2021/12/23 - DoTTS Faculty 教員コラム
“Virtual Music” (Lisa Gayle Bond )
Music! Do you like music? Do you play an instrument? Do you have a favorite artist or band that you follow or listen to? Music is a very important part of my life. One of my first memories as a very young child is that of crawling up on a piano bench and playing a piece or two for anyone that would listen. When I was four, my favorite gift from Santa Claus was a small hand-written book of simplified Christmas songs just for me! I did not question the fact that the music was written by Santa, but even so at a young age I knew that Santa’s handwriting was quite similar to my mother’s. It was special! It was for me, and I could crawl up on the piano bench and play Christmas music for everyone to hear!
I really don’t remember when I began playing the piano, but I must have been very young. When I was in elementary school, I also began to play the violin in the school orchestra, and I then I began to play the harp. In high school I began to play the guitar and write music with a few friends, and in graduate school I began to play the viola. Through it all, I sang in school choral groups, church choirs and with my friends whenever and wherever we could. At one point, I strongly considered majoring in music in university, and I had made all the preparations for such – but that is a story for another day. Music was and still is a major part of my life. It has helped me through good times and bad times, and it has been my best friend when I could not be with others.
Prior to the pandemic, I would sing in a choir and a choral group at least two or three times a year. We would get together and rehearse a few times prior to a performance. As many of the singers were quite professional and busy, the time spent in rehearsal was limited. Though I did not practice that much prior to the rehearsals, I could get by because everyone else was really talented and knew their parts. I could “slip in and slip by” without causing too much damage to the music or the group’s reputation. It was beautiful harmony and to be quite honest – a lot of fun. And then the pandemic hit! The music stopped, and over the past two years, I have not been able to enjoy music as much as in the past. Singing has been restricted to my car or my kitchen, and though I like to sing in both places, it is just not as much fun as singing with other people. It is hard to sing in harmony when there is just a choir of one.
After a few quiet months at the beginning of the pandemic, the choir director, who is still stuck in a different time-zone and in a different hemisphere, sent out a request for the choir members to join together in a VIRTUAL musical event. I thought to myself, “Hey, I can do this! This will be fun! And since it seems that since everything is going online these day … WHY NOT? ! ?” Yeah, right! If I had only known then what I know now, I do not think I would have so eagerly jumped at the opportunity to sing in a VIRTUAL choral environment.
Now those are hard words for me to write because I truly love to sing and I truly love music. BUT I am an alto and I am NOT a soloist. Those two factors are very important. The alto part in almost all music is a harmonic part. Altos rarely if ever sing the melody. Altos add the “spice” and the “richness” to the music. When singing the alto part in any piece of music, it becomes essential to listen to the sopranos above and the tenors and basses below. Altos work hard to “blend in” with the other singers and not stick out. The role the altos have is very important, and since altos make the harmony in the music – they often also make the harmony in the group. And in the group I have been singing with, I think we have had the most fun! We have laughed at our mistakes, grouped together to make beautiful harmony, and protected each other from the serious looks from the choir director and sopranos when our laughter was too much and our mistakes were too many. But sitting in my room, with my computer, my earphones, my iPad, my music – all of that fun and all of the harmony disappeared.
I became the soloist I never wanted to be looking at a piece of paper and a lot of Steve Jobs toys placed around me. I listened to the music. I sat up straight. I stood up. I drank tea. I sang with YouTube. I disturbed the neighbors. I practiced till I could no longer sing or speak. Finally, I got brave and pushed the record button. Everything was going great until the last line, and then the mistakes happened. I pushed the stop button and sent the entire file to the garbage bin on my screen. I repeated this process over and over and over again. Sometimes I had to delete the recording due to my mistakes, but other times I had to delete the recording due to blaring sirens, blowing winds, our crying cat, and my ringing phone. After two hours of trying to get a recording without too many mistakes, I finally had a two-minute piece completed. AND THEN I LISTENED TO IT! I was warned not to listen to myself, but I did. OH MY GOSH… my voice was not even good enough for a solo in the shower! SO, I had to make some decisions! Do I delete the recording and drop out of music totally, or do I suck it up and send it on and pray that the choir director would not delete the recording and discontinue sending me music to sing. I sent the file and many more just like it. The choir director has not fired me yet (I am a volunteer and so is she and we are the most difficult to fire), but I am certain she has had a wonderful time mixing the sopranos voices in to cover up mine.
The process of practice, sing, record, delete, practice, sing, record and finally send has continued over the past 18 months. In the past, a live performance of our group may have included 6 hours of practice time for one 45-minute to an hour performance, and during the practice time we had chances to be with each other, laughing and working together to make beautiful music. Going virtual has meant that the time has been at times almost 6 hours for each 3 to 4-minute segment, and it has been in an isolated, lonely room with no one to laugh with and no one to harmonize with. That is the time I have spent on many of the pieces we have sung. I have no idea how much time the choir director has had to spend, but I know that she has had to deal with not only the music aspect of the programs, but also the digital mixing and re-mixing of the music and configuring the ZOOM lip-synced videos with the music to make it all a beautiful virtual music event to help people make it through these difficult days. No doubt her time in preparation has more than tripled as well.
These have been and still are difficult times. It has not been easy having classes in a virtual environment, nor has it been fun having parties in virtual environments. And it certainly has not been easy, relaxing or enjoyable making music in a virtual environment. BUT it has been an excellent and steep learning curve for me. I have missed the laughter, the mistakes, the face-to-face friendships in the choir. I have even missed the scorns of the sopranos and the looks of frustration from the choir director. When I know how lonely I have been, I realize just how lonely each of my students has been over the past 2 years. It has been hard, and I realize that many of my students are just like me. They don’t do well as a “solo” student. They do better in a group, where they can laugh, chat, and make mistakes through the harmony of learning together in the classroom. Someday, the pandemic will be over. I look forward to that day because then I know that the “bandaid” of virtual classrooms, meetings, business, and music performances sent out over the INTERNET will no longer be necessary. These virtual environments may not be entirely eliminated – BUT I know that the live practices, laughter, mistakes, and learning – the harmony of life will replace the loneliness and isolation that so many of us have experienced in the new virtual world. I am hopeful for that day to come, but until then I will continue my practice, sing, record, delete, record, delete, record, and finally send routine.