In January 2018, I have started a regular everyday vocal practice based on the mobile application Vocal Exercizes Free. The application contains the usual exercizes for voice, or, should I say, the usual Western exercizes for voice. Why I think this is important? Because the type of exercizes and the way we approach them determines or, better say, says something about what we think voice as such is and should convey, and the quality of the voice.
During the international music camp Ethno Sweden, I had the pleasure to meet a 25 years-old singer from India, who was trained as a classical Indian singer for over 20 years. It was the first time I came across a living instrument that breathes and talks and does all things human. In my opinion, we were "people who sing", and she was "the singer". This singer invited a couple of us to join her in her morning vocal routine ( the word "routine" inviting images such as repeating, boring but necessary, technique-building etc), but this "routine" felt to me more like a meditation, such was the atmosphere and the way or manner of practicing.
We all stood in a circle, she turned on her "machine" (electric box imitating tanpura or just drone, I forgot what it was), and she lead us through a series of tones based on the syllables of their scale SA RE GA MA PA DA NI SA. Weird: it didn't feel like an exercize at all but rather like a melody, It didn't have the "routine" feel to it. Also, the tones of the scale weren't chopped like in most of Western exercizes (probably imitating piano), but connected, as if the whole scale was one huge never-ending glissando (probably imitating tanpura). I liked it. I didn't know and I still don't know exactly WHAT I liked about it, but there was a sense that it wasn't as mechanical as the Western practice.
After meeting the Indian singer, I have regularly used her practice in my warm up routine, and I always felt there was something so soothing and calming in its application. After a while, my voice could easily imitate the sound of Indian tanpura. Is Western voice imitating the piano? Could we sound like any instrument? Questions arose.
With ZborXop ( the choir that I lead for over three years), I tried many, many different things but nothing was entirely consistent or thorough enough to give answers, conclusions about the type of vocal practice we need or want. It was like: we will try anything! So there were exercizes from vocal therapy based on the approach of Dutch singer and therapist Anne-Marie Blink, standard Western technique-building exercizes, the abovementioned Indian warm-up, sound of the nature or animal-imitating warm-up based on the approach by Savina Yannatou, Greek singer and performer, body-voice approach and my own invented exercizes based on working with people.
Now that I'm continuing my own personal vocal journey, I started with the West again. It's my culture after all, and of course, these types of exercizes are something that I'm most familiar with. But, this aspect of mechanicality is something that is bothering me.
So, for the (new) beginning, I will start with Indian ragas. And I would like to be reflective about what I'm doing in order to better understand what I'm doing. I'll try to write about it here in this blog.