Category Archives: Inspiration

The Brilliant k.d. lang

The Brilliant k.d. lang

There are more than a few extraordinary voices in the world, and one of them is k. d. lang. She can take any song and make it a prayer, a calling to the heart — heck, a reason to live on a very bad day.  She could sing a nursery rhyme and I’d listen.

k.d. lang

What gives k.d. lang her compelling vocal quality?

She has honest sound, and it is connected to her — entirely.

Every note.

She has unadorned sound.  No vocal shenanigans, so stylizing, no extras.  She just sings and you have to listen with all your heart the moment she opens her mouth.

She has sung with Roy Orbison and Tony Bennett, among many others.

And not surprisingly,  Tony Bennett has very kind things to say about her:

“I can tell if someone has got it, or hasn’t got it, and k.d. has a gift. She’s just a very beautiful, natural singer, and there aren’t many of them around. Every note (of hers) has great feeling and honesty. I can’t ask for a more pleasant thing to listen to than to listen to k.d. sing.”

This is what Leonard Cohen (who wrote “Halleluyah”) and his partner, singer Anjani Thomas had to say about KD’s version of “Halleluyah” sung at Cohen’s induction into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame:

“After hearing k.d. lang perform that song at the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2006 we looked at each other and said, ‘Well, I think we can lay that song to rest now! It’s really been done to its ultimate blissful state of perfection.'”

True.  Good thinking.

Here’s the link for the song by k.d. lang “Halleluyah.”  Enjoy.

Giving In To Giving In

Did I have a clue when I lived in Los Angeles how uptight I was?

Not even….

I was uptight to my very core, from my very core, through my core, within my core.

How did I find out?

I moved to the country.

In the country, it’s quiet.  Sunrise opens the door of the morning, sunsets bathe the final hours in color.  The ground breathes, branches in the forest crack.  You hear them fall.  Wind blows across the valley and when you step out the door and sense it coming toward you, the feeling is brisk and energizing.  It’s a bit of a thrill when the fast moving rain storm sweeps the valley in front of you, in the direction of you, all over you.

The way I think of it, the energy of the wind sweeps a burst of happy energy my way, and in that moment,  I remember everything during my day I felt good about.

Yes, I moved to where birds sing and tall trees reach up pretty much forever.  There is a peace in a forest on a mountain that you cannot find in places with stoplights and streetlights. For me, inner quiet comes easier when there is outer quiet.

Out here in the country, on top of a certain nearby mountain, there is a sound chamber.  It’s a perfect place to sing.  The birds and I sing together.

This kind of singing relieves me from thinking, opens my lungs and heart, and nurtures everything about my soul. Warmth and light venture into the nooks and crannies of me, the corners of my being breathe, and my inner workings sigh happily as they smooth out and  begin to move more easily.

Sound Chamber

It all begins near the mouth of the sound chamber.  Because there is no light in the chamber, the sunlight from the forest coming in the door is my candle.

First, go with simple sound.  More simple than you might think.  It’s beautiful.  It doesn’t matter at all where it starts.  A single note comes, often  just a feather sound to brush the silence.  A sound comes into the void, like color onto a white canvas.  Sometimes it is soft sound , other times an eruption, and always a surprise to me where it starts and where it goes.

I’ll show you what it sounds like really soon….I’m going to upgrade to be able to share audio on this site.

In the meantime, if you’d like a sample, send a message with your email, and I’ll send you a few mp3’s to listen to.

If you would like me to “tune into you” and sing/record a song for you next time I am there, let me know.  It would be my pleasure.  I can send you a personal mp3 just for you, and you can let me know how it affects you, where it goes in you, how it speaks to you, what it does for you.

Tra la la to you and yours.  Hope summer is turning out to be everything you want it to be.

Singing for the Dearly Departed

My youngest brother passed away on June 5th, 2010, after a year long bout with cancer.  He was only 50.  It is said by some that we have full view of our entire life before coming into this physical world, and that we choose a life that will teach us what we want to learn.  He certainly opted for a short life, and even though it doesn’t make any sense to me, it doesn’t need to.  It wasn’t my life.   But I’m going to miss him.

He was a slender, red-headed jeweler, with a shop full of gold and diamonds.  He seemed to love working with gems and worked long and diligently to be able to open his own retail shop.

After word came that he had passed, my husband and I sat still and just looked at each other.  There’s not much to say when someone leaves.  We just knew that Calvin was gone, and we felt sad.

However, almost instantly, the sadness lifted.

“How strange is that?”  I thought.

