The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 12, 2013

hearing singing

What I've been thinking about is singing. I can't sing and can
rarely even match notes with an instrument. There seems to be a
disconnect between my brain and my ears; I can tell if others are
in tune or not, but for myself, it seems almost impossible. So
instruments have to sing for me, but I have to learn to play them
'in the small,' that is without thinking about the voice. What's
external to the body - the instrument - has to be internalized;
what's internal - song/voice production - has to be externalized
and forgotten. I play through the clumsiness of beginning to
listen and hear through my fingers in conjunction of course with
'normal' hearing. When I hear a song sung, I can't reproduce it
either. I don't hear harmony well. But when I'm playing, when I'm
'within' the range of the instrument, I do well, I know the
neighborhoods of the notes, the distant regions, and how to get
there and wander through them musically with my fingers. It's
strange, it's a different world than almost any other musician,
but it's what I have to work with. I used to play with Al Wilson
(the Owl in the group Canned Heat) who had incredible hearing and
incredible voice; he was amazed I could do anything at all given
that my tonal range was less than an octave. I worry my speaking
voice might be monotone but that doesn't seem to be the case from
what others tell me. On top of this I have serious tinnitus and
there doesn't seem to be any way to control that either... And
sadly, Jonathan Winters just died, it just came over the air :-( (best)

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