Low Notes

When I first started this blog, I figured I’d write equally about writing/books and singing. Hence the URL. I haven’t, though. It’s mostly been words about words.

I sing a lot, though. Practice most nights, perform most holidays, etc. It’s equal parts ugly addiction and joy, especially since my voice seems mostly suited to pieces that have a lot of notes. A more apt URL would have been singing in dotted sixteenths—less catchy, though, amirite?

Over the last year, however, I’ve worked a lot with my voice teacher on building out my lower notes and chest voice. There are technical reasons for this, no matter your voice part, but it’s also—let me assure you—fun. For a lot of women and girls, being able to sing high notes is intimately tied to our feminine identity. Too much so. We panic when we stumble on those notes or fall short, like it's an indictment of our very essence as women. Low notes, though—too many people don’t give a shit in the classical tradition. After all, there are few moments in the solo or choral western canon that celebrate women killing the low notes. Other musical traditions, especially R&B, are much better at making full use of all parts of our voice.

Which is a shame, because again a) it’s incredibly fun to feel that warmth buzz around your chest like you've just discovered you're magic and b) it sounds like life.

Check this out.

Amazing, right? I watched Harriet recently and have been unable to stop wanting to hear Cynthia Erivo’s low notes. I don’t know if she’s technically a contralto or a mezzo with a low extension, but, whatever, her low notes are butter, cream and salt. They're tears, hope and strength, tenderness and beauty. And in this case, they add yet another layer of depth to the movie.

Rumble the foundations, ladies.