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the sound of music

Growing up, I knew my father was an amazing singer, and his voice and his shadow threaded themselves through the fabric of my childhood. His voice was a bass baritone, and never spoiled by his drink or his 40-a-day-cigs habit, even though the rest of his body caved in when he was 44. There were many
things I loved about my father's voice - the way it seemed to come from somewhere deep inside of him, the way it stirred and swelled. The way it seemed to soar from his throat and take with it anyone who listened. That all you had to do was shut your eyes and follow the flung rope of music as though it were a gateway to another realm rich as cinnamon, another existence entirely in which the world was russet coloured and full of passion and wonder and grief and joy and every other emotion which flowed
through my father's song.

What I loved best was the way the voice seemed so deep and resonant. The way if I shut my eyes and laid my head against my father's chest I could feel the vibrations of the song in him, and could imagine that he was not flesh and bone but made of smooth dark wood like the insides of Orthodox Churches, that inside himself my dad had not griefs and frustrations and hypertension but immense rooms of light and air filled only with the smooth, carthwheeling, endless notes of song.

He sang me to sleep most nights of my childhood when he was actually there. The same song. An old Russian one, a lullaby. Spi moya radost, usnyi Sleep my joy, go to sleep - roughly translated. I've forgotten most of the words, i retain only fragments. Something about sleepy mice retreating
to their holes and kittens curling up by the stove. And something about how now that the world is all asleep, then sleep also my joy.

An endless jumble of contradiction my dad, like any other human being I suppose. He got elected to be the General Secretary of his local communist party despite writing *Aristocrat* as the reply to the question of Whatis your social background on the form, an atheist who sang in the church choir [except of course when he was drunk, or that Easter when thelate dog ate the sheet music] and had most of his Communist Party attend to listen to him singing. The man who'd been an opera singer once, who'd studied three university degrees and never finished one, who had very famous people from the stage and opera in belgrade continually begging him to sing professionally again, but he never did.

I wish I had more of my father's voice. I wish someone had thought to record it, so that I might be able to have something tangible of him. Instead all I have is sobbing, wistful opera divas who sometimes re-surface to sigh over his musical talent and the tragedy of his life, which is not fundamentally satisfying to me.

There is not much of my father left at all, except photographs, and a bottle of his aftershave, and my memory of how he sang though I don't remember the precise timbre. All I recall is the way his voice just flew from him, the way it soared, the way he could sustain a note and the way it would hang in
the air - ephemeral and infinite as rainbows, or join seamlessly with thenext note, flowing into one another the way the shimmer of light merges with the surface of a lake.

Most days I don't remember much of his music, because it's still too painful. It undoes something still-raw-jagged inside me and makes me cry. And then of course along with the wonder, there was the darker side of his gift.

Living with a genius is not just all joy and light, but has many painful levels. For instace because my father was so naturally adept at a thing (like music, and maths - non coincidentally my two weakest subjects) because he'd never actually struggled to learn the damn things, he had no idea what learning them was like. He had no idea how to teach it. And he had no idea that the things that were so glaringly obvious to him might just possibly be less obvious to someone else, especially when that someone happened
to be a four year old child. He appeared to labour under the misconception that I could learn
to read sheet music by simply staring at it. And when oddly, I failed to grasp this knowledge
by osmosis he'd fly into terrible frustrated rages and shout at me and call me all sorts of
derogatory things, insulting my intelligence.

These were deeply painful and humiliating experiences for me - getting called stupid is never pleasant, especially not when done by a beloved, admired human being. For a long time Ithought I was stupid, and rebelled against my father's particular brand of tyranny by simply refusing to learn. Going into shutdown mode every time I came near maths and music. Refusingto have anything to do with the damn things.

My self-esteem was further eroded by my mother's influence, who told me deeply unflattering things about my singing voice - I believe the original expression was You sound like a crow with a cold and it stung. So I vowed that if I sounded that terrible then I must never sing again, never ever anywhere but the shower and the privacy of my own head.

Later, I thawed and mellowed. I was in theatre and I sang with the rest of the cast in the chorus, and occasionally as I grew older and less afraid of my inner critics I sang with others, but never alone, not as long as there was anyone within earshot. To have me sing along to someone's radio was a sign of great trust and intimacy between us, because I am oh so sensitive, and insecure and woundable there.

Things mellowed further as I became accustomed to singing at newhamhouse with the other gathered folk (and *gasp* enjoyed it), but singing alone in front of people was the stuff of nightmares for me. Singing solo in front of a microphone therefore presumably allowing my possibly *crow with a cold*-ish tones to be amplified and broadcast far and wide filled me with such dread that I would break out in cold sweat.

