Welcome to the Songtaneous Blog

ProfileSongtaneous is where spontaneous singing happens. Once a month, singers (and other creative people) gather to share their voices and their selves while making beautiful, complex and fleeting music. I always learn something about singing and myself when I facilitate Songtaneous. In this blog, I'll share what I learn and experience while traveling in the intuitive, joyful, beautiful, expressive, challenging, abstract world of vocal improvisation.

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Listening for Instructions

Posted by on Feb 23 2015 | Sarah Sings, Songtaneous

A big part of spontaneous singing is what I call listening for “instructions.” Instructions are those ideas and impulses about what to do or try that you might ignore in other situations.

Consider this, you may be the only person to hear a part that’s “missing” from the piece. By adding your idea, the whole work becomes more relevant to you and to the rest of the singing circle. Or to put it another way …

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
– Martha Graham

Some of you – writers, storytellers and other word lovers – have the gift of language. Music calls up words, phrases, a line from a poem or another song. Give yourself permission to say it. And I encourage you to say it so that we can hear it – that it truly becomes a part of the music we’re making.

Others are drummers or dancers — you want to add rhythmic elements, tap your feet, clap your hands, click your tongues, dance, stomp your feet, wave your arms or wiggle your hips. Don’t be shy; the music needs rhythm and movement.

Then we have you, the songsters, songstresses and melody makers – you hear the melodies and their harmonies. You tend to hear the pieces as songs, you can find the beginning, middle and end of a piece. You can create structures.

Of course, all of us have all of these talents to varying degrees. The distribution of these talents is as unique as each singer in the circle.

The fun part is finding the music that each unique circle (ensemble, band, etc.) can create when they bring their portions of these talents together.

I recently got to play an entire evening of improvised music with some very fine musicians (Riotus N featuring Anthony Cox, Davu Seru and John Penny). My cohorts and I experimented with melodic and textural ideas and I tinkered with stories and tales.

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My 2015 Keyword

Posted by on Jan 05 2015 | Games, Exercises & Resources, Songtaneous

Wow, 2014 was a whirlwind of a year filled with big shows, new workshops and many, many gigs.

My keyword for last year was PRESENT and I think I did.

I premiered my first large-scale improvised composition, Between: A Journey Through the Middle (which was later broadcast on KFAI). I began performing regularly with two groups (BLU-7 and the Give Get Sistet) and I launched a workshop series and collaborated with, instructed and performed with new and returning singers.

My keyword for last year was PRESENT and I think I was. *smile*

The fact that the whole year is a bit of a blur (the way a good improv often is) suggests I was really in the moment for a lot of the year.

As I began to think about my word for 2015 (it usually occurs to me to start ruminating around Thanskgiving), I once again thought about what I would like the year ahead to hold, what word could work for the whole year and also what word might push me a little bit.

In other words, what did I want to be/do in 2015?

Immediately, I realized that I want to share more of the music I create with more people, i.e. finally complete and share some of the footage and recordings I’ve been gathering over the past few years.

I also realized that I wanted the year ahead to hold … less.

Not less music or singers or gigs (never less music!), but less physical stuff.

This might be cabin fever (or spring cleaning sneaking up early), but as I said in this post four (!) years ago, I feel the need to make space. (Keep an eye out for the Songtaneous garage sale. I’m only half kidding.) And maybe less other stuff, too. I want to be more mindful in choosing what projects and responsibilities I take on.

With all that in mind, my keyword for 2015 is RELEASE.

release v.

to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.; to give up in favor of another; to give over possession or control of

release n.
the releasing of something for publication, performance, use, exhibition, or sale; the state of being freed

I’m not sure what RELEASE will look like as the year progresses, but at the moment, it has me moving through my apartment and selecting things that will move to a new home. And when the part of me that wants to hang onto something comes up, I gently prompt it to release. I remind myself that hanging on to stuff that I might – but don’t actually – use likely stops up energy in some way. It also helps me to think that someone is out there wanting and hoping for the exact thing that I am letting go.

Besides, if can I let go of the things I sort of want, perhaps I can make room for the things I really want.

My friends and family are jumping on the keyword bandwagon, too. (Feel free to borrow a word you like.)

explore, allow, willing, thrift, start, finish, rejuvinate, birth, flourish, savor, simplify, balance, create, dare, abundance, discover, nourish, nurture, wellness, health, perform, discipline, shimmer, wealth, empower, embody, authentic, rebound, be, imperfect, share, focus, present

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The Winter Solstice

Posted by on Dec 20 2014 | Songtaneous

Day/night map of the earth at the 2014 Winter Solstice. Image credit: Earth and Moon Viewer

As a MN resident and a tolerate-r of winter, I am a big fan of the winter solstice. Once the solstice passes and winter “begins,” the amount of daylight begins to increase slowly heading us toward days with filled with more hours of sunlight.

Plenty of reason to celebrate in my book, but my visit this summer from my astronomer friend C got me wondering about this astrological phenom so I did some quick research.

  • This year’s winter solstice will occur at 5:03 CST on December 21st. (The time is calculated mathematically as it would be “virtually impossible” to observe.
  • Solstices are caused by the tilt of the earth on its axis (23.5˚) — not our planet’s distance from the sun.
  • On winter solstices the northern half of the earth tilts away from the sun, on summer solstices, this hemisphere tilts toward it.
  • The winter and summer solstices are “reversed” in the southern hemisphere. In other words, December 21st is the summer solstice (because the southern hemisphere tilts toward the sun on this date and away in June).
  • Your shadow at noon is longest on the winter solstice (and shortest on the summer one).
  • Everyone north of 66.5 degrees latitude on Sunday’s Solstice will receive 24 hours of continuous darkness.
  • This December’s solstice coincides with a new moon. On a new moon, the lit half of the moon is facing entirely away from earth i.e. we can’t see it *smile*. (To put it another way,  it will be a long, dark night.)
  • In the northern hemisphere, the pagan celebration of Yule happens on the winter solstice. On of the oldest known celebrations, Yule observes the beginning of winter and the rebirth of the sun.
  • At sunrise at Stonehenge on the summer solstice, the rising sun appears behind one of the main stones creating the illusion that the sun is balancing on the stone.
  • The first person-ed mission to reach the moon was launched on the Winter Solstice in 1968.
view of the earth from the moon

Image credit: NASA / Bill Anders / Apollo 8.

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