The Liberated Voice

Revolutionizing vocal technique with timeless wisdom

Downsizing

Uncategorized Feb 24, 2024
When you see me again, feel free to praise how strong and alert I seem (assuming that I do!). But please don’t compliment me on how svelte I have become.
 
I’ve lost at least 30 pounds due to this illness. I weigh less now than in nearly 30 years. The loss was rapid and destabilizing. Much of it happened while bedridden in the hospital, so when I was finally able to walk, it actually felt like I was moving someone else’s body around. I begin chemotherapy next week, which may mean ongoing vigilance to keep my weight up.
 
The weight loss is not the most significant alteration that my body (aka my physical instrument) has experienced so far as a consequence of cancer and treatment. I’ve also undergone three abdominal surgeries that impact the way my breathing anatomy responds—once the area is all healed up, it will nevertheless be in very different condition.
 
I’ll address breath function more in future posts, but today I’d...
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In Praise of Nurses

Uncategorized Feb 14, 2024
 
Hello all! I am continuing to recuperate at home from my recent colon cancer surgeries.
 
On the one hand, my stamina, mental clarity, and physical balance are all improving incrementally, hurray! On the other hand, when I note these incremental improvements, I also note a tendency to say to myself, “you mean it was even worse than this before?!” I do my utmost to encourage my students to rejoice in and reward their incremental progress, and it’s time for me to learn to do the same for myself where my recovery is concerned.
 
Reflecting on this now, I am feeling deeply humbled by and grateful for the exceptional care I received during my three weeks as a resident of Mount Sinai West Hospital. I want to take a moment to express just how inspired and awed I was by the nurses of Floor 14B.
 
I have been fortunate to spend so little time on the receiving end of healthcare that, prior to this adventure, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it...
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Emerging from the Dark Aether

Uncategorized Feb 05, 2024
Hello, my friends! I’m happily still among you, and I am grateful to finally feel ready to share some updates and other thoughts.
 
I remain pretty astonished by the condition in which I now find myself. Back in December, I had plenty of ideas and ambitions about what I would be doing in January, February, this new year, this fresh chapter in my life and career. Colon cancer did not feature among them! It has been unprecedented in my experience, to have the momentum of my life come to a crashing halt, all of my priorities and activities abruptly scuttled in order to focus on a very concerning health crisis.
 
I have been fortunate to enjoy exceptionally good health throughout my life, and wellness is something I delight in pursuing. Having personally never experienced a Serious Health Crisis before, I guess I never really expected to. My doctors assure me that where my treatment and prognosis are concerned, everything is going beautifully. But this assurance comes...
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Coordinated, Uncomplicated Onsets

Uncategorized Dec 03, 2023
The Liberated Voice
Coordinated, Uncomplicated Onsets
8:25
 
Welcome, and thank you for listening.
 
This afternoon, I will lead a singing class on coordinated onsets. "Onset" is just the word that voice teachers use for how we initiate sound at the beginning of a phrase. So this morning, I am thinking about beginnings, about the way that we start things.
 
"Coordinated onset" sounds like a very complicated term for something that is essentially very simple and intuitive. Initiating a sung phrase is ideally not terribly different from initiating a spoken phrase in conversation. The more spontaneous and genuinely motivated a sung phrase is, the more expressive it will be. The more you feel like you are communicating that phrase as though it were the first time it ever occurred to anyone to express such a thing, the more present and genuine you will feel when you sing it.
 
So what makes a sung onset different, and can make it a lot more complicated, than the way you would initiate a spoken phrase in conversation? Well, it's...
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The Problem of Infinite Potential

Uncategorized Dec 01, 2023
The Liberated Voice
The Problem of Infinite Potential
7:29
 
 
Welcome, and thank you for joining me.
 
Yesterday, a friend who is also a voice teacher—an outstanding, and very caring voice teacher—said something that got me thinking. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this: "Voice teachers always have this dilemma when we talk to prospective students: We express our conviction that they absolutely can learn to sing, and we can help them, but if we are honest about the possibility that it may take five years or more to get the results they are after, no one would sign up for lessons!"
 
I recognize the truth of what they were saying: in a culture that is obsessed with expedience, that evaluates products and services based in part in terms of how quickly they yield measurable results, how do you communicate the value of an open-ended endeavor like singing?
 
