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Structured Muck

I went to a singing-focused Fitzmaurice Voicework workshop in New York last weekend, and wouldn’t you know it – I learned something.

Each person had an individual coaching in front of the rest of the group. When it was my turn, I began, comfortably and confidently, to sing my prepared song (Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, in case you’re curious) and the teacher, Joey Bates, stopped me. ‘It sounds kind of sing-y,’ he said. Oh dear, I’ve heard that before. My interpretation/translation: I’m singing too carefully, so that the sound and the notes are as close to perfect as I can muster.

This is how I protect myself.

It’s easier, though painstaking, to aim for perfection than to allow the truth of myself (gulp!) and all my imperfections (double gulp!!) to be seen. Rejecting my performance of projected perfection, Joey worked with me to get down into the deep well of muck that is my true self. I did a leg tremor to shake my breath and body loose, and he moved my neck around and poked into some pressure points, and before long I was crying. Not ‘this is so scary’ or ‘I’m so embarrassed’ crying, but the cry of the pre-verbal muck that lives in my body being released. (Fear not, friends, you have this muck too.)

And then I had to sing again! Well, I could barely string together two words, much less on specific pitches and durations. Here, I realize, is where my work lies. I need to better learn how to structure – use my breath in a specific, efficient, directed way – so I can sing the notes and words that the composer wrote,  while in the muck. You see, that’s where the gift of it is. My connection to the muck of myself, and my willingness to reveal it, are the stuff that moves people.

Perfection can only impress, but allowing your audience to see your muck is, well, a revelation. 


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