All the worry and anguish and heart ache surrounding his departure just got up and left — suddenly!  What a surprise!  Never had I expected to feel instant, well — happiness — upon his passing.

It felt a little odd.

Almost wrong.

This feeling of elation in the middle of all the sadness was so striking to me that I wondered if I was tuning into my departed brother.  If so, he was surely in a happier and more expanded state!

You should know before I go any further that for most of my life,  my brother and I often struggled to relate.  We didn’t have long and delightful philosophical conversations, or talk for hours on the phone.  Locating common ground for a conversation was occasionally a bit challenging, even awkward.

As the years passed, we learned how to talk with each other.  We’d simply avoid conversations about a subject that we knew could be controversial for the two of us.  It was just easier that way. We could always talk about the weather, so to speak.

In the last year of his life, when he was ill, we found two subjects we could always talk about:  Singing and Sunsets.  I used to record little mp3’s for him and send them to him.  He seemed to appreciate them.  Once I recorded “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for him, and other times I sent improvisational pieces that were prayerful or meditative.

One evening when he was in pain and seemed to be wondering about how everything was going to turn out for him, he called me and said, “Tell me about the sky tonight where you are.  Is it beautiful?”

Perched comfortably on the covering to the well, I told him about the star-filled night sky, mentioning that earlier that evening, we had set up the high powered telescope to look at the four largest moons of Jupiter.   Over to the telescope I went, and gave him a play-by-play account of what was going on with Jupiter and friends.  It happened to be a spectacularly crystal clear sky, and all the stars were especially beautiful that evening, but Jupiter was stunning. My brother and I talked for a long time.

After the phone call notifying us of his passing, I headed down stairs in my home to a room where nobody was, just a nice big open space, and I started to sing.  Not a song, not a melody, just long notes of sound to soothe my soul.  I let the sound take me wherever it wanted to go.  Singing like this is a way to center myself, let go, and express whatever is there.

It felt like a good thing to do at a time like this…

There I was, getting warmed up for a therapeutic singing session, and what should “appear?”

My brother.

He was happy as could be, and began to playfully direct my singing. This kind of  boundless joy was out of character for him.  In life, he seemed more serious than that, more reserved.

After wondering for a moment if I was just crazy, or if I had an over-active imagination in this time of stress, I just went with it.  I began to follow his conducting.

With a big smile, his right arm shot up in the air and I’d sing that note.  Then he’d waver that hand a bit and I’d do a trill.  I followed every nuance.  I’d waffle the sound, move the sound, explode the sound, giggle the sound —  to go right along with his indication.  He’d smile and swoop to the next note.  Then he’d change sides, go high, go low, go medium, and it all sounded beautiful to me.  On and on it went.  Part of the time I was laughing so hard I could hardly sing.

Then there was the crying….I was so touched that he would visit me.

He was joyful and utterly, completely free — fully liberated and totally expressive, without a concern in the world. And he also  looked really attractive and young and happy.

It felt heavenly to be with him in this way, and I admit that I always wanted to experience him as more open and light-hearted when he was alive.  (Perhaps others experienced him this way and I missed the boat….)  Now, in this moment, I was just grateful that I was able to experience him in this happy place…

I don’t know how long this went on, probably 20 minutes or so, but I’m just guessing, because there was no sense of time anywhere.  I  moved through more emotional spaces than I can even begin to describe.  He finished conducting, gave me a wave, and off he went.

I sat for a while, reveling in the experience.

Then I walked upstairs and while preparing dinner,  I noticed the  sunset was beginning to be especially beautiful.  That’s not really very unusual here — inspiring sunsets are a regular occurrence in our house and we look forward to them every evening.

But it got crazy beautiful!

With every bite of dinner, the colors of the sunset became increasingly spectacular, and they kept changingradically — in no small way!  We’d take a bite of food, and stop midway with fork poised,  and exclaim about the stunning sight before us.

“Wow, look at that!”

“Whoa, who thought it could get even more beautiful!  But it just did!”

We had never seen so many big colors, different colors or color changes in one evening.

We started to laugh and decided it was Calvin saying hello in another way that I would understand.  Who knows if that could be possibly true… but it sure helped my heart to think about it that way!

We’d eat another bite or two and then stop to take another photo of the painter having fun in the sky.  It seemed as if he kept changing his mind about what to paint — oh, let’s try THIS!!!  We saw so many sunset variations, and sat there drop-jawed and in awe.

He’d add intensity, then soften it, or brighten it. At one point, he added a splash of mist just for fun…

And I haven’t heard from him since.  That fantastic sunset was his final bow.

