Many people feel intense anxiety and fear when asked to speak or sing in front of others. Why is this? The voice is an intimate expression of who we are, and many of us have been silenced or made to feel shut down in our lives. Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, wrote about the development and loss of voice, saying that many individuals, progressively as they get older, lose touch with their vocal freedom. Campbell wrote, "We learn to be unsure and afraid of our natural powers." Read on...
Have you ever been told not to sing? Have you ever been discouraged to pursue a passion or dream by another because they told you it wasn’t realistic or possible? Have you ever felt like someone just wasn’t listening? I have heard so many personal stories of people being silenced in their lives. Often the most significant silencing happens when we are very young, and these experiences live in us for years.
Music therapist Diane Austin (2008) wrote about the silencing that children, and ultimately adults, suffer from saying, “Sometimes this silence takes the form of withdrawing into a private world. . . . Sometimes the silence is selective; some things are allowed to be talked about, some feelings are allowed expression and others clearly not. Sometimes the silence is loud; words and feelings tumbling out but fall on dead ears or are beaten down and stifled. Needs and feelings remain unmet and the voice becomes inaudible, tight and tense, breathy and undefined, or simply untrue. . . . In essence, a wounded person often survives by forfeiting his or her own voice” (p. 24). Read on...
One of my close friends who I sing with is four months pregnant. The other day she had a gathering to honor this new life growing inside her. At one point in the evening the entire room full of people were singing in harmony together. Now that’s a lucky baby!
Alfred Tomatis (1991), a French physician and early pioneer in the field of sound healing, studied the connection between the voice and hearing and became fascinated with the sonic realm of the fetus before birth. Initially in the early 1950s, Tomatis was inspired by the work of V. E. Negus who found that baby birds still in the egg whose mothers did not sing, when hatched also did not sing. Read on...
I’ve been performing for many years and singing songs on stage is something I have done more times then I can count. The other night I performed with a group of improv singers, Kiadisa where it’s all about being in the moment. There is nothing scarier then stepping onto a stage with nothing planned, no songs already written, no words, only possibility, openness, and a willingness to experiment. This experience of vocal improvisation reminds me so much of everyday life, exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. This video showcases a duo number, where two of us got up with a blank slate. The characters that came through us surprised me. I realized that night after the show, there really isn’t anything better then taking a chance and experiencing a new part of myself. Kiadisa will be performing again on April 7th in Los Angeles at The Talking Stick.
Here is a silent vocal exercise that will take you just five or ten minutes. Write a letter to your voice. Pull out a piece of paper or even a napkin, whatever you like to write on. Simply write, “Dear Voice...” and try not to censor what comes through you, just write. Take this opportunity to communicate with the parts of your voice that are still hiding and invite them to come out of the shadows. Our voice and how we express it in the world is simply an extension of our self and our creative energy. Let this be a letter of encouragement. Ask for what you need, for what you want, and for what you secretly long for in your life. Let this letter be a chance to clarify your visions. Roar or whisper onto the page.
Once the letter is finished, put it in an envelope and address it to yourself. Then put it in the care of a close friend and ask them to send you the letter in six months time. Choose someone who will remember!
I have done this both personally and introduced it numerous times in my workshops. There is really something quite profound about receiving a letter from yourself. We offer compassion to others so easily, but we often miss giving our own voice the wisdom and encouragement it deserves.
In The Archetypal Imagination, psychologist and Jungian analyst James Hollis wrote,"The ultimate end of depth psychology is to stand respectfully before inner truth and dare to live it in the world. What blocks each of us is fear—fear of loneliness, fear of rejection, and most of all, fear of largeness. We are all afraid to move from the confining powers of fate into the invitations of our destiny, afraid to step into the largeness of our calling to be who we were meant to be" (p. 104).
Ask yourself silently for a moment, "How am I still playing it small in my life? How am I still limiting my own voice in the world?"
Be honest, report back to me! Let's dialogue about this. There is nobody else but yourself with the full power to take a step today towards your calling. I know for myself today, it's going to be to sit down at the piano. Just that commitment to my own music, floods me with energy and life. So simple, yet so easy to ignore and put off. Crucial to listen to our soul callings. Crucial to find a way to give them voice in our lives!
I returned last week from a vocal improvisation workshop on Kona with one of my favorite vocal improvisers, Rhiannon. We were 14 singers from all over the world and the constant crashing, singing waves. The music we made was made in the moment and what an amazing experience to blend our many voices. It was a collage of rich sounds and they continue to echo through the corridors of my body!
Improvisation is edgy and essential. Life is an improvisation whether we want to see it that way or not. We all do it every day of our lives, in every moment, but we forget. Vocal improvisation is an opportunity to remember just how alive we really are. When we step, jump, leap, lean out of our comfort zone and into unknown territory an abundance of new energy rushes in.
Behold the bravery in being a beginner! I do a lot of vocal improvisation in the singing circles and workshops I offer because I find that it really allows us to rewrite the stories we've told ourselves about our voice, how well we sing, how we sing etc. and move into a more fully engaged relationship with OUR voice.
Getting vocal carries us out into the open waters of our selves, where we have an opportunity to explore the depths of our imagination and to examine the patterns, thoughts, and beliefs that may be keeping us from reaching our greatest potential!
Within each of us lies an infinite playground, a dark night filled with shooting stars, and a vast sea of mystery. Life is creating us as we are creating it....
The creative current must be allowed to do what it does, moving in a continuous swelling and receding, spiraling, pulling and lifting manner. When we let go of the past and the future and surrender to the present moment, we begin to experience what the unconscious imaginal sea of ourselves wishes to say.