Day 1

This is me, in the photo above, bungee-jumping about 11 years ago at a festival in Romania. This is also me today, live streaming my vocal practice to an unsuspecting audience on Facebook. That terror on my face… same thing.

This week I’ve set myself a challenge to stream a vocal practice I do, every day for 5 consecutive days. I’ve just finished day 1 and I’m feeling pretty energised from the adrenaline. I streamed it on Facebook and forgot to download the video straight after so today’s video might be stuck on that Zuckeberg-y platform, gah. I think having it as a daily practice can 1. help me to actually do it and 2. give me an opportunity to compare the experience and see how it changes from one day to the next. I’m using routine and repetition a lot these days to keep me going, kicking my ADHD in the face with my sexy yoga legs. Anyway, I digress…

Today’s takeaways were:

  • I always have the same symptoms of stress: my heart starts beating fast, my mouth gets dry and everything tenses up a bit. I also seem to talk a lot (almost talked for half the video!)
  • The audio quality of the recording was pretty poor – I might use my Zoom (portable recorder, mindblowingly made by the same company that owns the platform we’ve all been using recently) next time;
  • I kind of hugged something close and didn’t let it go – that note. I felt like I was grasping it a bit too tightly;
  • I stuck to the original note on the piano as well. I didn’t feel confident enough to let it go. I was secretly thinking that people that might tune in halfway through might not know wtf I was doing and maybe keeping the note throughout would give them a bit of an idea, something that made some sort of musical sense for the untrained ear. This is part of that something I need to practice – I need to stop putting on the breaks just because I think some people might not like/get it. I’ve spoken and wrote about this in the sessions with Maggie and I’m glad it’s coming up again so I know what to be on the lookout for tomorrow.
  • The point above makes me think of the “I don’t care if you like it or not” bit that I dropped at the end – obviously I do care and I probably care a bit too much since it terrifies me so much to do it. I’m just pointing out this contradiction here as I’m sensing some feelings of shame over feeling that I might’ve potentially disrespected the people that actually took the time to watch the whole thing by saying that. No need for shame but perhaps accepting that I care a bit too much can help release something…

Whoop! Happening again tomorrow.

Day 2

I was a bit low energy today. I think the weather was making me a bit sleepy and unmotivated. I maybe also felt a bit low confidence, not totally convinced I can do it. I never quite know when i feel like this if i should stop and chill or if i should push myself and keep going. I guess in this particular situation I pushed myself and some of that inner dialogue maybe transpired. It always does. This is the thing about improv – it can’t be faked. If you fake it it’s shit. 
Today I was trying to work on the ’trying not to please others’ bit but i still don’t think i have cracked it. There were all of these ends of phrases I was doing in a higher/lower pitch than the core note in order to colour the sound a bit. My first guess is to think i was doing that for others. My second guess is to think I was doing it for myself, because I was getting bored or feeling like I am not varying the sound enough. To be fair, it’s hard to distinguish between what is pitch and what is intonation. Sometimes you push the note harder and you slide off pitch without even noticing it. The whole point is to stay with the feeling, to release into the feeling, to allow the feeling to envelop oneself and then sing from inside of it however softly or same-y that might be – grow from within. Easier said than done but this is why it’s called ‘practice’!
Takeaways from today:
  • The instinct to please others might not be just a switch that I flick and fix the issue but rather a longer term journey. I think I’m scared of being disliked or not appreciated but I need to understand that it’s a risk that comes with the trade. Not everyone will like what I do and that’s that. I’ll try to be kinder with myself about this and accept that I need to invest more time in practicing this. 
  • Sometimes i’m angsty or bored or not in the mood and that’s ok. i can let that show. i can be low energy and sing small and soft and that’s ok – I don’t need to try to be something else just because I have some sort of projected ideal in my head;
      • having said that, i think it’s totally understandable to struggle with this. paying attention to how you are and owning it might seem like an indulgence that the world rarely has space for. Think only of being a performer that has to go on stage and sing/play someone else’s piece but has to do be in a certain state of mind to pull it off. What happens to them if they have a shitty day or if they’re over excited about something totally unrelated? they have to shake it off and get with the programme. and it takes a long time to practice that too – how to be on stage and do whatever is required of you regardless of how you feel and do it well. Still, I do think there’s more of that in the world than the ‘listen and allow whatever is there to be’. Jobs, routines, deadlines, shitty co-workers – we shape ourselves into what is required of us and we put up with it, we don’t always have the choice not to.
          • This makes me think about ‘composing’ for improvisers. If what a composed piece requires from an improviser is to be in a certain state of mind and sing from that place truthfully. As I mentioned above, you can’t fake improv so you have to really live it. Which is why working with improvisers poses more ethical challenges than with interpreters and calls for a different approach, perhaps more care and a lot more listening to the other.
                • Idea: Maybe I can make a piece for an ensemble in which each player knows all parts and all parts are accommodating a different state of mind: bored, excited, angsty, relaxed, happy, etc – workshop the initial states of mind first, find out what they might be and start from that. Depending on how the performers feel on the day of performance, they play one of the corresponding parts. It might be that only some parts are played, it might be that all performers play one part only or maybe they’re all playing a different part. 