And it was a stunning one.

Goodbye, dear brother.

How Do You Create a State of Bliss — Daily?

Buck Springs Overlook 8-19-09

Ah-h-h-h-h-h....

There is something you probably do for yourself that takes you out of mind jabber and into pure positive nothing-ness-everything-ness where all things wonderful are born.

In this beautiful space there is no thinking, no strategic planning, no mental arguing or defense, and no worry. There is no inner dialog recounting a past conversation repeatedly, until you get the conversation “right.”  In this expansive and creative space, there are no “couldas” and “shouldas.”  Only experimentation and acceptance followed by more joyful, all-out-no-holds-barred creativity.

There is no future and no past in this bliss space. Only now. You can’t think AND do this thing, whatever this thing is for you that creates blissful presence.

Do you know this space I’m talking about?

What is this bliss-producer for you? Do you know?

What are you doing when time disappears?  (And, NO, sleeping doesn’t count…. :–) What sends you straight to that open heart space where good things get created in your world?

Just being around music doesn’t necessarily do it for me, although I have experienced some rather amazing vocal concerts and heavenly musical events. Learning a song or voice technique doesn’t do it. Taking a hot bath doesn’t do it, even though a hot bath on a winter day is pretty much heaven.

Maybe the bliss-producing-time-erasing-negative-conversation-obliterating THING, in most cases, is something you DO, not something you enjoy that is coming to you from someone or somewhere else.  I don’t know.

I do know that one of my bliss-producing time erasers is improvisational singing in a resonant space. Pure and simple.  Add a few like-minded singers and the positive effect of the experience heightens exponentially.  It becomes totally indescribable.

drops of water Improvisational singing in a resonant space is where every sound OUT comes BACK around to anoint me with a happy barrage of good feelings — something like  a surprise shower of sun-filled, life-giving, sweet tasting, sparkling clear drops of water.

This singing is my “thing that I do.”

I don’t know if this kind of singing is nirvana to you, but from presenting it to groups lately, it seems to have appeal to a certain section of the human population, perhaps to those of us for whom sound is serenely soothing.

And for those of us who stop thinking altogether when we sing.

Roses at Farmer's Market in Paris

Roses at Farmer's Market in Paris

Singing in this way does it all for me. It’s like going on vacation to Europe, seeing a field of flowers in bloom, walking through a farmer’s market full of color and goodness from the earth, looking out over the Great Smokey Mountains, eating a gourmet meal, having great sex and hearing 1,000 angels — simultaneously!

You can see that singing is pretty high on my list of favorites!

Would love to know what your bliss producer is… Thoughts, questions and discussion welcome.

Alone in the Rain with No Transportation

This is actually a favorite kind of day for me….

… And NO, I’m not stranded outdoors with a broken down car.

I’m home alone, no meals to fix, and nobody to tend to except already contented animals. Nothing I’m up to requires a car and I’m all cozy and warm, slippers on, with plenty of time to write, create and brainstorm. The golden beeswax candles are lit right next to me, soft lights brighten up the cloudy day and surround-sound music bathes me in my favorite rainy day albums.beeswaxcandles

The longer I’m here on this beautiful earth, the more I appreciate this kind of time. Being busy is highly over-rated. Being home writing, with a hot cup of French Roast and great music on the Bose Music System to keep me company is, well, pretty much my idea of heaven.

Sure, there is a rather hefty stack of paper staring at me that needs sorting and filing. But am I doing that?

Nope.

Today is for me and my whims. When I am alone, my creative muses talk to me the most about music and making joyful sounds.

Want to know what they said today?

One of the best ways to get started with improvisational singing is to “practice it” when no one is around. You can experiment in ANY way. Go ahead. Have a wild and woolly practice session.

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t mean you necessarily practice improvisational singing. Case in point — today I chose an Opera piece that is (let’s be honest) a musical train wreck for me.
OperaCartoon
Il mio bel foco (My Joyful Ardor) by Benedetto Marcello.

It’s not an easy piece and on top of that the version of the accompaniment that came with my music book moves like lightning. Nobody who sings it well has this speed-demon accompaniment. Oh, and for strike three, it’s in Italian of course.

To listen to it, go to Youtube. Here’s a link. Spare yourself and don’t listen to the folks who sing it in their garage or for their recital. Trust me, it’s not that helpful. Listen to a singer who can actually give it a go.

