Those of us who deal with singing all have opinions about it. I am very opinionated and not afraid to say so. My opinions about singing have been posted here for nearly six years and have not changed much. I am quite clear about what singing is (to me) and what it seems to be in the world in various styles, and even cultures. Granted, there are probably some kinds of singing I have never heard, but I strive to stay on top of all of what can be found without making the search an end in itself.
In addition to singing, I am interested in speech and in various kinds of non-melodic utterances that we humans make. In fact, if it comes out of someone’s mouth and can be recognized as a sound, I am interested in it. This being so, I have to also, by default, be interested in various kinds of silence.
Most of us do not experience wordless silence unless we are very sleepy or drunk or maybe drugged. The “I’m talking to myself in my head” experience is a hard habit to break. We don’t do that, though, when we are actively listening (like when something grips you in a TV show or movie). Then, of course, we are listening to someone else’s voice in our heads, so it’s not exactly totally silent.
If you walk out in nature, observing the sounds of the breeze in the trees, the birds, and maybe the insects, or the sound of your own footsteps if it’s really quiet, you might not “think” while you do this. Try it sometime. See if you can go longer than 30 seconds without making some verbal comment in your head. See if you can stop thinking altogether and just perceive through your senses. You might understand better what life is like for animals who are certainly present and attentive but do not have “thoughts” (except possibly for some of the animals who have been taught to do a kind of sign language or respond to a verbal command. The jury is out on that so far.)
Contrasting this silence to the sounds we make when we speak, sing, shout or laugh is vital. It allows us to listen without comments going on inside our heads. It is a mark of really listening, hearing the sound, without putting your own mental judgements on it as is occurring. If you want to hear the messages of the sound itself (not the words of a song or story) you have to learn to listen through stillness. It is a profound experience.
You can also learn to do this with your own voice. Make a sound because you can and then another and another, without any purpose whatsoever, and without any specific goal. See what it feels like to live as sound, like a baby does, without regard to anything else.
Then, if you have opinions which you have garnered through years of intellectual inquiry, diligent study and life experience you will understand that you can hold them passionately, take a stand for them and what you believe they mean, and still realize that they are not who you are, they are not right with a capital R, and they are not going to matter 500 years from now to anyone.
Having a vested interest in anything becomes a trap. Stay open. Be open. Let go. You never know what you will discover next.
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