Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Louder Than Words

I've recently been working with a young singer from Japan whose gumption and determination have taught me a thing or two about the words... after reading The Art of Singing, she booked a flight, a hotel and- sight unseen- 5 weeks of vocal lessons.

While I hope that I've been able to offer her the wisdom and insights for which she traveled so far, I'm certain the scales are balanced in terms of learning, if not tipped in my favor. It isn't for the amount or intensity of our work. It isn't that she has a particularly unusual voice, difficult issues or bad habits.

It's that she doesn't speak a word of English.

I've said a lot in my writing about the power of silence and the importance of non-verbal communication. And I stand by their merits; a vacation from language provides for an awareness that speaks volumes about who we are and how we engage with the world and those around us.

But what about when that vacation is permanent?

Confidence about a journey into the silent unknown disappears when words never have nor will be an option. Yet in this void, I gained some of the most profound wisdom of my career. With everything but words, Hikari and I delved into what I'd largely and often unknowingly relied on language to reach. Not only did issues of technique, diction and performance expression open up and unravel in that space. Passion, emotions and dreams laid themselves bare for exploration as well.

Most profound was just how silent we became. The expressions and gestures that enabled us to 'speak' in our first weeks transitioned into physical quiet as well. By the end, we were simply looking at each other... being with each other. An idea dancing across my mind showed up an instant later in her song. I felt her questions and answered them in a voice neither of us actually heard.

That 'voice' is one we all share. When words go away, along with the ideas they speak to... about differences of nationality, language, gender and tradition... we are left touching the pulse of what makes us the same. We are left staring at a human being from across the world... and finding ourselves in her eyes...

Thank you, Hikari, for that true vision of myself, as well as for such profound insights into the real nature of communication and connection. I'm honored to have shared so powerfully together on your most exquisite life journey.

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Blogger Rebecca said...

that is beautiful!! how profound , thank you for sharing

November 2, 2010 at 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was absolutely exquisite – and I can relate so viscerally. It reminded me of the week that I had all but lost my voice with an audition looming. Of course, teaching 5th graders band instruments all day was not helping anything, so I began using only a small marker board and gestures, and it was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences.

Your experience sounds so much richer though. What an inspiration. I think I’m going to go out and just never talk to my choir again.

Thank you Jennifer! Oh and congratulations on your Psychology Today opening! I’m looking forward to seeing those. Speaking of Psychology though, I had a student just a week or so ago that really cracked me up. Well I felt honored, but it was a bit funny too. He was tired, and there was just no sense in beating our heads against the wall having him play as normal. We just talked a lot, and I tried to encourage his thoughts toward a stronger work ethic – discovering the joys of consistent, creative, engaged, thoughtful practice. I don’t recall now what I was even waxing eloquent on, but all of a sudden he just stops and said things like, “are you a psychologist”, “you should write a book”, etc. It wasn’t so much what he said, but it was the enthusiasm with which he said it. It was nice to have such a strong affirmation of confidence from a student, but even better was the fact that he was so enthusiastically learning along with me! You know them so well, Jennifer – those moments that are irreplaceable when both parties’ minds are enlightened and a music lesson turns into much more than just music. It’s truly humbling.


November 2, 2010 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Randall M. Hasson said...

Profound Insight.... thank you.

November 2, 2010 at 12:26 PM  

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