Ask Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets: relaxation and tuneful singing

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another day, another "Ask Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets"! David writes in with two questions:

My question: Do you relax by doing something else or by doing nothing?

Alternately: What would you do if I sang out of tune?

This is a little hard to answer because, y'know, the only people who do nothing are the dead. Well, they decompose, but aside from that.

The things I do to relax include reading, trying to write, playing games. Of course one can immediately point out is that these activities aren't necessarily relaxing. Writing, particularly, has been a hard burden of late for whatever reason. The reason some books have been in my "Reading" sidebar for aeons and aeons is that some of the books there are possibly more irritating than actually enjoyable (I'm looking at you, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, And Steel--mixing banal observations with sweeping generalizations does not a persuasive thesis make, sir). And while I don't play games--video, board or card--as much as I'd like, it's pretty easy to get stressed out with that activity, too.

But the main thing, really, is that none of these are really "doing nothing" even when they're not taxing. Reading a book that's a pleasant, low-wattage, easy read is still doing something. So is a walk and taking photographs, another activity I occasionally enjoy. For that matter, it also occurs to me as I write this that a considerable amount of a courtroom lawyer's "work" consists of waiting around for his case to be called--which really can be considered doing nothing even though it's (a) working and (b) really, awfully dull and not the least bit pleasant or relaxing.

As for what would I do if you sang out of tune: the one bit of wisdom a one-time friend offered many, many years ago (good grief--it's now decades ago, as hard as that is to get my head around) was that what made singing the best thing (or one of the best things) on Earth was that anybody could do it and it costs nothing. Which is true. Just open your mouth and rattle your vocal cords, and singing takes care of itself.

That singing might not be tuneful really doesn't have anything to do with anything. Tom Waits' voice now sounds like it's coming through solid walls of cigarette cotton stuck in his throat and Leonard Cohen's voice has devolved into a spoken singsong and aren't they wonderful performers to listen to? (Interestingly, both men were better at carrying a tune when they were younger; one wonders what happened.) Waits and Cohen have a female counterpart in Marianne Faithfull, whose dry rasp is an amazing instrument. The Velvet Underground & Nico is a spectacular album notwithstanding the obvious vocal limitations of Lou Reed and Nico alike. And how about John Lydon? The man's an incredible frontman and, dare I say it, vocalist notwithstanding the fact he doesn't so much carry a tune as he throws it over his shoulder and drags it up a rocky slope.

Who cares if you sing well? Did you sing passionately is what I want to know.

The worst thing you can ever tell someone is that they're singing out of tune or off key. Well, context. I suppose if you're at some kind of rehearsal and they're supposed to be singing in a particular way, it's alright to coax them towards wherever they're supposed to be pitch-wise. But as far as, say, singing in the car? The only appropriate criticism is, "You're not singing loudly enough!"

(Here is where I confess I haven't always been a good or decent man when it comes to the others' singing. There have been, I believe, times when I was critical or even cruel. This is because I am a base hypocrite scraping towards perfection on bloodied palms and knees.)

Sing away!


Random Michelle K Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 3:25:00 PM EDT  

You know, if you stand beside Beethoven's grave and listen really closely, you can hear his music played backwards.

He's decomposing.



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