April 2022

What is Vocal Freedom anyway?

VFPlogoHaving shared some of the background to The Vocal Freedom Project in a previous post, I thought it might be helpful to explore in a little more depth what I mean by the phrase ‘vocal freedom’ in this context. It is one of the ideas that is both multidimensional and holistic – you can think about it from a number of different angles, but in practice they all work together in a single, unified experience.

The Physical Dimension is the most obvious, in that it is the one we are most likely to directly perceive in ourselves and in others, both visually and aurally. We find physical freedom by shedding extraneous muscular tension – that is, muscular engagement that isn’t doing anything productive. Tongue, jaw, neck, shoulders, glutes are all areas we tense up when under stress then never quite loosen off again when the immediate stressor goes away. Our bodies get locked up, our breath becomes shallow, and we hear this in our voices as strain and loss of resonance. Vocal Freedom Project workshops start with the body as the dimension which is both most accessible and usually the most urgent to address.

On Creative Choices, Creative Intentions

Some of the voicings I have been puzzling overSome of the voicings I have been puzzling overOne of the orthodoxies of my musical upbringing and subsequent teaching life is that the performer should respect the composer’s intentions. In practical terms this entails, at the basic level, playing the music presented in the score accurately – i.e. all the pitches written, in the durational relationships represented by the notation.

This basic level is never really challenged, though it is inflected as you move educationally beyond a literalist approach to the score to understanding it as a document emerging from a historical and cultural context. ‘Style’ is the shorthand term used to embrace the range of types of information used as filters through which to interpret the written score: changing notational conventions, changes in the construction and thus sound of instruments, changing aesthetic ideals and their impact on tone production, articulation, timing, and embellishment.

Introducing the Vocal Freedom Project

VFPlogoToday tickets have gone on sale for the first of what will probably become a series of workshops called the Vocal Freedom Project. We’ve got quite detailed info about the VFP’s rationale and aims over on the project page, but I thought it might also be useful to give a little background into its genesis.

The project was born in a conversation back in early December with my friend Myra, who sang with me in Magenta for ten years. I can’t remember exactly how she phrased her expression of her need to sing, but she crystallized a lot of the observations I had been making over the months since live singing had restarted in the UK about what the lockdown experience had done to people’s voices.

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