Day 3
I had a bit more fun today. I’m still quite surprised, looking back at the video, by how much I loose the note or how I’m slightly over or under and how I slide and glide into it. In the moment itself, I felt quite childish and happy. I’ve also noticed how the affordances of the piano influence my response. The piano has a sharp attack and, if I press the pedal, which I think today I did, quite a long delay. It has the potential to be quite percussive, not much long note sustain like you have on the violin for example. It gives a glimpse of the note you’re playing and you either keep pressing it and turn it into a rhythm or let it die out slowly. I don’t play the piano so there’s not much fancy manipulation of arpeggios or weird chords that I can do. In a way I feel a bit limited by this because I feel it’s there, it’s in front of me and I’m using 2% of what it can offer – particularly this electric piano we have that can’t allow for any sexy preparations. I know that for this exercise I don’t need to know more than what I already know but I can’t help but feel I end up a bit stuck in certain patterns. I also get bored of what I do and catch myself judging myself in the middle of doing it, actively trying to change it. I get bored really easily, it’s true. I mean, I’m off my ADHD pills for a couple of weeks now, I have the attention span of a cat (or is it dogs that have an even shorter one? in any case, in the order of seconds). Having said that, there were times in today’s practice when I felt interested in the feeling, interested in the sound, particularly the more rugged/distorted voice. There was a texture change I was interested in playing with that caught my attention.
  • Perhaps tomorrow I can work on this more, staying interested, staying connected + piano variations/confidence.

Day 4


If self judgment was a muscle, mine would be a 12 pack, some sort of umbrella extension to the brain tensing every time it is brought into action (which is all the time). It’s perfectionism that has kept me from showing a lot of work or a lot of my process or doing things like this live stream. It’s a crippling nudging voice that says “you’re not good enough” over and over, never satisfied. The reason I don’t yet schedule an operation to get it removed is because it’s also what pushes me further, it gets me to exercise or to eat more healthily or to do another edit on a piece of writing, etc. But it functions on fear and shame. Fear of getting fat, fear of being mediocre, shame of not being inquisitive enough, innovative enough, original enough, ever enough. And you can see the problem – if the muscle is over-developed, when I try to use it, instead of gentle support I get Hulk-like strength that crushes everything in its path. So I’m looking for ways to chill that fucking muscle down and develop other bits in my body: care, empathy, support, trust, and use them to get me going. Eat less junk food because I’m taking care of my sexy body, be more diligent with taking notes from my sources because it’s a way to support myself further down the line in the PhD, allow myself to fail because it’s an important part of growing, etc.

                       In any case, it’s a process. Part of which I’ve decided to make public through these daily live videos.
I noticed in the practice today that I gave myself quite a long time to find my footing, to stay with the feeling. When you’re searching for it it’s sometimes unclear in the moment whether you’ve found it or not. I did feel a turmoil and a release towards the end but in the moment it didn’t feel that much different than the rest of the practice. Maybe I felt more carried, like I released control and responsibility without even knowing I was holding them. That’s a good metaphor – releasing something that you never knew you were holding on to.
  • I think for tomorrow, the next step is: diving into it straight away and staying with it + conserving the energy so it doesn’t burn out fast.
Post live:
                         I sat down earlier in the week and chatted about this experiment I’m doing with my partner Tim and he told me that if he were me, he’d disable comments and likes. I said it’s fine, it’s another part of having to deal with public exposure – judgment coming from others. And it’s true, I am having to deal with it. Today someone passed a judgment before I even got a chance to do my own writing and reflecting, as I was rewatching the video. The comment was: ‘it gets good after min 10”, the whole video being 12 minutes in length. My first reaction was to agree, that 10 minute point was also the moment I noticed the release I’m talking about above and it was easy to dismiss everything that came before, bin it and keep those couple of minutes when the energy was at its peak. But then the whole journey of trying to find alternatives to shame came flooding in and I caught myself in the act. No. No way I’m gonna do this to myself again or allow someone else to do it – deem the process to get there unimportant or “not good enough”. It’s not like I’m never ever going to do it again but this is what this whole thing is about right now, stopping the hater voices and some physical person just happened to embody my own hater self so you bet they’re gonna get it.
 The process is fucking important, the searching and the reflecting are valuable. I’m not sharing a finished piece of work, I am sharing, as my friend Ollie called it, an unraveling, a peak inside a journey of becoming. So I kinda lashed out and called the guy a prick, aiming to strengthen the (inner) voice that is self-compassionate and praises the courage and effort that’s put into doing it. It seemed important to make that point, even though it went quite off topic with some more boring reactionary comments…
  • Perhaps the lesson from this is: If people plonk reactions to a semi-public (shared within the FB bubble only) video without giving the time to engage or understand the bigger picture, they don’t really deserve my time. Dealing with judgment doesn’t always mean fighting back and sometimes I’m better off channeling my inner Buddha. Then again, some other times I need to fight and stretch out some other muscles. The jury is still out…