October 18th has been declared “World Menopause Day” by the International Menopause Society. The organization was formed in 1978 (!) during the second Menopause Congress (!!) and currently has members in 62 countries (!!!)
Here’s something I created about three years ago, during a particularly gnarly physical and emotional transition of about 4 years, between my 54th-62nd birthday. It is a perfect example of how artistic expression can help heal oneself over time. I hope it resonates with you, no matter your age or stage!
Original Haiku and background, All Rights Reserved, CFN
A colleague was recently consulted for Mel Beta, an online commentary and pop culture source, on Robert Mueller’s voice during the recent hearings here in the US.
The article combines a sincere inquiry about the quality of Mueller’s voice and hesitations in his performance, with evidence that often any message not delivered quickly, loudly and confidently is not to be tolerated as “informed.” Hesitation is seen as weak and an opportunity to move in for a kill. The media has gleefully spread this around as “news.”
And it shows that our voices factor hugely in how our verbal messages are heard and understood.
Liz Jackson Hearns‘ work as a voice teacher whose speciality is transgender voices, makes her a natural to speak on “Why a nervous voice happens.” She also said that people who aren’t used to being on camera may not have the delivery skills for that medium. It has nothing to do with their manner of working, intelligence or skill. Thank goodness, Liz was interviewed for this!
The Mel Beta article also interviewed Steven Camarata, an SLP and professor at Vanderbilt University, who said that Mueller is just a breathy talker.
My opinion is that Mueller’s voice issues may be partially due to Liz’s observations, but also reflect what can happen to an aging voice: Presbyphonia, or vocal fold atrophy and bowing, is common in those of Mueller’s age.
Voice changes due to vocal cord atrophy are common in people over the age of 60 years. The most common symptoms include:
Reduced vocal volume
Higher pitched voice
Breathy, “thin” sound
Increased speaking effort
Difficulty communicating with friends and family (especially with noise in the background or on the telephone)
This is why Mueller’s voice may have been perceived as breathy by Camarata, but it is also why his breath usage is “off.” If the vocal folds are not able to come together, natural robust support will falter and the speaker has to make more effort to speak, which is very fatiguing on all levels.
Targeted vocal function exercises done with recommended pacing do help aging voices. And just for the record, there are much younger speakers and singers who are diagnosed with this condition early in their lives. And it has nothing to do with poor technique or vocal abuse.
Also, if brain function as we age contributes to any of Mueller’s perceived “doddering,” ‘white matter’ can change in the elderly. ‘White matter’ is brain tissue composed of nerve fibers that connect nerve cells.This correlates with the speed of their mental processing.
The speed in mental processing is what is perceived as doddering. But it has nothing to do with ‘failing’ as a leader or expert.
“America champions the loud and the garish” –Wynton Marsalis
–Have sung all their lives but don’t understand that singing through the lifespan is like being active in sports. You need to tend things along the way or you can’t play.
–Don’t know much about their bodies or biological cycles other than what they hear in media or what their doctors tell them.
–Work with singers through midlife and aging: coaches, teachers, performers, choral conductors, music directors and medical personal.
–Are colleagues, students and medical professionals. We are writing the book we wish we’d had as we moved through our changes.
A very T-A-L-L order? Yes.
That’s why there are three of us writing in collaboration. We are really excited about the very unique way of co-authoring we’ve created! It takes longer than if we each write a chapter, but it’ll be worth it!
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Who knew it would take so long to come up with a title for our upcoming book on Singing and Menopause, to be published by StudioBos Media???
We started out months ago by brain-storming every idea we could think of to see what would stick. We ran titles by some of our interviewees, colleagues and friends and our editor. We had to have certain words in the title for the Search Engine. We didn’t want it to be too academic-y or cartoonish.
“Aunt Flo’s Not in the House Anymore” was the first of the spaghetti thrown against the wall. It didn’t stick. (Evidently people in the midwest “get” that but as an East Coaster I was ‘Huh?’)