If you want to get better at improvisational singing, practice something difficult for you — anything. I chose Opera today, but you could opt for a mountain bike, a skateboard, roller blades or a trampoline!! Pad yourself properly and then play like a kid. You could go play basketball, play catch with your grand daughter or find a game of beach volleyball. Why not have a dance lesson, or get up the courage to build a do-it-yourself website (argh), or make soup broth from scratch. Get in the car and drive somewhere without planning where you’re going.

Do something you’ve never done before or something that is predictably difficult for you — AND, this is important — you actually have an attraction to doing it. You want to do it.

If you practice something you’re not adept at doing, and go at it with a big dose of joy and reckless abandon, you learn about who you are — very important in improvisational singing!

You need to know YOU if you’re going to sing without a map. (More on that in a future post.)

During this “reckless abandon” project, pay attention to improvements only. Forget the “mistakes.” They mean nothing. Look for what you’re doing well and concentrate on that. Notice everything you do well and let yourself smile about it.

This is fabulous training for improvisational singing. And for life, too, for that matter.

To do anything well, it helps to be comfortable with everything about it, including mistakes and screw-ups. Make mistakes. Relax about them. Welcome them with open arms.

Long ago, I knew a Utah ski instructor who taught beginners. We’re talking newbies who somehow got railroaded into that ski vacation with friends or family. And here they were with their skis and poles and their brand new ski outfit all dressed up and scared to death.

And do you know what he taught them first and foremost on that bunny slope where we all begin?

He taught them how to fall.

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

After the falling lesson, where everybody ended up covered with snow and laughing, his students had great fun learning to ski because the worst part — the part that everyone was trying NOT to do — was over! Now they could get on with the standing up part of skiing.

Simple, yet brilliant.

This is what we’re talking about: Doing something “really wrong” or sloppily and getting it over with is liberating.

So strap on your whatevers and go attempt something ridiculously new and a tiny bit dangerous for you — and then write me and tell me all about it. I’ll be waiting with great anticipation for your report.

Singing to Deer and Other Wonders

Just a few days ago an audience of eight 4-legged creatures sauntered by while I was singing all by myself in the Peace Chamber near Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Sure, they were grazing, and really weren’t planning to come on in, but still, they were an audience, right?

When I peered from the door of the chamber to see them better, one spectacular young buck lifted his head. youngbuck

I don’t know what it is about deer that creates such a rush in a human’s heart, but mine lifted to the ceiling of everywhere when he stood at attention, all relaxed and fully confident. Being bathed in his field of influence was one of those private moments where you breathe in but forget to breathe out, because breathing out might cause whatever you’re in the presence of to go away. He didn’t go away. He stood there and radiated. His field, and the field of the group felt wide, and very soft around the edges and full of energy.

Hmmmm — I wondered to myself how they experienced this human sound called singing. When I sang at the doorway, they all lifted their heads, and two ran off, but the rest of them didn’t move. They looked up to see what the fuss was about, and went right back to dinner.momBabydeer

The Peace Chamber itself is quite an extraordinary experience, with its beautiful acoustics and welcoming vibration. This environment is a wonder in itself, where you can make sound and it comes back around to soothe you and vibrate you and give you the repeat benefit of itself.

I like it.

How about you? Have you ever sung improvisationally in an acoustically friendly room?

If you like it, you should know that I am looking for singers around Asheville, NC and the Saxapahaw/Graham area to form two local improvisational choirs. (I’ll get to other cities in the future.) Let me know if you are interested or what questions you might have.

If:
*Your personal energy field is anything like the buck
*Singing is a joyful thing for you
*Other people love to hear you sing
*You’ve possibly been told that you sound like an angel (male or female)
*You live around Asheville or Saxapahaw, NC
*You want to sing with an unusual group in an unusual way

…please contact me.

Inspiration — How do YOU find it?

What rings your chimes, wakes up your inner happy bells, sends you right into bliss — guaranteed?

It’s good to know that.

Pay attention — often — (like, well…. always) to what you love.  Appreciate your days.  Love your nights. Find ways to enjoy the mundane. Rise up, lift up and “float a little above this difficult world” to quote my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

You will surely sing better, be smarter, be more aware, love more….heck, you’ll probably do everything with a little more ease and grace.

For me, one way straight to bliss is a Mary Oliver poem.  Below is a delicious sample of Mary Oliver.

“The Ponds” is from Volume One of  “New and Selected Poems” by Mary Oliver.  Go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=mary+oliver&x=0&y=0. All of her books will come up. At the top of that page is the author page with more information about Mary Oliver.

The Ponds
by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half-nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.