Rendered Fat Content


Jacob de Wit, after Peter Paul Rubens:
Oude vrouw met kind en vuurtest
[Old woman with Child and Fire Test] (1734)

"There might not be any better feeling …"

I wrote most of my songs in the Key of D, both because chords in D seemed easier to play and also because its notes fell comfortably within my singing voice's range. I've noticed that many songwriter/performers write exclusively within a single key. Our recently departed and dearly beloved Nanci Griffith also wrote and performed everything in D, so I must be in good company. This choice can produce similar songs, ones only narrowly differentiated from each other, as if every one was the same one all over again, producing a Groundhog Day catalogue like Bruce Springsteen or Tommy James and the Shondells. Fans don't care that they're fed the same supper every night. They are rarely gourmets and, like my cats, tend to reject any supper that's not instantly familiar. Still, the performer might notice and try to stage songs so as to minimize this same-old effect; vary a bit.

The venerable old Key of D no longer proves one my singing range can easily reach.
When I started preparing for this upcoming house concert, I could only screech the lyrics to a couple of my more favorite songs. For me, that felt like I'd fallen over some hill, like I'd become obsolete in my absence, but I persisted. I did transcribe one of the more troubling tunes and, as sometimes happens, I thought the transcription (into the Key of C), actually improved the piece. It worked far better not just for my voice down there, but better for the replacement chords and overall accompaniment, a real gift. The other tunes remained screeches until sometime last week, a couple of weeks before the scheduled performance date. I started catching myself no longer stretching so far. I sometimes even caught myself not needing to reach at all. I watched myself starting to be SittingOnTop of those troublesome notes.

The high ones physically feel like stretches. I mentally extend my reach and stand on my toes, often resulting in more screech than success. Continued practice, though, through the face of continued embarrassment, can eventually loosen up something in there, lengthening my range. Rather than reaching then, I find that I'm tall enough to just step in and sit on top of those notes that used to sit uncomfortably out of my reach. That's the point where I start feeling as though I might prove capable again, like I have not so much lost that range but merely misplaced it. My voice starts working again for the purposes for which it had always been intended and I can mentally slump back down in my seat and simply sing my songs again.

Those damned reaches rarely feel very worth the effort at first, and I'm just as prone as anyone to discount the necessity, through the attendant difficulties, of actually achieving whatever I'm stretching toward. It first just seems hopeless and I feel perfectly willing to forfeit whatever competition, whatever ordeal I'm destined to engage in to achieve my end. I start concocting excuses. When I persist, though, and I don't always persist, I almost always eventually manage to achieve something closer to that higher purpose. If my heart's not in that persistence, I'm most likely to forfeit early, forgetting the sublime feeling achievement can impart. Achievement can leave the achiever feeling as if he's once again a member in good standing of the Age of Aquarius. There might not be any better feeling than the one that comes from finally SittingOnTop of some world again, even if it's just a world containing the once misplaced Key of D singing range.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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