On Singing

Right, this is a subject I can actually talk about without looking like an idiot! At least, it's a subject I think I can talk about without looking like an idiot...did a bit of theory, I sing a bit (passed my Grade 7 with distinction not too long ago) and I listen to a lot of music.

Recently, while walking across Hampstead Heath, Linden Lea (an art song by Ralph Vaughan Williams) popped into my head and I haven't been able to get it out of there since. So, being me, I went to look for it on youtube...and promptly ran into Sturgeon's Law in action. I don't think I've found a single solo version that I liked. (Hell, I even tried to sing it myself to get the general gist, but my voice is absolutely horrible so that failed.) You see, Linden Lea is perhaps not the easiest of songs - finding a decent place to breathe is a bit difficult, for a start - but it's also not one that requires many fancy tricks or vocal shiny, which is what I see in a fair few of the recordings. This is not to say that I prefer somewhat flat, almost immature voices; I just want to hear a simple, pure voice at the height of its powers, not bullshit attempts to spice it up.

I didn't grow up in a tradition of flashy singing; I started singing semi-seriously in a school that encouraged (and encourages) anyone to take part in music, and anyone of moderate ability or higher to take part in amateur, informal concerts; in school competitions, the standard ranged and ranges from beginners stopping and starting in their pieces to talented musicians looking to make it a career. And in all those years of listening and performing, my favourite singers weren't the bland, generically good-looking sixth formers who sounded interchangeable, or the scholar with the sickeningly sweet voice, or the sixth form girl who still sounded like a child. (They've all left now, none of them gave a flying fuck about me beyond knowing that I existed, and I don't particularly trust any of them to not be two-faced, so I can say what I like.) No, my favourites were the ones that sang simply and purely, with full voices and a well of emotion behind each word. In a way, the lack of that is what annoys and saddens me most; the lack of simple truth, authenticity and musicality even when singing a folk song. (No, breathing audibly on the recording doesn't count as being authentic.) Instead it's been replaced by superficial tricks that people go gaga over.