Tuesday, 19 April 2011


I recently read an insulting comment on one of my pupils youtube site. It was a school child bully I am guessing but it mentioned her need for auto tune...well hey ho I thought. This is such an ignorant comment I shall have to rant on my blog. This singer has perfect pitch, which is an awesome and wondrous gift. It is also a serious  problem at times. The recording she has made was more or less a live recording. It was in a small studio with one take on the vocals. We did not want to magic up perfection as the live sound is lovely.

On the subject of perfect pitch: If anything around her is off pitch she struggles to cope. This makes it hard for her in duets, especially acappella. No matter how wonderful the other singer's voice is, they may slip down in pitch slightly. When this happened to this singer she had a crisis with her own pitch and felt awful. I stepped in gave quiet chords to get them back into pitch. She has come to realise this and can now compensate, but it used to physically upset her in a powerful way. She has an innate sense of her own perfection of pitch.

I hear now that karaoke is sung through auto tuners sometimes. What fresh hell is this? Not only are people now deeply confusing art with sport by singing in a race to keep up with automated backings, but they are also reaching new heights of NOT LISTENING, by not having to listen.

Auto tune belongs in the studio where it is brilliant for tweeking those moments that used to have be re recorded by bouncing in. Auto tune saves studio time and money. I get that: Studio time is very expensive.

Without auto tune we have the natural voice which fluctuates between perfection and its unique quirkiness. Without auto tune we are forced to listen so intently that it is meditative.

Without auto tune we are communicating our natural gifts which we have honed through thousands of hours of practice.

For every one minute of our most perfect version of our music, these thousands of hours lay beneath the surface. We are not perfect. We have to work so hard to get a hundred miles near that state. In any case it seems to me that perfection may have its own kind of ugliness. What on earth is a really perfect sound? One that formed of a sine wave? A pure clear voice in cathedral? A characterful beguiling beauty? A wonderful top note from a richly toned diva? A raw pounding? Is perfection tranquil? Is it loud or soft? Is it ever to be found in low notes? Is it sung in German or in medieval French? Is it a lovely glossed up and auto tuned girl or boy singing a pop song that will be popular for two or three months? Is it in the fabulous Young at Heart? The Kings Singers? It is my dearest wish that we make live sounds with our voices, learn to tune into others and carry on developing as listeners.The world so needs listeners..
I hope you enjoy my selections..

Saturday, 16 April 2011


There is no doubt that we all benefit from getting out there to see and hear what others are doing! The temptation to just work in a very focussed way in that well known vain mission to clear the ever re-filling in tray is one we all need to step aside from. So I am in the middle of an events sandwich...2 down and 1 to go..Thursday was seeing my ex pupil Leila in a Youth Theatre production at the Loft in Leamington Spa. last night was Royal Opera House to see Terry Jones and Anne Dudley's Opera Shots "Doctors Tale" and tonight I am off to see pupil Ash and ex pupil Sam in Fiddler on the Roof at the Spa Centre in Leamington, with musical friend Buddug. It wasn't planned as a trio of exciting nights out. It just happened that way. I am so glad to be forced to drop the baton and buzz off all over the place.

At the ROH the first operetta of the evening, which was Edgar Alan Poe's story "The Tell Tale Heart" was set by Police's Stewart Copeland. I used to be such a fan of Police and here I am with much time elapsed finding Stewart C. has evolved into a considerable composer who can create great ensemble work and orchestration. The rhythmic beats and piano clusters give away the drumming background. Even celebratory spotting him in the interval was a thrill. Shamefully I know nothing about his interim period, never reading the music mags that would have kept me more up to date.

Terry's and Anne's operetta was such a tour de force. Such fun and so loving. The earnest doctor who is a dog is admired for his common sense and deeply caring style. His patients adore him. But he is a dog and GMC decide to hold him to account and want him de registered. Anne Dudley was one of the founders of "The Art of Noise" who produced experimental and often beaty tracks in the 80s. I remember getting kids with learning difficulties to choreograph some of their tracks. The were an undercover band and at the time no one quite knew who they were. Anne's flair for orchestration is incredible. The opera gels together and flows seamlessly with little splashes of colour suddenly outstanding: the harp, the bass clarinet, a sudden jazz solo from muted trumpet. Most singers morph rapidly from one character to another. (I was sitting next to the proud mum of one the performers and she was ecstatic about her tall son who slipped between 3 roles easily)
No mics for these singers with robust musical lines and wide ranging tunefulness. I so hope ROH will proceed to commit to further of these Opera Shots. I also love the use on unusual creative forces.

As well as a visit to the portrait gallery, followed by witnessing a freeby a rehearsal at the Royal Festival Hall of some beautiful Indian music and dancing, our day out in London included us witnessing the arrest of an Ice Cream Salesman and the detention of his van by 8 undercover heavy duty cops in Covent Garden. This dramatic event was a spontaneous piece of classic farce. With the cops swarming over the van and the wretched ice cream man hauled from his driving wheel, the intensity of the situation was too bizarre to take seriously. At any moment surely they would they all break out laughing and serve themselves Mr. Whippees with double flakes? One grandad with two little girls in tow innocently approached to order ice creams and then quickly hustled his puzzled grand daughters away when he realised somewhat late what the situation was. A boldly nosy man on a bike pulled up and stuck himself about a yard away from it all and just openly stared and stared till it was through. Whatever the risk that the ice cream man and van was posing, all in all we had a very good show. We sat with our beers and just lapped it all up. I must say there is so much entertainment on the street, intentional and also like this unintentional, that a visit to London is a fine thing.