But I don't believe in living an unchallenged life. I always try to push myself to do that which I fear, so that the fear no longer has power over me. I believe in being braver than you consider yourself capable of being, because courage is not about being fear-less (that's recklessness) but going on despite it. Which is why I agreed to do Karaoke, reassured by the fact that it was Rubbish Karaoke (in honour of miss_newham's birthday which seemed based on the assumptions that tunes would be hit only as a matter of accident.

Rubbish Karaoke I thought to myself smugly, rubbing my little hands with glee
Excellent! That has my name on it! and so on that note I duly headed off to Frith St.
to the appointed place.

The evening did not start off an an auspicious note. I threw up fish, and got hit on by an extremely ugly butch lesbian [she had one of the most awful haircuts i have ever seen on a human being, had a massive gold chain around her neck and was clad in deeply unflattering biking leathers thus offending
my aesthetic sensibilities on many levels] and this was all before I even got to Bond Street. And then I tottered around Soho for a little bit in my high heels before finally managing to find the Karaoke bar, and from the on my night improved considerably.

I sang several tunes which were excellent fun, and I've no idea how good/bad I sounded but everyone was sufficiently tactful/kind/wise not to laugh, and I had a great deal of fun,and enjoyed myself hugely.

There were many fine moments in the evening, I especially enjoyed bluedevi as Bjork and mzdt as Barry White, but undoubtedly the absolute highlight has to be voiceofsauron and hoshutekisingin Summer Nights to each other. It was the sort of beautiful moment that slash fiction is aching to be written about. [photographic evidence will be posted, unless hoshuteki's agents remove me before I've had a chance to upload them.

And now, regardless of what miss_newham says, I want to do it again!
Rubbish Karaoke 2: Sing bad with a vengeance - really it has to be done.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
gromwell
Mar. 21st, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC)
But I don't believe in living an unchallenged life. I always try to push myself to do that which I fear, so that the fear no longer has power over me. I believe in being braver than you consider yourself capable of being, because courage is not about being fear-less (that's recklessness) but going on despite it.

Classic rainsinger, classic inspiration. You are just wonderful. XX
rainsinger
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:51 am (UTC)
thank you. :) So are you.

and i look forward to hearing all about your husky holiday - when are you going?
gromwell
Mar. 22nd, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC)
I have another year to wait - it's my treat for when I turn 40.
dubaiyan
Mar. 21st, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
when i sing, flowers die :D
But I sang for eledhwenlin, because she sang for me :D

Mothers eh. *loathes cheerfully*

I am hanging mid-eScrabble wah!
rainsinger
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:52 am (UTC)
Re: when i sing, flowers die :D
teeehee :)

i'll sing for you if i can hear you sing :) but i need to find a mike first.
dubaiyan
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:48 am (UTC)
i can't sing
i can recite stuff!!

*also mikeless*
casaubon
Mar. 21st, 2005 11:12 pm (UTC)
And he had no idea that the things that were so glaringly obvious to him might just possibly be less obvious to someone else

I'm certainly no genius, but I have this fault. This makes it very difficult for me to try to teach Tom stuff. I fight it, but... grrr... it's tricky.


Anyway... .mp3 files? :D
rainsinger
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:56 am (UTC)
'm certainly no genius, but I have this fault. This makes it very difficult for me to try to teach Tom stuff. I fight it, but... grrr... it's tricky.


yeah, I've been on both sides of the equation. Sometimes I am very impatient with people to keep up and learn but i also remember how destructive for me were my father's insults and rages and how long it took me to regain confidence in my abilities.

But I think as long as you are aware of the stuff in you, and are trying, that's all you can do about it really.
tubewalker
Mar. 21st, 2005 11:19 pm (UTC)
Ahhhh. I can breathe again, your posts are amazing. I can see you on his chest listening and your description of his voice is just... oh man.

I want to write a song called Crow With A Cold but would that upset you?
rainsinger
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:54 am (UTC)
I want to write a song called Crow With A Cold but would that upset you?

Not at all, so long as it's not about slandering me ;)

Speaking of songs - I kept trying to work on the started one you sent me but all my creative energies appear to be on hibernation still. Bah.
They will come back.
tubewalker
Mar. 23rd, 2005 08:12 am (UTC)
As if I'd slander you!

...but all my creative energies appear to be on hibernation still. Bah.

That happens, ho hum.
(Deleted comment)
rainsinger
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:52 am (UTC)
xxx

*snuggles and purrs*
shelbydee
Mar. 22nd, 2005 12:21 pm (UTC)
It still amazes me how much I can relate to your entries. :)
guihong
Mar. 22nd, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
Then I am honored you could sing in front of me, whom you had never met in person :). That was a beautiful evening.

gui
miss_newham
Mar. 22nd, 2005 05:13 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you came and I'm glad you sang. I loved the complete lack of embarrassment at the way most of us veered far, far away from the tune (I can sing well in church, but with a microphone under my nose it all goes wrong). And therefore, there will be more.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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