Thursday, November 6, 2014

From Soloist to Silence - The 'Fly' Swatter

My voice has been a major topic of conversation lately. It's come up in nearly every conversation with family and anyone who knows of my musical past. Since a freak accident injured my throat about a month ago, it's mostly recovered. I'm no longer in any pain, and I can breath heavily without threat of my trachea closing up on me.  I can talk well - just a tiny bit more hoarse than usual. It's so minor that most people don't even notice it, except for My Sailor and my first-thing-in-the-morning clients. (But, hey! Who doesn't sound a bit odd at 5am, right?)

So, for those just tuning into my blog and only know me as a weight lifter, about a million years ago, I was an aspiring singer/song writer in Southern California. Though classically trained, I generally leaned toward what I refer to as a clean R&B or soft rock style. Slotted away as "adult contemporary", lacking proper management and marketing know-how, I did what so many artists do - slipped away into obscurity before reaching anything broader than a minor level local appeal.
Here's one of my favorite songs from that album.

Fly from J Darling on Myspace.

Pretty and cool, right?

Well, I can't hit that 'Fly' note now. It comes out cracked, horribly flat, and feels like someone is pressing on my throat to eek it out.  In fact, to add injury to insult - after my mediocre meet, I was in a room with people singing the National Anthem. While no one likely would have cared or noticed, I didn't sing along. It's not that I'm not patriotic - hell, I'm married to a Navy Submariner - but I couldn't help but remember when I used to sing that solo to introduce small meets in Southern California... and now, there was no way I'd be able to get through it without feeling like someone was standing on my neck - and even then it was likely to sound no better than the drunk a few tables away...

From Soloist to Silence... quite a change...

Anyway, since it's come up about 4 times today alone (and My Sailor is off on one of his crazy duty days), I had no one's ears to offend other than the dogs. So I pulled out every trick in the book to see what was possible.

 Here's what I figured out -

With enough work, I CAN make some of those higher sounds. They are far less dynamic and more breathy than ever. In fact, they are more akin to a boy's falsecetto than anything resembling a soprano and, even with the best technique, there is still a strong choking sensation. With enough breathing tricks, I can figure out how to route sound through my nasal cavity, which saves the voice some stress, but diminishes the tone, pitch, and overall quality into something I'd expect to hear from the aforementioned 'lubricated' gentleman at the pub.

Luckily, this isn't a problem with my speaking voice at all, since I've always had a lower register in that regard. (It won me several roles as a more mature woman when I was younger, and my dad often said he was grateful that I never went through that squeaky high pitched teenage girl giggle stage. I catapulted straight into chuckles.)

So the situation is a bit of a complicated one. It's beyond strange having to work so hard on something that has been pretty much 2nd nature since I could talk. While it was significantly traumatic to my ego, I'm no longer aiming for a professional career in music so much of that pressure is completely alleviated.   
"So, what about outside help?" Any throat surgery is out of the question (Keloids in/on/around my neck?! No thanks!) and all other therapies are considered 'elective' (since I can still do day-to-day activities as long as they don't include singing along to the radio or screaming) and therefore aren't covered by any insurance. Since the pressing problem with the heater dying in my car is taking priority (as it's over $1000 to fix and it's not getting any warmer in WA for those 4am drives to the gym), the project of fixing the throat (if it's even possible - which isn't likely) will have to wait. 

It's been about 4 weeks since the original injury, and there is still a chance it could take another 2-4 to see any significant improvement, but just like in my other training, sometimes the goal is just progress, not perfection. And right now, I'm not in any day to day pain.

For now, that's enough progress for me.

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