Have a happy eclipse day!
We would be remiss to pass up an opportunity to utilize the solar eclipse for, well, any reason that we might drum up, but while walking on the beach yesterday, inspiration settled in kind of like a large celestial body waving its mass in front of the sun. We've enjoyed success with talking about the difference between vowel shape and vowel perception. Vowel shape is the physical shape of the vocal tract, and vowel perception is how the receiver interprets the sound made by that shape. Noting the difference can be essential to understanding the wide variety of options voice users have at any given moment, and can be incredibly freeing.
So. . .how is that like the eclipse, you ask? Or maybe it's already occurred to you that when the moon blocks out the sun, the sun doesn't go away, we simply perceive darkness. Ergo, the sun shining along, casting its light about the solar system equates to our vowel shape, which itself does its thing regardless of how people perceive it, while the eclipsed sun, like the perceived vowel, depends ultimately upon the individual's understanding of the event.
Have a happy eclipse day!
We had such a fun time talking with Dave Stroud and his co-hosts on this episode of Sing-Talk.
"In this episode, we put out vocal geek hats on and talk with vocal experts Dr. David Harris and Laurel Irene, both of whom are talented classically-trained vocalists in their own right. We explore the science and culture behind the different way of using the voice in both singing and talking."
Check it out here ~ http://sing-talk.com/singtalk-episodes
C3LA: The Los Angeles Choral Collective, is the third of its kind, and one of four choral collectives in the C4 Network. When I first moved to New York in 2009, I found C4, the first choral collective, and knew that I had to be a part of it. In a nutshell, these groups are a cluster of professional musicians from different backgrounds (singers, composers, and conductors) who collectively run a choral ensemble proving that the "choir dictator" model is outdated at the least. It's a fantastic and fun way to make music. When I moved to Boston, I found some interested colleagues and began Triad: Boston's Choral Collective, which is still going strong. Laurel and I were flirting with the idea of moving to Los Angeles when a friend from C4 who had recently moved to LA asked what I thought about starting another one, and that helped tip the scales on moving west.
One of the things that sets C3LA apart from the others is their interest in voice science. Not that the others weren't interested, but that one of the greatest challenges in a choral collective is determining what the sound of the group will be/can be. In the other groups, we struggled to put language to it due mostly to everyone's disparate voice training backgrounds. C3LA has enthusiastically opened themselves to the idea that voice science provides a means to create a common language around what the voice can do with new music. Oh yeah, all of the choirs in the C4 Network only perform music written in the last 25 years. The cool thing about new music is that composers have begun to understand that the voice can create so many wonderful sounds, and they are asking for those sounds to be performed. With voice science in our corner, C3LA has been able to begin to open new doors into sound creation, and the sky is the limit! This week we begin preparations for our fourth concert that will close our first full season during which we've brought 10 new pieces to the stage for the first time, and sung 30 others for the second or third time.
David conducting C3LA on Nilo Alcala's
"Three Kalinga Chants" in a March, 2017 concert.
Fahad Siadat conducting C3LA on David's
"Sense/Nonsense" in a March, 2017 concert.
As April winds its way toward May, just over a year after we began VoiceScienceWorks, our Facebook page reached 1000 likes, our newsletter is going strong at 700 recipients, and the website averages 5000 views a week with a high water mark of 10,000 recently. A year ago we weren't sure who would care or what would become of our experiment, we just knew that we needed to share what we had started, and hope that it meant something to someone. The people that we've met, the chances we've had to grow and share, and the community that we've been able to strengthen through our explanations, images, and promotion of other vocology activities has opened up our lives in beautiful ways, reminding us of Goethe's unending quote "What you can do, or dream you can, begin it: Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
In early April we headed out to Racho Cucamonga to present for the choirs at Chaffey College, and their fantastic director, Dr. David Rentz. Having worked so deeply with choirs, we always feel a special kind of homecoming when we get to bring voice science into the choral setting. The Chaffey choirs were eager, attentive, and accomplished. The information came at them quickly in our brief two-hour session, and they soaked it in. Perhaps the most interesting part of choral presentations is getting to have them sing, and getting to see the changes that come to them as they begin to employ voice science. The difference is immediate. You can hear it in their voices, see it on their faces, and enjoy the confidence bounce that they feel from having new, clear language to apply to their voice practice.
David Rentz commented on the event saying that "David and Laurel came to Chaffey College, a California Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, to work with my choirs. They were intense and rigorous, but also engaging and exceedingly good-humored. They took my students where they found them and helped them grow in their understanding of the physiology of the voice—with all that entails—and to curate and augment their personal singer toolboxes. My singers sing better and better as a result of their VoiceScience workshop—I can’t imagine an afternoon better spent."
At the end of March we hopped in the car and made our way up to San Francisco for a weekend of workshops with Vocology in Practice and to perform with our friend Michael Conley and his beautiful choir at Calvary Presbyterian Church. It was a brilliant weekend.
The Vocology in Practice crew are an affiliation of voice people from many disciplines striving to more fully understand and implement new research and practices into their own work. In addition to hearing multiple presentations from people across the field including Ingo Titze and Karin Titze Cox, Michael Goodrich, Ana Flavia, and Alex Kariotis, we gave a presentation on ways to bring vocology into lessons in fun and inviting ways. Everyone there had experience with acoustics and anatomy, so we were able to go a little more quickly than normal. They seemed to love the way we explained harmonics and formants, and in particular, the visuals that we use. They lit up, though, when we began to delve into technology, showed vocal acoustics in action, and brought out some of the Ian Howell-inspired psychoacoustic ideas. We had a great time, and very much enjoyed getting to know that community of accomplished and creative musicians.
