Finished the book I was reading, How Can We Keep From Singing. To quote Tabatha D’Umo, half of the hip hop choreographing duo on “So You Think You Can Dance”… “Awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome.”

Favorite Parts:

“So much of what we perceive as failure is really just being in the wrong tessitura, struggling for the notes we “ought” to be able to sing, or stubbornly holding on to a way of life that no longer fits.”

There is a chapter on “tessitura,” which is a musical term that she, the author (Joan Oliver Goldsmith), applies to the everyday life. Tessitura is area on the staff where the majority of the notes are most common in a piece, not to be confused with Range, the highest and lowest note in a piece. Vocalists should choose pieces where the tessitura lies in their strongest notes.  An alto attempting a solo where the notes are above the staff will not to be easy for her to sing, nor will it be easy for an audience to listen to.

Tessitura is very similar to an identity with adaptation. The author explains it, in musical terms, of course, that a clarinet and a trumpet can play a lot of the same notes, but a clarinet playing a trumpet fanfare would be unlikely, though interesting. I best relate to it a comfort zone, a place I’m far too familiar with…but that is a discussion for another time.

I really thought about this idea a lot, because as my toughest critic, I know when I don’t play my best that I never search for reasons why I played the way I did. Regarding my bass playing, it could be something as little as wearing the wrong shoes paired with the height of my bass. It may not seem like a huge difference, but it’s throwing my hand and fingers into an unknown area centimeters away from where they should have been living. Or a better example is playing in thumb position, a technique I’m still being introduced to. Sure, the bass is fully capable of playing those notes. Am I fully capable of playing them? Not yet. Thumb position was previously not part of my bass-tessitura, but it is slowly working it’s way in.

” ‘I dreamt about the four of us last night,’ I said. ‘I was going somewhere very important, changing my life, leaving everything behind. They told me I could bring two treasures with me. Just two.’
‘Which two of us did you pick?’ cried Sandra with melodramatic dismay.
‘I chose laughter and music. Which is just another name for you guys.’ ”

I thought it was interesting that this chapter was titled “Quartet Building.” It never crossed my mind that it would be about friendship, a subject I hold strong beliefs on and am extremely passionate about, as opposed to vocal quartet groups. The author recalls a trip to Aspen with her choir where they were performing major works at a well known music festival. She ended up carpooling and rooming with three other women, all of whom she was not familiar with both inside and outside of rehearsals. Long story short, the four quickly bonded and though they eventually were separated geographically, they have remained close after several years.

Of course I was instantly reminded of my chamber group’s trip to the ACDA Conference in Louisville, Kentucky this past March. It was not a mandatory event, so only 10 of the 16 members went. It was quite a bonding experience for the ten of us, as we encountered several unusual and unfortunate situations, the most unfortunate being snowed in without our conductor, who had to leave the night before due to a family emergency. (AND he also is the one that told me about this book, just as a fun fact.)

Like the author, I became closer with three of the girls on this trip. Sure, I had already gotten to know them for a little more than a semester, but after this trip we were inseparable. The four of us just clicked so well, and as the author points out, it’s because friendships often have a common currency, which in this case is Music. The four of us chose to attend this conference regardless that we missed classes and had to make up tests all because we have a love for choral music. And an added bonus, we loved to laugh! (Another reason why I LOVED that quote…it perfectly describes us.) On choir tours to come the four of us roomed together, leading to endless amounts of great talks, inside jokes, uncontrollable laughter, and music to last us the rest of the semester. I’m extremely greatful for these girls, and I really thank God for their friendships. I know one day they’ll read this and give me the “Aww Treatment,” which I hate, but they a really wonderful people and I am so happy to have them in my life.

“What does it matter? How could it possibly matter, whether we sing a chord in tune? I say it does. I say that each passionate, precise note is an act of defiance and a prayer…Music can pray for peace…Therefore, we might well conclude that music is a force for good.”

What a quote. Reading that at a time of my own personal search for spirituality was very relieving. I am constantly acknowledging how blessed I am to be given such a gift of music, but I never thought of music as prayer itself. I need to give it some more thought, being that I only finished the book 4 hours ago, but that should be a fun discovery.

That’s all on that for now. I can’t believe I have read two books this summer. That’s two more than I used to! I think I’ll go pat myself on the back for that.