Straws to the Rescue

Julia Belluz writing for Vox:

Orbelo suggested the “straw technique” — strengthening your vocal cords by humming through a straw or blowing into one with a liquid (“like when you’re a kid and you blow bubbles in chocolate milk”).

Turns out, it seems everyone in the voice community knows about the magical straw technique — to “reset and free the voice” and “stretch and unpress” your vocal cords and folds.

The National Center for Speech and Voice says the method has “roots in Northern Europe and has been used for several hundred years.” Its popularizer, Ingo Titze — a vocal scientist and executive director of the center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — has published academic papers on the approach.

Apparently, the straw technique can not only give you a voice that’s stronger and more difficult to lose, but it can also relieve a tired voice.

Yup. And here.

via @DrBaritone

“Defend” Music?

Peter Green writing for CURMUDGUCATION: Stop “Defending” Music:

First of all, it’s a tactical error. If your state gets swept up in the winds of test dumpage and suddenly tests are not driving your school, what will you say to the ax guy (because, tests or not, the ax guy is not going away any time soon)? If your big selling point for your program has been that it’s actually test prep with a horn, you’ve made yourself dependent on the future of testing. That’s a bad horse on which to bet the farm.

Second, it’s just sad. And it’s extra sad to hear it come from music teachers. Just as sad as if I started telling everyone that reading Shakespeare is a great idea only because it helps with math class.

There are so many reasons for music education. Soooooooo many. And “it helps with testing” or “makes you do better in other classes” belong near the bottom of that list.

His passionate article independently echoes my thoughts from my article “What is the Value of Music“:

Another genre of manifestations-as-value are those arguments that treat music as an intermediary step for the actual valuable activities of our lives. The “Mozart Effect” and other bullet points about how music improves collaboration skills, language skills, reasoning and so on have one thing in common: they assist some serious sounding but ultimately non-musical goal.

And, please, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of non-musical benefits of music. But – again – these are individual manifestations, they’re not the primary value. They aren’t the valuable kernel that starts our relationship with music and makes us stick with it long-term. The non-musical benefits of music are like the potential health benefits of wine: wine drinkers are happy they exist, but they’re secondary.

His stance really resonates with me. Just ask yourself: why do you do music (either playing or listening)? Is it for any of those often cited secondary reasons, or is it for something else?

That said, I’ve never been a teacher in a public grade school facing budget cuts. I don’t know how I would protect my program under those situations.

Premiere: Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte


Tonight at 4 PM is the premiere of “Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte”, the new family opera by composer Marius Felix Lange and librettist Martin Baltscheit. I will be singing the role of Teo, who is a Schützer at the beginning and end and a Flößer in the middle.

I love this role, and I genuinely love this piece. It is full of charm and beauty, and the production is an opulent world of magic. Toi toi toi to all involved.

More information

Auf Deutsch

Heute Abend findet um 16 Uhr in Opernhaus Dortmund die Premiere “Vom Mädchen, das nicht schlafen wollte” – die neue Familienoper von Marius Felix Lange und Martin Baltscheit – statt. Ich singe die Rolle Teo, wer ein Schützer am Anfang und Ende und Flößer in der Mitte ist.

Es freut mich sehr, die Rolle zu singen, und ich liebe echt das Stück. Die Oper ist voller Charme und Schönheit, und die Produktion ist eine opulente Welt voller Zauber. Toi toi toi an allen Beteiligten!

Mehr Infos

Overgrown Path: What music would you recommend to a classical neophyte??

Is classical music asking the right questions in its search for a new audience? Should we be debating the way musicians dress, the style of lighting used in concert halls and the rights and wrongs of applause between movements? Or should we be spending more time deliberating over what music will appeal to that elusive new audience? As the name of the game is classical music, my vote goes unequivocally for deliberating over what music to recommend and promote to new listeners.

Source: On An Overgrown Path: What music would you recommend to a classical neophyte??

If you read my earlier post, then you know some of my thoughts on this (which were prompted by, shared with and quoted by Overgrown Path), but I enjoyed reading the other responses immensely. Some of the other musicians had very different ideas than I had, and that’s great. That’s what should happen in a healthy ecosystem. I’ll have some listening to do since they suggested some pieces with which I wasn’t previously familiar.

There’s always more to experience and learn.

“Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard”

Ron Cowen writing for the New York Times:

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

This is fascinating, and I hope that this makes possible the digitization of many more recordings that – for whatever reason – haven’t been already transferred.

One note though. The title says “ghostly”, but take that to mean scary. The recording of the Lord’s prayer really caught me off guard. Listen, yes, but turn down the sound. After all, children at the time found these dolls “more scary than cuddly”, and I don’t blame them.