The whole is more than the sum of its parts…

This week, it’s some choral music…See below for explanation.

So now I’ve joined a choir…For those of you who know me: Yes, I know…But it’s supposed to be opened to all even those with no previous experience of singing (only I would believe that!!). And I really wanted to experiment with my voice. I find it extremely sad that I never had singing lessons in school and that singing seems to be always restricted in our society to those whose voices are obviously and clearly perfect from the onset.

I for instance was told I couldn’t sing. I was about 7 and remember it clearly. I didn’t agree but it was not like there were going to be any possibilities to learn how to sing or how to make the best of my voice while singing. We had music lessons on 5th grade (I was about 10), learnt to read music, play the flute (the recorder – and could someone please explain to me why is this kind of flute called the recorder in English?) but never sang a song. After that, nothing about music was ever mentioned again on any of the following years’ curriculum.

At least where I come from, after the age of 11 we’re musically abandoned, left to educate ourselves about music. No wonder we end up having different preferences and inventing new styles every other generation! It’s like we’re discovering the wheel all over again! Every, single, time! A special few get proper musical education. They learn about music theory, history, construction, possibly to sing and play an instrument…They become musically educated, part of an elite in our western societies…

There’s nothing wrong about the beautiful western classical music. Apart from the fact that we restrict its accessibility to this elite whereas the rest of us are limited to being an audience.

Sure, some may argue that in order to achieve its highest standard, many years of practice are necessary. But that surely can’t be an excuse to not teach everyone to read music, use their voice in the best way possible, and even enjoy some amateurish choral singing! Sure, I’ll never have Enya’s voice. So what?! All I want is to enjoy sharing some moments with other fellow humans in making a beautiful sound – working together towards a goal and seeing the results of our cooperation immediately.

And when there are many of us, when we know the music, even if some of the voices aren’t perfect, what comes out is…But believe me, if, in order to sing, you have to know how to read music and you don’t, then it can easily become one of the worst moments in your life.

As it turns out, I am probably the only person in Western cultures who would actually join a choir without any prior musical education (Naivety? Stupidity? Ignorance? Optimism? Something else that makes me pathologically ignore society-imposed limitations?). So everyone else in my choir seems to be musically educated. On one hand that was good! The sound they made was amazing!

On the other hand, I was unfortunate enough to experience the above mentioned limitation last Wednesday. The feeling of isolation and exclusion that ensued is in my Top 5 worst moments in my life so far.

It has been 17 years since I last read music. My brain was completely overwhelmed trying to recall all the aspects of the notation, where I could take my voice (so much for my exploration plan!), and considering if I should just listen for a couple of rounds and try to join from there. It was just too much to handle, and I just stopped functioning. I let an extreme feeling of hopelessness take over and just stood there, trying to pretend I was part of the thing…The few moments I actually heard what was going on around me, it was quite a nice sound. That made me even sadder actually, not being part of it.

So [insert curse word here] you Portuguese Ministry of Education between 1985 and 2001 (feel free to expand the dates either way…)! You and this society that treats Musical knowledge as something special that only a special few are entitled to learn about!

FYI, I am going back! I am not giving up just yet! And Thank [insert higher power here] for the Internet!


About Rita BA

I read, I write, I think, I dream, I write a bit more...
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