Singing? I wouldn’t exactly call it that.

As some of you may know, last night I had my first signing lesson. After work, I rode my scooter the 3 blocks to the Bermuda Cathedral, and went around the back, down the cobblestone steps and through the door, just like his e-mail told me. It was at this point, I started realizing that this was the textbook start to a horror movie, and impulsively started to worry a bit. The last thing I need is to become a hundred pieces of human shishkebab, unless Hy’s seasoning salt is involved, in which case, I’ll keep an open mind.

I sat and waited in the waiting room, working on my laptop with a piece of software called Reason. It’s basically an all-in-one music production suite, and I managed to get a rock beat, and a cello-based bass line down before the instructor showed up. Even though he was perfectly on time, while he was unlocking the door to his studio, he was explaining that he saw a director he worked with and had to stop and say hi. After I explained that he was on time, and that I was just early, we walked through the door to his office.

Wait a second. Director?

Oh yes: director. I soon found out that not only is this guy an amazing singer, but he is also into musical theater, and acting. In fact he just returned from New York after shooting a scene for the TV show The Sopranos. [Editor’s Note: Just now I realized how fitting it is for a singer to be on a show named after a range of notes a singer can hit.]

We sat and chatted for about 15-20 minutes, talking about what my goals were in terms of my voice, and how he’ll be able to help me achieve those goals. We talked about his experience as a singer/performing artist (he’s been to two different conservatories of music to train) and how he’ll be able to use his skills to increase mine. As you can probably tell, I quickly realized that I’m in quite capable hands and have full faith in the fact that he will be able to get me where I want to be.

After talking, we went straight into vocal exercises. Even though I had only been in the lesson for half an hour, he’d already said some things to me that had made sense in terms of what you should be doing with your body (specifically the throat) to let the sounds come out more naturally. Keeping your throat in a more “yawned”/relaxed position allows you to hold the note with much more ease than I ever thought possible. That one little tidbit of information was so effective that by the end of the lesson, I had already increased my range by three notes in both direction.

I think the correct term for that is: progress.

While I’m sure a lot of it was just BS to use as positive reinforcement, throughout the lesson he was saying that I was doing great. (As an example, he was saying that one of the exercises we went through took one of his students over a year to master, and I had got it by the end of the hour.) I’m not totally sure whether or not I believe him, but it’s nice to hear that someone with classical training (and a lot of it) has confidence in me. Even if I don’t necessarily believe it, I think I was able to feed off it to a certain extent and in the end made some serious headway in terms of how well I’ll be able to sing.

Once we had spent about a half hour on the exercises, I brought my Zune with me and was able to play a few of the songs that I’ve written and recorded in the past year or so. To my delight, he said that while technically they need work (hence the reason for my taking lessons from him), they were really good songs, and with enough training, they could sell. A lot. If anything, that was what completely made my day.

At any rate, if it’s not obvious by now, despite the $80 per lesson fee (even if it’s 1-on-1), I am incredibly excited at the prospect of being able to one day go into the studio one day and record a CD without the fear of shattering any windows. I’d like Burton to produce it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Now all I have to do is learn how to sing in Spanish.

Self-improvement (Part 92)

Well, on my continuing journey to make myself the perfect person via self-improvement (and believe me ladies, I’m gettin’ there *wink and the gun*), I’ve decided to strengthen my vocal chords by taking singing lessons. Between Hazen being out of the house 2 or 3 nights a week with his karate, and Matt out every other night with poker, I thought it might be a good idea to find something outside of work that I can do to pass the time and what better way to do it than by trying to make myself sound less like a cat dying in an unlit alley at midnight.

Most of you know that after enough drinks, I might happen to mention that I’m a musician. Playing the guitar has at least got to rank me somewhere above the mark of “music listener”, even if I can only play marginally better than I did at age 3, so I’d like to take the first steps to making that sentence at least less of a lie than it has been.

People who really know me, know that music has been a part of my life, longer than my consciousness has. Apparently while my mom was pregnant with me, she went to a Supertramp concert (ROCK ON, MOM!) and even there I was kicking her to the beat. If that doesn’t scream “music addict”, I honest to God don’t know what does.

I’ve already got a good feeling about the teacher because he wants me to bring some of the music I’ve recorded already to get a feel for the kind of singing I’m going to be doing. I’m not sure why, but that just seems a lot more personable than just “You’re under my instruction and I don’t care that you’re trying to sing heavy metal. Here’s some opera; now get to singing.”

At any rate, I start the lessons tomorrow at 5pm and finish some time around 6pm. I’ll leave my first lesson and I’ll continue telling people that I’m a musician; I guess now it’ll just be true.

