The power of a person’s will; control exerted to do something demanding or to restrain one’s impulses.
—Oxford English Dictionary
Happy New Year, readers!
This morning I kicked off 2023 with an hour or so of stretching and self-myofascial release. As I focused my awareness on where I was feeling tight and considered how it might feel good to move, I began to feel deeply grateful—not only for the fitness and anatomy background that enables me to care for myself in this particular way, but also for the fact that I genuinely want to. Exercise isn’t something I have to make myself do—it’s a luxury that has become a daily indulgence.
It wasn’t always like this for me. Growing up, gym class was an ongoing source of trauma, compounded by the bullying I endured for being “chubby” and uncoordinated. By my mid teens I decided I’d had enough. I started living on iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese and...
CW: Animal cruelty
I was recently reminded of a terrible joke I first heard as a child:
A scientist is performing research on a spider in his lab. He places the spider on a platform and commands, “Jump!”
The spider jumps. The scientist makes a note.
The scientist pulls off one of the spider’s legs, places it back on the platform, and commands, “Jump!”
The spider jumps. The scientist makes a note.
The scientist pulls off another one of the spider’s legs, places it back on the platform, commands “Jump!”… rinse and repeat, until finally the spider is completely legless.
The scientist makes a note: “When you pull off all the spider’s legs, it can no longer hear a damned thing.”
This comes to mind today because I feel that classical voice students often end up the unwitting study subjects of a psychological version of this experiment. Along the education and career paths they...
Soprano Angel Blue
Here’s a story: A young black woman is kidnapped, held hostage, and humiliated. There’s a ray of hope when one of her captors’ employees betrays them in the hope of absconding with her. But he’s caught, and they both die.
This, of course, is the plot of Verdi’s Aida, considered by many to be the grandest of all grand operas. Outsized emotions are what make grand opera grand, so the greater the suffering and hope portrayed, the more cathartic the opera will be for the audience. Beginning with Aida’s premiere, opera companies have traditionally heightened the grandeur of the protagonist’s emotions with the most epic production values imaginable:
At “Aida’s” 1871 world premiere in Cairo, 12 elephants joined a double chorus in the scene welcoming a brave soldier’s return from battle. In Shanghai’s uber-performance of the Verdi classic in 2000, the elephants had even more company: camels,...
This blog post is dedicated to all of you who think you should be exercising more than you do. Or believe you should be enjoying it more than you do, or wish you were getting better results.
All of you are officially off the hook. I’ve been a certified fitness trainer for some twenty years, and I am here to tell you that we’ve all been duped.
Fitness culture, at least here in the US, is largely premised on several fallacies:
To be clear, I’m not saying...
There is a lot we don’t understand about how women experience sex.
We know a great deal about the role of sex in reproduction. We know a great deal about male sexual arousal and discharge. We even know a great deal about male performance issues—we have studied erectile dysfunction in depth, for example, and developed resources so that men can continue to enjoy sexual arousal and discharge throughout their lives.
But there is a lot we don’t know about sex where the experiences of women are concerned—where female sexual arousal and discharge are concerned. Aside from reproduction, a great deal remains to be understood about how women experience sex. Nearly half the abstract for a paper titled “Women’s Orgasm” is devoted to the difficulties women have experiencing orgasm and the potential causes, but while ”orgasm problems are the second most frequently reported sexual problems in women,” to date there are still “no...
“It is not how high you get that matters—it’s how you get high.”
—W. Stephen Smith
Imagine you’re watching the Olympics on television. It’s time for pole vaulting.
You observe this amazing feat and think, wow, that’s for me! You seek out a coach who is known for training elite pole vaulters, and you schedule a session. You meet up with them at a field that is already set up for pole vaulting. The coach greets you, hands you an enormous pole, points to the distant crossbar, and says, “Okay, show me what you’ve got! Then come back here and I’ll tell you what you did wrong.”
This would never happen, of course.
But it’s really not all that different from what many singers experience in a first voice lesson with a new teacher, even as a complete beginner. You meet up with the teacher at their studio. The teacher greets you, sits down at the piano, invites you to sing a song, and then critiques...
I have always loved to practice music. I have been obsessed with practicing from the moment Mrs. Pickens, my next-door neighbor, put an alto recorder in my hands. I was six years old.
It was the beginning of a lifelong passion. I had so much fun playing around with the instrument, figuring out the fingering, learning to navigate the register breaks, playing scales in different keys, and best of all, teaching myself to play songs I heard on the radio. I spent hours learning Simon & Garfunkel and Jim Croce songs by ear.
When my neighbor invited me to play in her [otherwise adult] recorder ensemble, I had to learn to read music. It was confusing and challenging, but it was also really fun. I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of interpreting rhythm and pitch notation, and I really loved figuring out how the part I was playing fit into the overall musical design.
When I was eleven, I took up the clarinet and started playing in wind ensembles and orchestras. The clarinet opened up a...