMT. But neither exactly "mainstream" parts of the day. I don't know why that's a comfort but it is.

    Before this current contretemps I'd acknowledged the points you've both made in a post called "Did I really think it would be easy?" but did so jokingly, fully convinced I was doing well. Which I was; the error lay in what I imagined to be my rate of progress. In absolute terms it's about what any normal person would expect.

    After posting the above I had a think. No problem about the lessons: I do what I'm told and can hear the improvements. But what about the other six days of the week? Something other than blind repetition, obviously. I decided to address the wobbly sustained notes that are such a pain to listen to. The wobbles can be driven out by gradually increasing the volume but I'm sure this is cheating. Even so it sounds better. Better breath control also helps. Strange how easy it is to forget to breathe when I'm concentrating on three of four other things at the same time.

    The tone of voice is awful - a pompous, magisterial sound as if I were sending someone down for six months for stealing a Vauxhall Corsa. It goes away to some extent if I reduce the volume but the net result ceases to be singing. (I am well aware of how alien my recorded voice sounds having worked for a year on a magazine called Tape Recording Fortnightly, many years ago). Qualified restraint may be the answer. Meanwhile the heartless computer remains my friend - a tough friend, you might say.

    Thanks for your support.

  6. Ah, breathing. Yes. A singer I once knew told me he'd taken up tai chi lessons to help with the breathing. I'm cheering you on (not in that Midwestern way with pom-poms and short skirts and puffy hair, but rather with an appreciative ear and a quality ale in my hand so that I can yell Prost!).

  7. RW (zS): Hey, I need all the help you can give me. If that means pom-poms and puffy hair don't necessarily rule them out.