Response to “Caught in the delta”

Fellow blogger, and current roommate of mine, Hazen wrote an article today about being what he calls “Caught in the delta”. If I am understanding the nature of the article, he doesn’t mean we’re like Survivor stuck on a little piece of land at the end of a river, rather how we as human beings in the 21st century are caught in a never-ending loop of change, which is fueled by the never-ending supply of information. Stuck constantly adapting ourselves to the latest updates in news, we are making substantial changes to the way we live and survive on a nearly daily basis, and there’s no sign of it letting up any time soon.

Being a product of the late 20th century, I’ve had the benefit of growing up with computers. The mysterious grey or black boxes that somehow manage to take input from a user by way of keyboard or mouse or joystick, and not only re-display that input, but actually process millions of calculations per second on it and output something useful.

As an exercise to the reader, I’d like you to count to 0 to 30 in your head as fast as you can, but time yourself. After you’ve counted to 30, count as fast as possible in your head from 0 to 40. Even in your head, you’re probably looking at between 15 and 30 seconds each time. Now do that twenty-five thousand times. A computer will do that in less than a second. And it’s not even counting which is mindless enough that after a while you wouldn’t even have to think about it; it’s doing instructions which are different damn near all the time.

“So now here we are stuck in the delta, addicted to information we cannot even digest.”

Of course we’re addicted to information. Isn’t that what the information age introduced us to? The news organizations became the new pushers, and their readers were faithful junkies who needed a constant fix of their favorite drug. Instead of spiking up your arm and leaving trackmarks on your forearm, today’s addict leaves lines in their company’s firewall logs.

What’s even more interesting though is how information gathering has gone from a passive (or pull) exercise, to a completely active (or push) exercise. What do I mean by that? Well let me explain. 5 years ago, the information age was booming. Left and right, you had websites that had all of the latest news about business or sports or entertainment (or any combination). You had the main portals like CNN.com or Yahoo.com which carried feeds from all the major news wires live on their website. The problem with that form of retrieval is that you had to constantly had to refresh the page to see if there were any new stories.

Enter RSS feeds. While I could get incredibly technical and probably lose the last 2 readers who occasionally read this page, I’ll give a quick rundown which will hopefully explain it but not bore you to death. RSS feeds are a feature that more and more sites are offering their users, which allows them to run a separate program that monitors these feeds. As soon as an update is posted to the site, the RSS reader notifies the user and says “HEY IDIOT, A NEW ARTICLE WAS JUST POSTED!!! LETS GO WASTE MORE COMPANY TIME AND READ IT!!!” and it conveniently provides a link directly to that latest story.

No longer do we have to waste precious time refreshing the same page over and over again; now we just run an RSS reader, add links to all the RSS feeds we can get our hands on, and wait for the updates to be posted.

Even right this second, with this exact blog, I have an RSS feed that you can subscribe to (subscribe is a very loose term when it comes to RSS; it simply means to add the feed address to your reader) where you can be updated every time I post another one of my rants about absolutely nothing. I’m also going to be “pushing” information as soon as I finish writing this article, as I’ve set up my blog software to notify Hazen’s blog as soon as I quote it for the purposes of this very article.

So would submitting information about information to another site about information be considered “recursive information swapping”?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in IT; I am absolutely addicted to information. I not only have to keep up with the latest tools and techniques for my job, but let’s face it: 99% of IT people love (or at least one point loved) computers. I have a tab on my web browser constantly open to Google’s RSS reader which keeps me up to date on all the latest and greatest toys in the computer world (courtesy of Engadget, ZDNet, and The Register‘s RSS feeds), what’s happening in Calgary (courtesy of Google’s customized news reader feeds) and on some of my friends’ blogs. I am absolutely an information junkie of the highest order.

The only problem I see is that at some point, without having our brains directly wired to the internet, we’re only going to be able to take in so much at one time. You can only read so fast, and even beyond that, your brain can only comprehend so much data in a given period of time, before it needs a break to actually process that information. I realize that people around me are just as addicted to information, and that to keep up, I must keep myself addicted too. Falling behind the curve is something that is rarely ever recovered from, and the last thing I want to do is piss all over my meal ticket.

There are definitely days when I am (and I’m sure you are, too) just sick of the constant barrage of data that we are expected to absorb on a minute-to-minute basis. From the second our radio alarms wake us up in the morning with the latest news, weather and sports (sponsored by Purina Dog Chow) to when we get downstairs and read the newspaper (sponsored by the nine thousand ads) and then to work by billboards that almost seem to reproduce nightly (sponsored by Nike). And you’ve only been awake for two hours! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I would just like one day a month where I can sit in a completely black room, and just think. There are oh-so many days where I take so much in, my head literally hurts.

Can I score a hit of that information methadone?