We live in a culture that glorifies violence. In entertainment, it is much easier to portray violence than to show people of the same sex being in a loving relationship. That’s really sad.
In certain circumstances we are up against the contrasting mindsets that promote the dichotomy of vocal empowerment versus vocal violence.
What We Have And What We Want
“Power Over” is an old patriarchal idea. It involves beating the enemy to a pulp, taking no prisoners, smashing the weak and bragging about it. It is the source of war, aggression, domination, suppression, restriction, forced submission, brutal violence and a great deal of pain. “Power From Within” is about empowering a person or a circumstance. It involves allowing someone else to be different from you, seeing others’ opinions as being as worthy as you own, even if you don’t agree. It involves offering support, doing outreach, making it easier for others to thrive and be successful, and allowing freedom on all levels. It embraces the young, the elderly, the ill, the weak, the outcasts and the different. We have made some strides in a few of these areas, but mostly, we operate as a society in a “win/lose” not a “win/win” mentality. If you aren’t with me, you are against me is their mentality. Unconsciousness personified.
Vocal Empowerment Versus Vocal Violence
And, what does either thing have to do with singing? First, we need to look at what kind of singing is being empowered and how we can support the person singing. Then, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a great deal of CCM singing that’s more about domination and submission than personal honesty and expression. That can be said about classical music today, too, in terms of compositions and of productions, particularly operas.
If artists are forced to operate under a “marketing mentality”, where they are asked to surrender artistic vision in order to “be successful” and “make money”, the artist is being subjugated to an outside parameter rather than being empowered to create from his or her own inner vision. When an artist is pressured to sacrifice the health and well-being of their physical body just to be a star, the artist is being sold out at a profound level. That causes a strong likelihood that their mental state will be sacrificed as well. If a vocalist is asked to sing music that is poorly written, outside the comfort zone of reasonable vocal production and is also likely to incur vocal health problems, the singer is being demeaned, even if she doesn’t realize it until she is in the midst of it or after it’s over.
We need to particularly question how women’s (and children’s) voices are handled. Women are more likely to incur vocal damage because of the very violent demands some music places upon the voice and body. In some CCM styles, women are asked to belt the highest possible pitches for sustained amounts of time by composers who write for the voice without understanding it and by producers, managers, and music directors who are more interested in the end result than in the vocal, physical and mental health of the singer. In these circumstances, the singer is a victim of vocal violence. This is real and most often unacknowledged.
In order for the music to be empowered, it must also be empowering to the singers. Individuals who sing need to know their own vocal boundaries, their musical limitations and strengths, and their mental attitudes so as to not be inadvertently swept away by outside pressures. Saying no to vocal violence requires knowledge, based on accurate information that comes from life experience and education. This is the only protection a singer has.
We want vocal empowerment versus vocal violence to be an area of increased awareness in singers because not all the money in the world is worth becoming the victim of vocal violence. Do not support singing that is hurtful in any way. Learn how to empower those artists who do no harm in their art and who make singing expressive, truthful and unique. Stay away from singing that exploits the singer for the sake of fame and glory or money and recognition over personal integrity. Learn to tell the difference. Where you find vocal violence, particularly in women and children, do whatever you can to object to it or bring it to an end.