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
We have more academically-educated singers and voice teachers now than at any time in the history of vocal expression, and dare I say it? Very little teaching from an Undivided Self, which means very little useful and true wisdom.
Learning to get to this place this requires TIME.
It’s a sort of alchemical process to find personal, musical and pedagogical ah ha’s! amid the deafening noise of information, data, and a cult of personality. These things don’t work well with singing. Because singing is about first finding silence of stillness and then becoming a channel for bio-electric energy, all human expression and divine connection.
I think many teachers ‘head’ know this–but they don’t FEEL it or EMBODY it.
There is a crying need for a 1:1 Experiential Learning Program outside of academia to allow teachers and singers the time they need to create this alchemical process. To learn to teach WHO they ARE as well as WHAT they KNOW.
To receive publication updates on the new book “Women Singing Through Menopause, Midlife and Beyond,” please sign up at Studio Bos Media
We are still wooing the right title.
Writing with coauthors Nancy Bos and Joanne Hayes Bozeman has been one of the most rewarding collaborative experiences of a long life spent in collaboration. Combining the voices of three powerhouse artist/educators who are researchers has taken a huge investment of T-I-M-E. But building a solid infrastructure for the book and becoming vulnerable to each other (check out Brene Brown’s The Call to Courage) are birthing our idea into reality.
We are writing a book for Great Aunt Betsy who sings in her church choir, for the college voice professor who has always sung well and then, well, doesn’t. For the community musical theater singer, to the elite classical and popular music singer. For the voice teacher or singer who’s own voice has gotten better and better and may not understand what is happening with others who have a different experience. For the medical community that knows nothing about menopause and voice changes because it is outside of their health model. For the used-to-sing woman who is just fine with how her voice is as she gets older and doesn’t think much about it.
So the challenge has been how to combine our three author-voices, our interviewees’ individual stories AND a curated list of reliable information into one voice–
–to reach all these singers.
It’s happening and we can’t wait to share it with you!
I owe this idea to a recent conversation on The New Forum for Professional Voice Teachers. Many on this forum sing, train and teach both classical and popular genres of music. We have a wide assortment of training methods, resources and approaches stored in our mental libraries and our own music-making.
Recently someone posted Regina Spektor’s “Us,” to illustrate her technical approach to one part of the song. One of the comments was that some passages were “straight out of Lutgen.”
So I went a-looking…..
Lutgen was a German composer who wrote many books of vocal training exercises in the mid 1800’s. The exercises were for those studying European classical singing of the time.
Intrigued WHY my colleague would relate Regina Spektor to Lutgen’s 18th century vocalises, I looked them up. And there it was. Lutgen exercise #1–
Listen to Spektor and then see how the above exercises could be used to help someone sing parts of this song. Or ask your young students to listen for these exercise patterns in the song. This might be a great project for them or you when you need to work less strenuously. You can also search for Lutgen exercises on Youtube. Some enterprising music educator has put up keyboard renditions of all the Lutgen exercises!
Help your students find patterns between 1) CCM singer/song-writers and 2) classical vocal patterns found in old exercises! A little sleuthing is lots of fun.