Before turning to music, all my life I wanted to become a visual artist. I remember myself painting from elementary school onward, and I even applied to art universities. In my often very large pictures, I used to use many different materials next to each other, like wax and silk paint, and what I loved most was to discover that they don’t mix well, but instead develop their own life and structure.
I started singing because I wanted to know all the things you can do with the voice. I ended up being taught by a classical singing teacher, and for the next few years I was trained in Belcanto (I was forbidden to sing any other technique because it was bad for the voice, as I was told). Belcanto is certainly one of the most extreme singing techniques, but compared to the multitude of possibilities of the human voice it is only a small section.
During my studies of other singing cultures – Jazz, Höömii, Dhrupad, Gugak, Bulgarian folk singing, beatboxing, etc. – I had to discover that for those singers their music and their singing technique was also the center of their world. Hardly any were interested in other singing traditions.
»When learning a new singing technique, I try to give up everything I know about the voice and performing for a while. Yes everything, because all singers think differently, and everything could make a change.«
When learning a new singing technique, I try to give up everything I know about the voice and performing for a while. Yes everything, because all singers think differently, and everything could make a change. How they perceive the world and the universe, the way their language sounds, the way their language feels in the mouth, if the air this music comes from is humid or dry, how the air smells, what kind of food they eat, how their clothes allow their bodies to move, and how they limit it. What music making is about, the reason for making music, what to sing about, and where the musician’s place in the world is.
What I can’t share with them is their personal biography. I wasn’t born into an artistic family, nobody made me take this path, I don’t have to be as good as somebody, nobody was an example. I will always painfully miss this, but it was probably also the best thing that could happen to me.
When I interpret compositions by others, I have a strong feeling about the musicality of that piece of music. The melodic outlet in combination with the text (or lack of text, which is also a choice) and the instrumental setup give me a very concrete idea whether a certain passage should sound like chanson, pop, classical, natural voice, or so many other nuances of the voice which cannot be put into words. I create the vocal part.
Unfortunately, very often in this world of written music, in which I’m moving around a lot, only the composer is considered a creator. Even when I work with them intensely (sometimes over months or a year), correct and re-write entire passages, create choreography, text, even give an entire song to a bigger work, or if most of what I do in the piece is improvised, I will not be considered a creator, or co-creator.
Sometimes this doesn’t bother me, sometimes I am happy to help or guide, sometimes it makes me sad or hurts me when the composer gives the piece away to other performers because it’s the composer’s creation and they can do with it whatever they want.
What bothers me in the first place is that interpretation is not considered and named a creative act on its own. I wish this would change. Music is and has always been a collaborative art form, and performers do not only execute. Interpretation means having understood what the art piece is about (like the composer has to do when working with text) and finding and verbalizing your own position to that.
Exploring beat box sounds: clicks with delay
Exploring beat box sounds: modulations between beatSounds
Beatboxing Working Session II
relaxing the muscles
bursting the sounds open at the right moments
minimal effort, but just the right thing
piano, soft dabs
Reading from percussion scores
*Kaila Mullady. For me at the moment the best female beatboxer I can find in the net. She is also an amazing singer and multi-instrumentalist.
Step 1: metronome torture, mechanics, single sounds, strengthening muscles
Step 2: learning some basic beat combinations, make them slow but tidy
Step 3: adding fills, often hi-hat, but it can be any sound
Step 4: releasing the tension, laying back, believing, improvising, having fun