Monday, January 18, 2010

Bach to Baroque

What a terrible, music-dork/jerk title.

But whatever. It effectively conveys the theme of the gig I did last night over at Eastman (hells yes!).

A dear professor over at SU asked me to sing a few pieces on his organ recital there. First off, let me say right now that of all the instruments in existence that I like, the organ is waaay down at the bottom of the list (right above clarinets...shudder).

I do not like the organ.

I mean, the organ, the instrument, not the organ, the...(oh no, stop right there, Em! Your mother-in-law reads this!)

Aaanyway, regardless of my feelings about the organ, singing is singing, and singing at Eastman is a big deal. So I did it.

It turned out to be really great, because this organ was not the usual organ. It was an organ from the late-seventeenth/early-eighteenth century, and was much cooler than modern organs. It made bird sounds if you wanted it too. Very cool, and for several minutes, very confusing.

Moreover, the organ was in the Baroque gallery of the Memorial Art Gallery, so it was at the end of this lovely room, surrounded by truly fantastic Baroque paintings. The collection was beautiful, they had El Grecos and Tintorettos and lots of other fantastic things.

Here's a picture of the organ:

And here's a picture of the gallery:

So to sing in this room with this organ, surrounded by artwork from the time period in which the music you are singing was composed, was a fabulous experience.

And all this relaxing practice I've been doing, all this yoga and meditation and painting? It's totally paid off in my performing. It's like I've been gathering my forces and honing my concentration and emotion. I felt more confident last night than I ever have. For the first time I felt like a real singer, because I wasn't bogged down by all the negative, scary crap that has been going through my mind for years and years.

All I wanted to do was keep breathing, trust my practice, and wrap my energy around the audience and bring them with me to the places the music would take us.

I suspect it was one of my best performances.

Also, it seems that every time I literally run out of money some more falls from the sky. This was an unpaid gig, but they ended up giving me a $200 honorarium. Not enough to pay off debts and larger bills, but enough to keep going, to eat and pay for gas. And when I run out of that, more will appear. It's happened so many times now that I'm sure of it.

So, it's back to serious music for me. From Santa Lucia and the Godfather theme to Bach and Mozart.

What a fabulous life.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lots of New Things

You guys, it's been a crazy week of newness. Yesterday I did so many new, weird things that it made my head spin. I was exhausted-I slept for 10 hours! But let's start at the beginning:

New experience one: Two days ago I went to Lowes, that bastion of man-ness, by myself. I bought some sort of board/wood stuff (unfortunately I am not manly enough to remember what it was), had them cut it, and picked out and bought paint. Then I had them load everything into my car, and I had to put the seats down to fit stuff in (you can do that)!

I became a maven of hauling Big Stuff around. I felt pret-ty cool. And for the last two nights I've been working on my new GIANT ART PROJECT, which is also a new experience for me. (Oh wait-by the way, Yukes, if you're reading this, I'm going to make a giant wall hanging which will now take up a wall of our living room.)

New experience 2: I did voice-over work. I thought "this should be easy, I'll just talk and I have a nice voice. Easy money!"


It was really hard. They couldn't quite get the quality they were looking for, so I kept getting suggestions like "pretend you're talking to a 14-year-old about this thing that is just going to change her life." Then I had to look at a microphone and weird sound thing and say corny phrases that really made me want to gag, whilst pretending to be really excited and talking to an innocent young girl.

Thank goodness for acting classes.

In the end they got what they were looking for, and asked if I was available for more jobs. I was. Perhaps a new portion of my career looms.

New experience 3: My friend Katherine, of the ex-roommate and cat blogs, came with me to a devotional chanting thing at a yoga studio here in Ithaca. What's devotional chanting, you may ask? Well, I didn't know, but it sounded like something straight out of Eat, Pray, Love, and I wanted to be a part of it.

What it turned out to be was this musical ensemble who composed music set to old, mostly Sanskrit chants. The chants were either call-and-response or simple melodies that were sung over and over. The idea, as I believe the idea with most chanting is, is that the vibrations of the holy words when spoken over and over will set up a new vibration within yourself,.

I thought, "Awesome!"

Then it started, and that thought turned to "uh-oh." Maybe I'm overly sensitive from my childhood experiences, but I started to get a distinct Christian Gathering feel. You know, people talking gently and being a little too happy and contented and full of the spirit, complete with outstretched hands and closed eyes. The music was also of the mediocre, new-age Christian type (let's all sing with this guitar together in praise!). I wasn't expecting Mozart, but I guess I thought the music would be more...Eastern.

