One of my deepest joys (and vilest disappointmetns) lies within singing.
When I was in college I had a friend who was a musician and he had the occasion to hear me singing (as part of a crowd attending a play). While walking home he informed me that I really shouldn’t sing, because I am tone deaf. It was an effective as a gag, and far worse: I felt like opening my mouth was the equivalent of having incredibly bad body odor. Offensive.
So a thing I enjoyed, had l;earned to breath correctly to do, had worked onÂ for fun,Â became a torture. I no longer sang in the shower, or the car, or even while alone. My voice grew rusty, my breath shallow, and… bad.
I still liked to sing, though. I couldn’t stop forever. I just got used to a scratchy voice, gave up on high notes, and sang just every once in a while (usually along with very loud music so that I really wasn’t heard by anyone). And eventually, I got caught.
By my boyfriend (although he wasn’t more than a friend back then). A former musician with perfect pitch, no less.Â He stopped by to see if I wanted to go to a movie, he just didn’t call first like he usually does. I was playing my music loud, and didn’t hear the door, so he just came on in. And there I was, singing my heart out to Sinead O’Connor’s “Troy.” (If you don’t know it, find it and listen to it, and the irony of this story will go to new heights for you.)
I almost threw up, the blood rushed to my face so fast. I was mortified and I ran out of that room as fast as I could. I kept waiting for his laughter, or even the sound of him leaving, but… I didn’t hear that. I crept out. He was just sitting in the living room, reading, and when I came in he simply asked if I was alright. I stammered something taht was ehading towards being an apology when he interrupted me. “I’m sorry if I embarrased you singing, but I wanted to hear you better.”
What? You wanted to hear me better?
“You sing great. Not polished, and you could use some exercises, but you have a nice voice. Why, don’t you think so?”
No. (And I told him I was tone deaf, and why.)
“You’re not tone deaf. You can hear the difference between notes just fine. You don’t always match them, but…” (I almost fled the room again, it felt like i was being set up for a joke or something). “Stop, I’m sorry. Look — you sound fine. No you’re not a professional, but you’re not tone deaf. After all the bible said make a joyful noise, not a beautiful one, didn’t it?”
A few days agoÂ a student shared this (and gave his permission to repost here):
Yes, yes, you are right, I suppose, yet I find it a sad thing, aÂ
Â very sad thing indeed to see crows–innocent birds that were contentÂ
Â with their all too brief lives a moment before–flying from theÂ
Â trees upon hearing me sing, “The Sound of Music” only to become soÂ
Â nauseous that they cannot fly, and then to see them puking en masseÂ
Â on the ground like a thousand ships loaded to the brims with drunkÂ
Â sailors and sea-sick passengers. Then to see hystericalÂ
Â cows–creatures that would be crows if only they had been born withÂ
Â an “r” in their names–desperately trying to climb those same treesÂ
Â that the crows so recently abandoned…But more than the pity IÂ
Â feel, it’s the laugher that emanates from deep within me when I amÂ
Â trying to sing during the midst of such a scene, that makes it hardÂ
Â to go on. Yet, I must, simply must go on, because the spectacle andÂ
Â the sense of power I feel, just knowing that I caused it all toÂ
Â happen tickles me so that I would not trade a voice such as mine forÂ
Â the sweetest notes the angels ever heard.
Don’t worry, dear Lady. I do sing. I sing all the time, butÂ
Â especially when I’ve had too much coffee. A friend taught me to singÂ
Â years ago, so I now sing at all times and in all places. The older IÂ
Â get, the less I care about the crows and the cows. They can buyÂ
Â earplugs for all I care, impudent, intolerant creatures that they are.
He captured, eloquently, amusingly, and joyfully why some of us sing.
Over the yearsÂ I’ve grown more confident in my voice. Oh, I’m not headed for StarSearch or American Idol. I don’t want to do karoke or anything like that. But “Walking in Memphis” sounds sweet in my voice, and although I don’t wail during “Troy” I can do all the rest.
It may not be beautiful, but it is joyful.