In the past week, I have found out something new and surprising about myself.
But first, some background.
Like oh so many people, I have loved music for as long as I can remember. I mean, Carol means “music or joyful sound,” so it’s not like I had much choice in the matter. But still, music is something that has always been a very strong part of my makeup. I wake up every morning with a song running through my head.
I’ve taken various music classes before. I’ve tried to learn clarinet and violin (did better on the latter than the former, but my neck is too jacked up to take it up again), gave the keyboard the ol’ college try (and I still occasionally play with that keyboard – I should probably get it back to CuteNerdBoy and get my own, dammit). I participated in chorus classes in school, recently gave the JPL Chorus a whirl (and probably will again), and last year I was involved with the world premiere of Alice Through the Wormhole at Caltech, in which I played three roles. I was so excited to actually be in a musical, even if I didn’t have any solos.
Frankly, I’m happy to not have had any real solos. My voice can be very erratic. One day it will sound perfectly nice to my ears and the next day I’ll be caterwauling off-key with no idea on how to get back on-key. It’s very frustrating. So much so that I’m finally taking honest-to-goodness singing lessons.
I’m taking two during the week: a one-on-one class through the Altadena Academy of Music and a singer’s workshop led by my talented and lovely friend Brenda Varda, who wrote Alice Through the Wormhole. I’m definitely noticing a real improvement in my voice, which makes me so happy. Both of my instructors have commented on how well I’m coming along. Brenda – who I’ve known since September 2014 – has mentioned how even my speaking voice seems to have much more vocal range than it did lo, those many months ago. I just have to work on the whole “singing with confidence in front of people” thing, which always throws me off.
In my almost 50 years on this planet, I’ve always heard my voice as alto. And because my speaking voice seems to be a wee bit low, no one has ever contradicted me. Until last week.
Elisabeth (my instructor at the Altadena Academy of Music) said that there is no way that I’m an alto. With the work we’ve done over the last month, my vocal range has broadened.
Me. The person who always heard her own voice as not much higher than Kathleen Turner’s, has been pegged as a mezzo soprano. When I told Brenda on Sunday, she was not surprised. Maybe that’s why she kept trying to get me to stop singing so low during “Alice.”
It may not be much to most people, but I gotta say, it blows my mind.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to completely reorder my life to fit in this new piece of information…
Like many people, I find that I need music when doing damned near anything. I find it especially motivating when trying to do things around the house or dealing with intensely stressful and busy days at work (like this whole month, for instance).
Yesterday, I finally put together a playlist on my Android phone: Music to Kick Ass By.
For me, that just means music with a driving beat that always manages to get my ample butt in gear and, well, kick some productive ass.
The attached photos show the 37 songs I’ve placed in my playlist, mostly still just in alphabetical order for now (though “This is Gallifrey/Vale Decem” segues really well into “I Am The Doctor.”) I’ll take the time arrange them in a more aurally pleasing order when I get more than a moment to do so.
So tell me, dear readers, what music gets you motivated to kick ass? Are there any songs that you might think would be a fine addition to my playlist?
Many moons ago I wrote a little something about John Hawkes, whom I had briefly met a number of years ago following the performance of his former band Gangster Folk at the now-defunct Highland Grounds. Since then his acting star – which was always a fascinating one to follow even before Buttleman – has steadily been on the rise with brilliant turns in such projects as Deadwood and Me and You and Everyone We Know, with him finally garnering an Oscar nomination for his role of Teardrop in Winter’s Bone – a chilling and affecting performance that richly deserved the nomination in a very tough and talented field.
Well, friend of John Hawkes and one-time acquaintance of mine Stephen Falk linked to a video of Mr. Hawkes singing a song from his new movie Martha Marcy May Marlene. Needless to say, I instantly fell in love with the song. And the movie trailer makes me want – nay, need – to see this new movie.
Oh, John Hawkes. Who knew that when I spied you singing onstage that February night in Aught-Three, wearing that powder blue polyester tux and barely buttoned ruffled shirt and looking for all the world like a delinquent behind the gym during prom, smoking and drinking Jack Daniels, that I would become an avid fan of your tremendous acting talent? I sure didn’t. And oh, man, I was certainly short-sighted.
This morning I was looking for the lyrics to a lovely song by Nanci Griffith and I realized that I hadn’t listened to it in quite a long time. It was as lovely as I remember it, so I’m going to post it for y’all today. Enjoy!
Here’s the thing: I am a sappy, sappy woman. A sappy woman with high musical standards, mind you, but when I hear a song that pierces my heart, it’s all I can do to keep from tearing up. Even then, I’m not entirely successful (such as now – while at work).
So when this song was first sent to me via a now-defunct “Song of the Day” listserv which I used to belong to, I turned into a weeping pile of goo. It was through the listserv that I “discovered” Jason Robert Brown, a Tony-award winning composer who is the only living composer that comes closest to Stephen Sondheim, in my estimation.
(The only other contemporary musical theater composer who came close was Jonathan Larson, who died far too young just as RENT was starting its first off-Broadway performances. I can only imagine what brilliance he would have had before him.)
CuteFilmNerd and I spent the July 4th weekend away from the computer and earning a little extra money. Nothing exciting, but it did entail us not being within communication distance of each other, with our iPods keeping us sane and helping the time pass by.
I listened to a lot of Real Time with Bill Maher podcasts, but I also listened to a little music. And the music that really helped me out? Marian Call. A geek girl with a lovely voice, a wicked sense of wordplay and a typewriter as one of her musical instruments, her music makes me smile, laugh and cry, sometimes in rapid succession.
At the moment, the only album of hers that I have is Got to Fly, a tribute to geeks everywhere, though the songs are inspired by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. You don’t have to be a fan of those shows to enjoy the songs, because they are immediately identifiable to anyone who has lived life.
If you’re a fan of gorgeous music that is simple yet complex, with a lovely voice and sense of whimsy, buy Marian Call’s music. You’ll be glad you did.
CuterFilmNerd and I also spent the evening of July 4th at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and watched Jaws in the cold night air with fireworks going off in the background at another location (I don’t know where). It was weird and kinda creepy and fun and I’m happy we did it – I’d never been to any of the Cinespia screenings before, though I’d certainly heard about them.
In many ways CuteFilmNerd and I are very well suited for each other, which is why we’re together and why, when a certain song popped up on my iTunes today, I felt moved to email it to him: