I posted a music video in the comment section of my last post titled
My thoughts expanded after listening to this song several times to include what I remember of my father’s tenor voice and his singing.
Musical memories from our infancy and childhood can inform us even further about the state of health or sickness within our homes of origin. Just like the existence or absence of communication as a whole, of personal equity and encouragement of personal story telling by all members of the family from the first words a child understands and speaks, and the quality of play within the family, the patterns of musical appreciation and expression also can guide us on our journey toward understanding the bigger picture of where we came from – our ORIGINS.
The stories about my parents’ singing were repeated for as long as I can remember – and they were not particularly pleasant. In fact, these stories spoke of the ‘culture’ each of my parents came from, and of their youth and inability to understand how hurtful words are when used as weapons against anyone else no matter how old they are.
The great musical divide between my parents seemed to have happened very shortly after their marriage. My father tactlessly – who knows? Perhaps even aggressively told my mother that she sang through her nose.
NEVER after the instant that those words passed out of my father’s lips (according to Mother) did she ever sing in the presence of her husband again.
NEVER, also – perhaps by some strange and sorry arrangement, did my father ever sing in the presence of my mother after that, either.
Such a reflection of the deep woundedness (in my opinion) carried within each of these two people right into their marriage was this unrepaired rupture in my parents’ musical relationship.
Using the idea that the prosody – the rhythmic and musical component of spoken language – speaks of personal songs within us with every word we speak — and speaks of the personal songs within someone we are hearing every time they speak and we listen — there is no dividing line between attitudes expressed about a person’s voice, their singing, their speaking, and the content of what they say.
I will never be able to remember anything about my mother fondly as abusive to me as she was – and as psychotically insane – though I wish her no harm wherever her soul may be. This includes any positive remembrance of her singing — though I do not especially project my truthful negative assessment of Mother to the actual songs that she sang.
She was a fan of singing: “One flew over the rainbow,” “The white cliffs of Dover,” “The man on the flying trapeze,” “Que Sera Sera,” or the “Aleutian lullaby,” “Don’t fence me in” — etc.
Father sang his mountaineering and cowboy songs. He had a flowing perfect-keyed lovely tenor voice though never did I hear him sing from his gut. His singing was melodic in my memory. Mother’s – in my memory – singing was narcissistic, on the edge of where old memories become hysterical, invasive to the listener as in “I am singing you darn well better listen to ME,” sharp and saturated with unhappiness just past the edge where most people could hear it.
I could hear it as a child or I would not be telescoping my adjectives about my parents’ singing in the way that I am at this moment – though I have no intention of moving my memories of either parent any closer to that morbid, toxic past that was my infancy and childhood.
I write of this because a longing for my ‘other’ father arose within my heart yesterday listening to the tenors sing (as posted above). I know that my memories, my BODY memories, of the sounds of my parents’ voices are as old as I am. I listened to them before I was born – and after that, most unfortunately, most of my listening TO my parents’ voices no doubt turned into listening FOR the sound of my parents’ voices.
The forced isolation and seclusion that was a massive part of Mother’s insane abuse of me (keeping me in hell in place of her) led to me being in danger and under threat of danger from Mother from the time of my birth. Being left in a crib, alone, behind a closed door — I KNOW I listened into the silence for sounds that could help me understand what was dangerous when — when it was coming – where danger did not seem to exist — such as when I was alone and the sounds of my parents and my 14-month-older-brother in other areas of the home and yard were mulling themselves around in sounds that floated down the hallway in my direction.
The sound of Mother’s stomping footsteps, for example, the sound of her hand turning the doorknob and pushing open the bedroom door – included with the sound of her brutal and brutalizing voice and body movements – well, not a non-music any infant-child should ever hear.
But the sounds of that rich and gentle tenor voice that belonged to that man who I belonged to as his daughter. That voice never hurt me. All that I have later come to understand about how that man did not protect me — did not did not did not ever intervene against the monster he married that attacked me — I don’t in my memory evidently ever wish to attach/associate the sound of Father’s voice to that man.
I have a very clear ‘song stopper’ memory of my own that must tie to my preteen or early teen years. Somehow the whole family must have been momentarily fooled by a good mood of Mother’s. We were all in our Jeep heading down the Alaskan mountain one bright and shiny morning – myself and my two sisters feeling safe enough to sing, “Lemon Tree, Very Pretty.”
Uh-Oh! Like Mother’s permanent ban on Linda ever playing safely within her sphere of knowledge I learned that day that my singing was equally forbidden. Just as the Jeep made the first turn on the road down the mountain that put our house out of sight, it happened: “Linda, stop that horrible singing RIGHT NOW!” Mother shot over the back of the front seat into the shared sister space of singing for us 3 in the back seat.
“You have a HORRIBLE voice! You sing through your nose! You are ruining your sisters’ beautiful song!”
Whether or not she actually included, “I don’t EVER want to hear the sound of your voice singing again as long as I live,” that was and is the message I have attached to this memory.
I have one other singing memory from when I had left home and was about 20 years old. I always felt even as a young adult that everyone else was better than me. I did not understand normal human bonding, so whenever I was in the presence of groups of people who were solid friends with one another, I felt vastly outside the group and interpreted this in my hidden inner places that this division of me from them existed because I was less of a person than all of them were.
A friend’s friend’s sister – who had left the small Minnesota town where she was born and raised (the one this event happened in for me) for the GLORY of a stage career of some kind in NYC had returned for a Christmas family thing.
There was one of those early-70s coffee house sing-a-long from a short un- embellished stage at the local college taking place one evening – and I attended with the ‘alien group’ of friends.
And – daring of daring – I AGAIN for the first time since the Lemon Tree had crashed and burned, dared to open my mouth and SING!!
Sing I did.
At the end of all this ‘jibber jabber’ in song this big-NYC-woman turned to me and remarked, “You sure have a strong voice.”
Forty years later this scene and this woman’s words still slash me.
“What did she MEAN,” I still want to know – because I am human.
I REALLY do wonder what she meant, and never again since THOSE words have I sung again in front of another person.
I know enough now that I have my keyboard that I do hear and can hit notes in perfect pitch.
But I feel inside me that the Singing Linda has had all the life-flowing juice sucked and leaked right out of her and there’s nothing left by some dry, shriveled up, immune-to-life-restoration flaky (at best) frail and fragile and ugly bare shadow of a Linda-Self — that COULD have loved to sing.
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