How do you know if you are singing from your heart?
Seems like a simple question, no?
How does one determine what heart-felt singing is? Do you really know that you are singing from your heart when you are? What does that mean?
Of course, you can’t define this experience. You can write about it. You can talk about it. You can contemplate it. What you can’t do is capture it. Nevertheless, if you sing from your heart, and you are seeking to sing from your heart, the experience is unique and unmistakable.
These days there is a lot of singing out there that is anything but heart-felt. It is all kinds of other things: loud, aggressive, insipid, boring, harsh, overblown, mechanical, stilted….it goes on. Rarely do you hear someone singing in a way that is moving because it is transparently honest. The words or tune seems to arise effortlessly and the emotion behind the singing is present and palpable.
How do you know if you are singing this way? If you are singing in front of a live audience, they will let you know. You might even make some of them cry. I cried at lot at various performances. You could count on me to cry when I heard Leontyne Price or Luciano Pavarotti live. I have cried at performances of other styles of music, too, but not as often. Sometimes live Gospel singing will do that to me. It depends on the singer.
I don’t think you can get to this experience by deciding to get to it. I think it happens unselfconsciously when the vocalist is completely immersed in the music and is “carried away” by it. I think that the vocalist almost forgets that she is singing and is in some way just riding on the music as music. It is as if the song sings itself. It tells the throat what to do and the throat responds. It’s like riding on the perfect wave.
Would that there was more singing like this in the world at large! It would so help us to transform the planet. There is so little of our society that focuses on deep, lasting beauty — not the kind that’s only on the outside. The kind that shines out from within as that which is best in humanity and in life. Real beauty is timeless and placeless. It is truthful and simple. It is humble and present but lasting and great in the sense of profound.
This kind of singing has nothing directly to do with fame, success or wealth. It does not have to have anything to do with popularity but sometimes it does interact with all of these things. This kind of singing carries its own power and although it has to be nurtured, even protected, it isn’t static or precious. It is sturdy and contained. That’s what allows it to be shared with generosity and joy.
If you do not know what I’m writing about here, reading this won’t help you much. What could help would be going to live performances, or perhaps listening to records that haven’t been too doctored up electronically, as you might just bump into it that way. If you do know what I’m writing about, congratulate yourself. It is a rare enough experience these days and one to cherish.
Let us all always seek music from the heart wherever and whenever it can be found.