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Luc-Olivier Merson:
Head of a Boy Singing [Study for Music] (c. 1898)

"I see much whispering to myself through the near future."

My songs might well be eternal, but only conceptually. Actual eternity requires more resources than might seem obvious. That ditty you heard on the radio probably cost thousands of dollars to produce. The simpler the song, the more its production likely cost, with studio time alone costing beaucoup bucks per hour, not to mention engineers, musicians, and backup singers. My songs, as I've explained before, are more like freeze-dried preserved. They need to be reconstituted each time. This requires not only the words, melody, and chords, but also a fresh performance of those, using my voice and accompanying myself on my guitar. Recovering these tunes touches every aspect of every song. I've struggled just to recover the words for some. The melodies and chords were never transcribed into musical notation, which I never mastered and couldn't read in realtime, anyway, so those need recovering from my ever-faulty memory. It was long my dream to record in a real studio, though I only ever managed that feat once. I recorded five songs in the hour I'd reserved, if you don't count the extra time the studio's owner gave without charging me, so I could finish what I'd intended, because he liked what I was doing. Even those need recovering if I ever intend to actually perform them.

So, when I say I'm recovering a set of songs, I mean that I'm actually recreating those performances, or, more accurately, creating them anew again.
My voice sets prominent among the pieces. I rarely use it for singing these days. My Pipes were always decent, though never in my father's class. He had a crooner's tone, a fine resonant baritone. My voice has its moments, but not one of those moments ever matched one of his for casual presence. He coulda been another Dean Martin had he fallen in with a bad crowd early, but he hadn't. I took to singing anyway, mostly focused upon what I was trying to say rather than how I was saying it. I always thought of myself as more of a poet than as a singer, though singing was the medium within I chose to work. Beyond Junior High, I received no instruction in singing and I suppose my voice was always the worse for that absence, but in a field where Bob Dylan reigned, vocal quality never really seemed that important.

I could hold my own, though, for what I was attempting. Since I was only performing songs I'd written, I could have at least hypothetically composed only within my vocal range, though I didn't. A few songs featured a few notes that were always clearly just beyond my range. I could reach those notes on my better nights. It was largely a matter of having properly warmed up that voice. Once my throat cleared out, I could pretty much hit any note any of my tunes demanded. Before then, I could rival Leo Kottke's goose farts on a muggy morning. My set lists always attempted to compensate for this shortcoming. I'd place the "easy" tunes early and the impossible ones for later in the set so that I could properly warm up my Pipes before attempting them.

My studio headphones and condenser microphone conspire to make my voice hyper-present as I practice. There's no escaping either its goose fart quality or its more acceptable warmed-up resonance. I whisper into my own ear regardless within that isolating echo chamber, and I force myself to listen painfully closely. Of all the pieces of each performance, my Pipes seem the most influential. They convey the story. They confirm the key. They represent my presence in ways that the lyrics and accompanying guitar never could. It sure seems as if each performance amounts to voice with a little accompaniment. I'm no Eric Clapton on guitar or Hoagy Carmichael with my melodies, for my audience, my Pipes will convey each song. They probably represent the critical resource. Funny, then, that I hadn't really considered them when I proposed recovering these SetTheory songs. They played the unacknowledged essence.

The systems scientists insist that everything's connected to everything else. Regardless of how one parses their universe into individual sets, the set of all sets remains intact and meta to whatever configuration's constructed within it. I might have envisioned performing my SetList as all about recovering my Pipes, for Lord should know that I've perhaps most neglected that resource. Age brought a probable cat allergy as well as brand new seasonal ones. I've consequently become better practiced at clearing my throat than I used to ever be at singing. But singing I shall have to remaster if I'm to satisfy my prime objective and perform this SetList. I see much whispering to myself into the nearer future. I will certainly continue practicing my guitar and recovering words, but The Pipes will probably best define the preparation as well as the performance. They're gaining primary importance.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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