On the last proper day of spring break (and thus probably the last day of regular posts to this blog for a bit), it occurs to me that singing is weird.
In some ways it’s just weird in the way any art is — you can enjoy it (maybe enjoy it better) without really understanding what makes it good or having any particular talent for it yourself. But even in this strange company it’s kind of an outsider. Unlike painting, writing, dancing, or even playing an instrument, it’s really best appreciated through performance. You read a book, listen to a symphony, watch a ballet, you sing your favorite songs. You sing even as you listen, and once you’ve learned them you can repeat them to yourself whenever you like and enjoy them all over again, no matter how bad you are at actually producing the notes. Storytelling is like this too, I suppose — but stories are dynamic, shared things independent of the written word, and they’re so close to music as to hardly count as a different medium. Dancing, perhaps, is close; but songs have no steps.
What’s more, whole groups of people can recreate the entire piece simultaneously, alongside the “real” performer, with very little effort or practice. I was thinking of this when reviewing a little clip I recorded (shh!) with my phone during a concert; during the event I was focusing on the sound of the singer’s voice, but in the recording you can of course hear the crowd singing along. Surely most of us (certainly me) were off-key at times, forgot words, weren’t always on the beat. But the combined sound of hundreds of voices smooths away any individual roughness, and the overall effect is of this massive group of people more-or-less perfectly matching every lyric and lilt and “ooh” and “ah” in a complicated song they’ve never heard performed in this exact way before.
It’s strange and lovely, and it’s really no less so in the myriad other similar ways we’ve all encountered this — a small group at a birthday party, perhaps, or a larger one at a church or school. But one person can repeat a song too, without anyone else helping along or listening. Sometimes we just sing for ourselves, even if the songs were not originally our own. Musicals (animated and otherwise) continue to thrive, I suspect, because deep down it doesn’t seem so entirely strange to us that people would just spontaneously erupt into an elaborate bout of singing during a particularly emotional moment.
Taking a bit of a left turn here, this is the one problem I have with today’s ditty, Fight Song by Rachel Platten. There is one single word in these lyrics that always makes me feel like this song is a carefully-crafted attempt to get people to buy/stream this song rather than being a heartfelt melody, and that’s “play.” “I’ll play my fight song.” You don’t play a fight song, it’s a fight song. You sing it yourself. Or with/to/for your fellow fighters. Sure, in the real world people will also play it because it is in fact a song by Rachel Platten, but in the song’s own little mini-universe it’s her song, and it’s clearly not instrumental, so I can’t see why she wouldn’t sing it herself … unless, like “GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL” it’s a not-so-subtle encouragement to the listener. I even sing it in my head as “sing” rather than “play” sometimes; I don’t know why this makes me so grumpy, but we all have our obsessions. I do like Fight Song well enough otherwise, despite that one car commercial. I just like Lone Ranger better….
Anyhow, here is a rough-and-tumble little Wren, the
king queen of the birds, and she may not be singing but she certainly has a lot of fight. As with the Battlefield griffin earlier, she’s drawn with my “quill” pen, which is basically a regular pen that ends in a black plastic/rubber feather instead of an eraser and looks awesome.