I guess you just try. For me, the fact that singing is an open-ended endeavor is a feature, and not a flaw. Not only will there always be more...
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Divas & Deities

Uncategorized Nov 28, 2023
The Liberated Voice
Divas & Deities
7:13
 
Welcome, and thank you for listening.
 
As promised, today I am going to talk about Deity practice. I would like to begin this discussion with some song lyrics from the Rogers & Hammerstein musical Cinderella, which I first experienced around the age of five or six on our black and white television:
 
In my own little corner, in my own little chair,
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy, I can fly anywhere,
And the world will open its arms to me.
 
Cinderella goes on to fantasize about all sorts of experiences she would like to have, also pointing out that some of these experiences are more safely experienced in the realm of her imagination than in real life. If you are familiar with this story, you know that it ends with her most cherished wishes coming true.
 
This musical had a powerful formative influence on me, problematic patriarchal issues with fairy tales aside. It taught me that if there is something you want to experience, you...
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Waiting for Maitreya

The Liberated Voice
Waiting for Maitreya
7:14
 
Welcome, and thank you for listening.
 
Yesterday I saw a social media post describing how members of different spiritual and religious lineages have been waiting for their version of a Messiah to arrive, sometimes for thousands of years.
 
It concluded with the comment that, "Most religions adopt the idea of a 'savior' and state that the world will remain filled with evil until this savior comes and fills it with goodness and righteousness. Maybe our problem on this planet is that people expect someone else to come solve their problems instead of doing it themselves."
 
While I agree that it is vital that each of us be as proactive as we can about creating the world we wish to be a part of, I also feel that vision and ethical leadership plays a vital role in systems change. But that is not why I brought up this idea today. The reason that this post caught my attention is that the spiritual lineages mentioned included Buddhism, pointing out that "Buddhists have been...
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Attachment Culture

Uncategorized Nov 25, 2023
The Liberated Voice
Attachment Culture
10:43
 
Welcome, and thank you for listening.
 
I used to think of my approach in the studio as using mindfulness techniques to teach singing. Lately, I have come to realize that what I am actually doing is using singing technique to teach mindfulness.
 
For me, singing has always been, first and foremost, a practice.
 
The practice of singing raises my awareness of how my body functions, enabling me to move with increased grace and intention. It puts me in contact with the real-time flow of my feelings, allowing me to explore and express them with intensity and nuance. It gives my imagination free rein, investing me with the power to create unique interpretations of the music and texts I perform. It helps me to experience more of myself, connect with others more deeply, and better understand the world around me.
 
However, this is not the way that I have generally described my relationship with singing.
 
My foundational experiences as a singer and voice teacher...
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You’re Always Practicing Something

Uncategorized Nov 24, 2023
The Liberated Voice
You’re Always Practicing Something
9:18
 
In this podcast, I talk about singing as a liberation-oriented practice. Anything that promotes the flow of experience and expression, and reduces qualities of friction or rigidity that can impede that flow, will make your singing freer and more enjoyable. When I use the word liberation, what I mean is liberation from anything that might impede that flow, and liberation to express yourself more creatively and powerfully. When you view this process of enhancing flow and reducing friction as a practice that can impact not only your music-making but also all of your activities, your singing practice becomes a liberation-oriented activity in the broader, Buddhist sense: a practice that heightens awareness, and enables you to become more mindful and present generally.
 
What I would like to point out today is that, whether you are intentionally engaging in a liberation-oriented practice, or you are not, you are always practicing something. At any given moment, the way you move,...
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Gratitude (?)

Uncategorized Nov 22, 2023
The Liberated Voice
Gratitude (?)
7:31
 
 
Welcome, and thank you for joining me.
 
I am recording this episode on the day before American Thanksgiving, and I would like to share some thoughts about the feeling and expression of gratitude.
 
I have a student who has been an actor and theatre director, and last week we were talking about how you can't make yourself feel specific feelings on demand. He was telling me about how frustrating it can be for actors pursuing a technique like Method Acting, when they think they're supposed to be able to conjure up an intense feeling in real time, in the service of the character they are portraying.
 
When we experience a feeling, it arises within us, in response to both internal and external conditions. It arises, and we experience it, at various degrees of intensity, and then eventually it passes, to be overtaken by the arisal of other feelings. Buddhist philosophy equates feelings with body sensations, and emotional feelings arise and pass the same way that...
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