Quote for Today: Mary Renault

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You mustn’t get so upset about what you feel, Spud. No one’s a hundred per cent consistent all the time. We might like to be. We can plan our lives along certain lines. But you know, there’s no future in screwing down all the pressure valves and smashing in the gauge. You can do it for a bit and then something goes.

Mary Renault, The Charioteer

Public Domain Photo via NASA

A Healing Song: The Breathless Choir

Society encourages us to pursue marketable things at which we excel. Is there value in pursuits that challenge our weaknesses?

 

The weeding and winnowing starts when we are very young. What was it for you? Too short to play basketball. Can’t color inside the lines. Can’t do math. Can’t visualize. Has no rhythm.  Can’t sing. Might as well give up now. We’ve all fallen victim to such pronouncements, whether they come from peers, parents or other authority figures.  It is incredible how powerful they can be, lodging themselves deeply inside our psyche, shaping every though and action that comes after them.

Many of these pronouncements come at a young age, but there is one type that we usually deal with later. I’m speaking of those related to health and wellness. Some of these things we cannot change; there is an intersection between perception and reality. For example, I have serious gluten intolerance issues. I can’t eat or inhale wheat, barley, rye or anything made from them without becoming very sick. I will never compete on any reality cooking shows– too many things there that would make me ill– but I can make some awesome tasting food in my own home!

Meet the singers in the Breathless Choir, a project sponsored by the Dutch technology company Philips, famous for innovation in the fields of lighting, sound and recording engineering, healthcare and lifestyle improvement. These are people who have extremely serious breathing impairments: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, cystic fibrosis, acute asthma. There is even a 911 first responder who has lost one third of his lung capacity. Director Gareth Malone had one week to get them to sing, to get air flowing and help them match pitch. He had to get past their diagnosis and their fear.

The result might not be the most perfect musical performance, but it is enjoyable, both for the performers and their audience. The miracle is that many of the singers become healthier in the process. Singing teaches people to make the most of their breath, loosening areas of tension and retraining the mind. Joy and confidence are worthwhile byproducts, but physical healing and maintenance are completely priceless. The intersection between perception and reality can also be a place for growth.

You might complain about their vowels, their technique or their tone quality.

Stop it!

As a professional singer and voice teacher, I can attest that we do far too much of this kind of critiquing. I see young singers every day who have no intention of becoming professional musicians but would like to learn to sing better. Many are afraid of their own voice because someone told them they were too loud or tone deaf. This often keeps people from starting or progressing, even if there is a “diamond in the rough” there. There is a place for being critical when singing is part of competitive, artistic business, but we must also recognize the value of singing and performing for the joy of it. There need to be safe places in the community for people to explore music, dance and art, even if they aren’t going to be stars, even if conventional wisdom says they aren’t talented. Let them move, let them create, let them sing. Some will surprise you.

We all reach points in our lives where we feel stuck and need to find a new point of view, a new tactic to continue growing. If we can consciously identify those pronouncements and assertions that are governing our lives, we can examine how valid they are for us. If you can’t do something that you desire to do, it may be that you need training to do it better. Even if you won’t be able to be the best in that field, pursuing it may supply something else for you: joy, calmness, confidence, even healing. Those things may not bring you public recognition or monetary compensation, but they can change the quality of your life.

What is it you have always wanted to do?

Quote for Today: Yann Martel

© Javi with CCLicense

© Javi with CCLicense

I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.
Yann MartelLife of Pi

Look at the Beautiful Noise: Noise Photography and Jeff Ascough

We often feel we must choose between representation of the external and expression of the internal. Can’t we enjoy both?

© Don_Gato(LoFi Photography) with CCLicense

© Don_Gato(LoFi Photography) with CCLicense

With the advent of the digital camera ideas about image quality changed radically. Photographers became obsessed with clarity, and the presence of image grain, known to photographers as noise, became a contentious issue. A wide gulf opened up between museums and art photographers, who often turned away the work of digital artists for being too clean, and digital photographers and institutions that considered grainy images anathema, seeing them as mistakes or bad shots passed off as art. A good deal of great work on both sides was getting stigmatized, and that stigma remains in many circles.

© glindsay65 with CCLicense

© glindsay65 with CCLicense

Part of this may stem from the way noise itself changed. On film, especially in black and white or sepia tone, noise presents itself as fuzziness or grain. With digital, noise often presents itself as oddly colored pixels which look very alien and stand out mercilessly in the image. Digital artists came to prize clarity, the strength of their medium, while those who stuck to film prized personality, the strength of theirs. It would have been valid to ask what beauty was found in the weaknesses inherent in each medium. Instead, many photographers and critics threw words like “artsy”, “clean” and “noisy” around as if they were pejoratives and it looked as if society was turning its back on noisy photography. Then services like Instagram came out, redefining noise as romantic, vintage and trendy and letting us add it to our digital images.

Jeff Ascough is among the most famous wedding photographers in the world. He considers himself a “wedding documentarian”, meaning he likes to take unposed shots as they happen, without special lighting in order to capture the essence of the moment. The use of noise is prevalent in his work, both as an aid to reveal how the moment felt and as a natural product of foregoing intrusive lighting and positioning. At any rate, many of the images he produces have a weight and power that a perfectly clean photo would miss.

This interview with Jeff Ascough from fellow wedding documentarian Crash Taylor’s Blog is full of scrumptious images (not all are from weddings) and reveals a very interesting and intelligent artist. I love the smoking man from the wedding set, so delightfully whimsical. Please enjoy!