Thursday, January 14, 2010

885. Talking

Here's a link I've been meaning to post since last September:

Streisand's Fine Instrument and Classic Instinct

I'm not a huge Streisand fan, but appreciate that she's an astonishingly gifted musician. I am in awe of anyone who can admit this:

"Did Ms. Streisand, like an opera singer, think incessantly about breathing deeply from the diaphragm, about using the diaphragm as a natural support for her voice?

'Never,' she said, sitting up straight on a couch in the living room of a friend’s Upper West Side apartment, looking elegant in a dark dress and lacy shoulder wrap. Everything about singing came to her naturally, she explained, adding, a little sheepishly, that she hardly ever does vocal exercises. "

But I was struck by these lines in particular:

"During the lesson [referring to her early voice training--just one lesson] Ms. Streisand got as far as the first line: “When a bee lies sleepin’ in the palm of your hand.” The teacher stopped her. “She said, ‘No, no, you have to say bee-e-e-,’ ” Ms. Streisand recounted, prolonging the word and singing it with a rounded, quasi-operatic tone. “I thought that was unnatural so I told her, ‘No, I have to sing the word as an extension of my speaking.’ ”

I think that that sums up all of singing, whether opera, rock, or chanting Torah, in a nutshell. It's musical talking. The sounds are not just there to be pretty, or to create an entertaining performance, but to say something to whomever is listening. The cantor gave me the same advice when I was first learning how to lead services. Like so many other ideas that seem obvious (i.e., do unto others, etc.) it's remarkably difficult to achieve, and takes a genius like Streisand to make it seem easy.

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