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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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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Hopelessly Devoted

Posted by on Nov 25 2014 | Songtaneous

There’s always a lot to do when you captain your own ship. (An entrepreneurship, that is.) And it can be easy to wander down side roads or to lose focus. So about a year and a half ago, I took this online class centered on business planning. The format of the course talked about dividing your projects into areas of devotion.

Picking areas to which to devote my time and energy made a world of sense to me. It also felt more fluid and forgiving than the action plans and S.M.A.R.T goals of my past. I liked the idea of areas since I like to focus on one thing at a time, but I also liked the idea of being devoted to the projects on which I worked. As I continue my performing/teaching/improvising career, the language seems more and more apt.

Seven years ago, I worked a 9 to 5 6 job that I liked well enough and was pretty good at. My music life and my work life, however, were very separate from each other, too. And consequently the people in my lives were also pretty separate from each other. Now there’s a lot more crossover among the people and areas of my life – students come to shows and audience members show up at community sings. Collaborators become students and instructors become collaborators. The word co-worker has a whole new meaning. (As my friend A says, I get paid to play with other adults. *smile*)

An outsider might look at my current career and see nothing but chaos, but it makes an improvised kind of sense to me. I move through cycles of productivity and work during “windows of momentum.” Start-ups and cool-downs are part of how it all works. I grow and have breakthroughs. And I get to watch other people grow and have them, too. *smile*

I am devoted to singing and singing, in turn, has showered me with more blessings than I can count. I am thankful for all the singers, players and people that my music-making has brought into my life (including you!).

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Being Songtaneous

Posted by on Oct 19 2014 | Songtaneous

This year, I returned to the 33rd annual Women & Spirituality Conference to lead two Songtaneous sessions. Due to my Between project (and life in general) I had been away from the conference for a couple of years. So while I was feeling excited to get into a room full of singers, I was feeling some nerves about facilitating and “making things work” for participants.

Sometimes it’s not about you. *smile*

The two sessions I hosted were completely wonderful and entirely different from each other. Each one was so satisfying and while I think that I facilitated the sessions well, in the end the what happened during the sessions had less to do with me than it had to do with the intention and energy of the singers who showed up.

And, I mean showed up. With their nerves and their shyness about singing in front of others or their lack of experience or their singing trauma. They came in the room willing to sing and supported each other with such ease and joy. I have been taking a class in which we are discussing the power of intention and I could see it here. These women intended to share and connect and build community and we did.

My Saturday singers were energetic and a bit boisterous. In this group of 12-13 singers, we explored harmonizing and holding the rhythmic groove. Friends delighted and flat-out astonished each other with their inventions and ideas, especially when we worked with personal language. We invented music and I shared some of the songs from my Between shows this past winter and some newer songs with the group and they sang beautifully. We sang and laughed til tears came to our eyes and our time together flew by.

Sunday morning was a more intimate group – I sang with four other singers. With this smaller group I got to share more about my own journey with spontaneous singing and the life lessons it helps me discover. I talked about how we make up rules that don’t exist and construct narratives that aren’t necessarily true. How these rules and stories can make us feel stuck and incapable. During one exercises, one of the singers got stuck. We finished the round and then stopped to discuss briefly. When singing spontaneously, I always strive to talk through stuck before it becomes “failure.”

I used the analogy of a closed door and talked about how we all have doors. Sometimes we know about the door, sometimes we see it looming in the distance and other times doors just … appear. I have learned through improvising that there are many workable and wonderful ways to approach a closed door. (And that the goal isn’t always getting through the door. Sometimes it’s what we learn about ourselves as we encounter a door.)

With both groups, I got to talk about how singing together is a model for community making. When we sing in a group, we have to hold our individual parts (identity) while blending with all the others in the ensemble (community).

I was moved when one of the women shared that, in singing with us, she learned why she came to the conference and to my Songtaneous workshop in particular. She shared how the song I had taught them inspired an idea for how she could work with her own poetry using melody, repetition and space. I again felt strongly the force that singing is for me and the wonder and wonders it continues to bring into my life.

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