And the people were mostly of the Ithacan Hippie-type. It is very hard to describe this kind of person. Imagine a woman who makes and sells pottery and wears loose clothing with pastel watercolor prints on it and dangly earrings and is probably a vegetarian and does Yoga and meditates and shops at the local co-op and is always serene and happy and full of love. Now, there are a lot of things about the Ithaca Hippie that are good and positive, but get lots of them in a room together and my angry Jersey Girl starts to suffocate and...well, get more angry.

So I was skeptical, but then the music became less new-agey and sped up, and the room slowly became a whirling dervish of people dancing and singing and the drums got faster and faster and it was sort of fun. It was fun to watch the people dancing and see the joy on their faces. And joy is inevitably contagious. At one point I did feel the room sort of...thrumming. It was kinda cool. Plus there was this ancient man sitting on the floor in front of us who was so adorable. He couldn't dance, but he would rock back and forth and flap his arms up and down to the music. More than anyone else, his movements were full of pure delight, even though they were limited. He was so much fun to watch.

But then after each song had slowed down again and ended, people kept their eyes closed and were silent for a bit, I guess to really feel the spirit, and I again ended up thinking "this is a bit much."

We left after two hours, and they were only halfway done with all the chants on the sheet.

One more story about this: At one point the lead singer of the ensemble was thanking everybody who had made the CD possible, and she thanked "Hawk" for something and gestured to the back of the room.

I fully expected to turn and see a hugely-muscled, angry, steroid-filled bodybuilder with a blond crewcut and a white Gladiator unitard at the back of the yoga studio who would point and grimace at us all and say something like "I'm coming for you!" Then he would take one of those big exercise balls and pop it with his teeth. Actually, Hawk was a slight blonde woman with a perpetual smile on her face who said "thank you," and gave one of those namaste bows.

Well, there's a first time for everything.

And I actually did buy a CD, because I liked those long, intense whirling-dervish songs. But I think I'll dance to them in the privacy of my own apartment, for now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This morning I sat in bed with my coffee and treated myself to some Pablo Neruda jewels. This one was a balm to my worried, jobless heart, and so I wanted to share it. Maybe it will speak to you as it did to me.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

(The end-that's not in the poem, it's just the end. Back to the Emily channel.)

All I want is this stillness, where the truth about life and the earth can be felt. I know people worry about me because I have no job, no money, no savings. But I think all of that stuff is secondary. Of course it matters because we live on this earth in this way and need food, shelter, and cute boots. But it's not what really matters.

What really matters is finding the truth and light inside ourselves and spreading it to the world. I am finding that truth and light, and thanking the stars that I have the space and time and opportunity to do that. I haven't found a way/am not ready yet to spread the beauty that I find to the world, but I will when I'm ready. I'm not sure if that will be through singing or writing or teaching or something that I can't even see yet, but it will happen. When the time is right.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Resolution and Change

Lately when I go to meditate I can't seem to still the chattering of my mind and go down into my body. Granted, I am out of practice, because I haven't meditated since early December (or even late November?).

But it's also because here I sit, 30, jobless, and out of money. Even worse is the fact that I can't seem to get an audition to save my life. I send in my application (and my application fee, btw), my resume, and my headshot, and invariably, inevitably I get the email a week later: "We're sorry, but you have not been chosen for an audition slot. The number of people who applied was very great..." etc., etc.

Reason dictates that I should throw in the towel.

BUT I know I have something to give and I think maybe I'm just not ready yet. What I want more than anything is to sing from the bottom of my very soul. That is my purpose here in this life. I have so much to give. I'm just not ready to give it yet.

My resolution for this year is to work diligently at my Yoga and meditation and creatively expressing my soul. I'm going to cultivate order, discipline, and great love in my life.

And when I am ready, when my body and soul is ready, then I will be unstoppable because I'll be singing with all of me. I will be singing for all of life, not for my ego.

That's my dream, and I won't rest until I've gotten it. I want it now, and it sucks to wait, but wait I must.

Maybe some people call it foolish, but I'm going to choose to call it Courage.

Until then, though, I'd better find some kind of income, and fast.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Look out World-seriously, my aim is not great

Lately I have this fantasy that I can't get out of my head. As soon as I lie down at night it zooms into focus, and I can barely get to sleep from excitement. In it, I want to go home and just throw paint on the walls of our apartment. I want to splash it and smear it, and I want that paint to be vivid shades of orange and purple and black and white. I want to write giant phrases like IT IS IN YOU and YOU ARE AMAZING. I want to write smaller quotes that I love that remind me of my journey and my beauty.

So you know what? I'm going to. Okay, I think it's probably better if I buy a large, wall-sized piece of plywood or something that I can do it on. I think I may want to take it with me as I travel through life. But I'm going to do it! Look out world! Here comes Emily-with paint!