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Nostalgia of the Body Singing

When I start singing, I tend to follow a series of notes and rhythms, unplanned and without any known destination or even way of travel. I used to sing to my daughters when they were babies, making up melodies as I held them and bounced through the room to help them fall asleep. These melodies, sung every night for many months, eventually repeated themselves and became recognizable and remembered lullabies.


Thinking about this, I wondered: what notes, out of the 7 in the scale, their octaves, sharps and flats, are the ones I end up singing? Which ones come to me? Towards which keys do I gravitate? What frequencies are most natural to my voice?


Also - when I begin to sing, are these songs really new, or have I been adapting and altering patterns of pitches my entire life, to which there is a rooted song or songs that are as much a part of me as my arms or legs, my vocal cords...? What melodies belong to me, to my anatomy and my history? Am I returning to them when I sing; what notes or keys feel familiar?


I began these recordings as I often begin singing - I just start without a plan or idea, and melodies eventually arrive. I don't remember if I have sung these combinations of tones and rhythms before, but it's possible I have; they feel familiar to me.


In editing them, I was interested in the space I could create for the vocals; reverberating, echoing spaces that drag out time endlessly and unpredictably. Playing with these effects led me to, (in Nostalgie 1) layer the 5 vocals in a way that followed and supported the original melody, while pulling out the distortion in them; and (in Nostalgie 2), to edit out and copy the reverberations themselves, independent of the original tones. In this instance, rhythms emerged that continued to echo and ring, seeming to enter into me as I re/listened to them.


I used the reverb effects in Reaper, which are only one aspect of a wider spectrum. To continue, I will look at the possibilities of convolution reverb and how I might be able to record the reverberation of a space I choose. How might the reverberations of a cave, a dense forest, a body surrounded by water, sound, and what might that do to the vocals themselves, the development of songs, as well as to the listener's imagination of the (unseen) body singing?


emilywel | Nostalgie



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