On Sunday morning, we had the pleasure of singing with Michael Conley. He asked Laurel to sing the 5th movement soprano solo from Brahm's iconic "German Requiem", and I got to conduct so that he could play part of the four-hand piano arrangement. Laurel's voice soared, and brought people to tears through the deep passion of Brahms' music. Conducting Calvary's responsive and emotionally connected choir in concert with Laurel and two fantastic keyboard players was a treat. The weekend was a reminder of the beauty of music, connection, and the joy of opening our lives to the creative power of sharing.
On the weekend of March 24th, I had the pleasure of attending a celebration for one of my DMA mentors, Dr. Joan Catoni-Conlon. As a part of the weekend, I presented a lecture on vocal acoustics to faculty, graduate students, and community members. The lecture was enthusiastically received, and a delight to have a chance to share what I've been learning with "my people" since having left CU over a decade ago. There are few pleasures in life like reuniting with people that you used to create and learn with. Singing for Joan next to my Colorado colleagues reminded me of how important community is, and how fortunate I am to have found community with so many beautiful people.
Among the comments about the acoustics presentation, Allison Zema, a graduate student at CU said "I enjoy that the website is such an amazing resource. It was informative and very much needed for any choral conductor and singer. Also, I am a changed woman after trying straw phonation!" Bill Rawsky, an long-time avocational singer said that he "found it helpful, clear and insightful even to me as an amateur non-academic singer."
“I don’t think I can do any more”
“But we’re so close!”
“Yes, but I can’t see straight, and my body is stuck to this couch.”
“Hmmm, I see what you mean. Why don’t we go get a pizza and some ice cream and see if we can push through?”
And so we wandered out into a cold, wet Boston evening, shaken awake by an arctic blast as we wandered to the corner pizza place. Two hours later, a year ago this week, crosseyed from staring at the computer for two long days of final content creation, we popped a tiny bottle of champagne as we launched the website, and voicescienceworks.org was officially born.
Laurel and I had discussed the idea a couple of years before, only a few days after we first met. Since then, we had developed a team-based series of mini-lectures, and a process for rolling them out in a collegiate choral setting such that in very little time (“Ten Minutes a Day, Twice a Week”), we had seen our group of mostly un-trained young singers deepen in their ability to functionally use their voices, and, explain why what they were doing worked.
The other motivation that we felt was that vocology had improved our ability to enjoy singing, and had given us clarity, a goal that before had seemed unachievable in the voice world. Yet, finding information about vocology was incredibly difficult. There were books, sure, we had read some, and courses, which we had attended, but clarity came at the price of ample time commitment and resources. We wanted the world to have other options.
So we took the lectures that we had created and began to turn them into brief, accessible content that even a novice could read in a short sitting. We also set out to help advertise other people’s efforts in vocology, helping to connect the web resources and scholarship that we had found thus far, and that has been developing at a surprising rate over the last year. In the final touch, we started a newsletter so that within the vast amounts of information that was out there, we could highlight small portions each month for people to digest and enjoy.
The mission statement that we drafted recently to describe what VoiceScienceWorks is says that VoiceScienceWorks provides educational opportunities based in contemporary voice science research, creates forums to help empower all voice users to express their vocal aspirations, and demonstrates models for inclusive voice learning. We provide free access to the abundance of new and developing information about the voice, translate contemporary voice research into directly applicable formats, and help vocalists apply this research into sensations directly experienced while vocalizing.
One of my most thrilling experiences this year was assigning individual pages of the website to my collegiate voice students, and watching how quickly they were able to use knowledge that took me years to put into practice.
The last year has been filled with so many opportunities to share, and explore with people around the world what the voice can do. We’ve enjoyed teaching workshops, meeting incredibly generous and driven people who believe that a healthy, functional voice is not only everyone’s right, but also achievable, and watching thousands of people each week access the content that we’ve posted. It’s been a joyful and humbling experience.
Thanks to everyone who has been a part of it, and Happy Year One VoiceScienceWorks!
The USC studenet chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing hosted a workshop during which David presented ways in which target practice and gamification can be used to bring vocology to life. Those present enjoyed creating life-sized model larynges, playing with technology, and other fun, instructive, ways to dig into dense material. Many commented that the playful nature of how the information was presented helped them turn off their critical mind and let the information sink in. Further, the practice of creating and playing the game meant that they had to exercise their knowledge in a hands-on fashion, that led them to be able to more accurately describe it after the fact. The experience of moving back-and-forth between learner and teacher mode was another highlight that they all enjoyed.
In November we had the pleasure of presenting at Oregon State University, Laurel’s Alma Mater. The weekend included a voice science workshop for the OSU undergraduate students, and a concert on which Laurel was a featured soloist. In addition to the joy of being at the old stomping ground, and getting to reminisce with Laurel’s OSU mentors, we got to experience the added boost that comes with being a part of building up the place that helped to raise you. The students were engaged for the entirety of the 3-hour late night session, and several even expressed interest in studying vocology formally as a part of their graduate degrees. The OSU faculty, all of whom are successful, informed teachers, were gracious and supportive. It’s wonderful to see more colleges starting to employ vocology in more formal ways, and a delight to get to be a part of sharing information and techniques to help people build their voices.
Here's what some of them had to say:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.