Category Archives: Body

The Breath

Singing is placing music on the breath.

Breathing is a matter of never-ending visualization, exercise and practice. We practice by alternating between taking in air slowly and quickly, holding it as long as possible, and regulating its rapid or gradual release. Breathing should not draw attention to itself but be relaxed and effortless. Deep breathing is by nature relaxing to the body. Shallow and quick breathing is invigorating and energizing.

A teacher of mine once suggested that the ultimate goal is to sing through 24 measures on a single breath. Learning how best to breathe is the challenge that every song provides.

Knowing where to breathe is easy when one is singing for words, for then the natural breaks reveal themselves automatically in the cadence of the language. To help me identify the best places to breathe inside a song, I speak the text aloud as I am learning it. As much as skiing is just another way of walking, singing is just another way of talking.

All the air we need to sing with is there. It exists in abundance in the space around our heads, our bodies. And all the time we need for getting the right amount of air is always there as well. Trusting in this comes simply with experience.

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Diction

The enjoyment I get from producing sound, using vowels and consonants, is the motivation behind my diction. To have outstanding articulation and pronunciation, one has feel how words glow, and how to extinguish them by dipping them in light and shadow, how they like to be nuzzled or bitten, accentuated or concealed. One has to understand how to give everything verbal life, color and strength, and then how to let these things die. Diction is all about beginnings and endings of words. Truly majestic tones are born healthy, live strong, and have dignified deaths.


Words

For me, singing and acting are minimally about technique and tone and fundamentally about words and feeling. Before I take on a new work, I have to accept what the text and the tune propose, and to accept the proposal, I must have an unconditionally strong feeling for it. Words are the means through which that feeling is expressed.

Every word has its own life. Every word has its unique form, line, color, sound, body and soul.

I frequently sing in languages foreign to my listeners, so I must use my body, face, mouth, and gesture to contour the mass of meaningless utterances and make something useful and real for the listener. Of course, knowing French may be helpful to one’s experience of “Je ne t’aime pas” but if I as singer am doing my part, it’s utterly unnecessary that you know French. Doing my part requires believing in words, committing to them, opening them up at the core and revealing their emotional essence, the kind that knows no language and binds every man together. The truth can always be conveyed without words.

There are songs I don’t sing because I haven’t yet experienced their meaning, or because I cannot bring anything new to them.

There are songs that are mysterious to me and to which I am powerfully drawn. Songs that beckon me to follow them into new territory and discoveries about myself. Songs that invite me to learn yet another language in which to communicate. Committing to words has required me to become multi-lingual. So far the songs that have found me have come in German, English, Spanish, French, Flemish, Portuguese, Yiddish and Latin.

I sing songs whose words mesh with my experiences and understanding of life, of love, and I believe it’s vitally important to continually broaden these in order to accommodate ever more text and more songs.


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