Let me know if you don’t get it too….
Today we finally decided on
Singing Through Change: Women’s Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond
Through researching and writing this book, I have come to appreciate that the menopausal transition is far more than a set of symptoms attached to a shift in hormones. It’s a unique, sometimes untidy socio-physiological-psychological metamorphosis for women. For singers, the voice is often a crucial part of that metamorphosis.
Sign up for our mailing list and read about the authors here.
As some of you know, I am co-authoring a book with Nancy Bos and Joanne Hayes Bozeman on the topic of women singing through midlife biological changes and menopause.
Research has been pretty fascinating and we are digging into areas not usually associated with The Change. (ooooo, suspense!) Our interviews include 52 female singers during 1) various stages of peri-menopause and menopause, 2) a large variety of genres and musical styles 3) many skill levels and cultural experiences.
We are speaking with colleagues and experts in a wide variety of disciplines and will reference many top-notch resources. We are grateful for those who’ve researched and written about hormonal effects on the female singing voice.
But the REAL experts are the women themselves. Their stories, their solutions, their journeys: sometimes easy and breezing on through, some devastatingly difficult.
Statistics are important but their purpose is not to reveal how individual the mid-life journey is for EACH woman. Data can be used to influence public health policy and obtaining grants for important research. Stories save individuals and pass on wisdom not found in data.
Both are needed!
Western medical science & academic learning must become equal partners with honed intuition, and listening to the Wisdom of the Body to create health, wellness and experience singing in new ways.
This is an “angle” of our book. We are writing for singers and teachers who may not have access to the information that has been gathered over the past 30 years. We are also writing for women who are willing to do the work of rebirthing themselves during these years and need extra support.
I’ll report on our progress so join me here for peeks and perks!
Let’s face it, the topic of “saliva and singing” isn’t particularly interesting unless you are a singer who finds yourself needing to swallow after every other word. Or you need to completely stop singing to allow saliva time to move down the esophagus.
Chronic excess saliva while singing can suck the joy out of making music. It makes you feel unreliable and is both anxiety and frustration-producing as well. Which just makes the problem worse. And then you feel worse because you KNOW this.
I’d never thought much about this issue in my 38 years of working with singers and singing teachers. Then, last month, three clients turned up IN THE SAME WEEK, who were dealing with excess saliva and singing. One singer’s issue was solved within one session, but I had to do my research because it was new to me.
I then had to fit that research into my overlying pedagogic principles and the use of personal creativity in the studio. (Read Vocal Pedagogy and Creativity, Parts, I and II, starting HERE.)
Reason #2: Excess Saliva and Singing can be caused by certain mouthwashes, toothpastes and teeth whitening products.
Celia, Singer #2, is in her late 30’s, a professional chorister with a BA in piano. She developed the excess saliva about a year ago. When she came for her first session, as we were speaking I noted that her mouth smelled minty. As it turned out, I had just spoken with my dentist about excess saliva and certain mouthwashes, which sometimes contains saliva-inducing ingredients that are normally used to help people with dry mouth. Obviously, vocal fold health depends upon being hydrated. I asked Celia about her dental regime and she told me that she regularly uses a mouthwash and fluoride gel-cams.
Da-Ding! I suggested she do her own research on the products she used and discovered that they did contain flavoring agents that are often saliva-inducing. These can include sweeteners such as sorbitol, sucralose, sodium saccharin, and xylitol, all of which stimulate salivary function. Three days after discontinuing use of these products, she noticed much less excess saliva while she sang. We had one more session and she seemed to be happy with her progress and ready to return to her voice teacher.
Jan Potter Reed, a wonderful SLP and Singing Voice Specialist at The Chicago Institute for Voice, suggested elderberry lozenges as a possible remedy for excess saliva, but added that singers have to be in touch with whether or not they dry out the mouth too much and create other issues by drying out the vocal folds.
NOTE: Another cause of excessive swallowing during singing is acid reflux. Each singer with this condition needs a different management plan and kinds of support.
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