January 1, 2013

Auld Lang Syne c. 1907

Robert Burns

Funny how the mind knits things together. Yesterday, I read Keryln Klinkenborg's article in the NYTimes, So Many Snapshots, So Few Voices Saved, which recounts the removal of a papilloma from her vocal folds that restored her voice to its former sound after 20 years. Though she had many pictures of herself and family, she had few audio recordings, and only one of her former voice. This resulted in a thought-provoking article, one which notes the time lag that separates visual technology from its aural counterpart. (Go to the opera today and you find much the same thing: visual goodies outweigh the auditory experience. Was it ever thus? No. Read reviews from the 1940's in the NYTimes and you will find singers being compared to those who appeared in the role before them, which seldom, if ever, happens today. The focus was on singing, not production values. Now? Most reviewers spend 80 precent of their time writing about what the see, rather than what they hear.)

A subsequent conversation about New Year's Eve traditions had me researching the Scottish tune Auld Lang Syne. These two events melded together as I listened to the song's first recording by Edison in 1907, which captured the bass-baritone voice of Frank C. Stanley. How curious, I thought. I watched New Year's Eve fireworks in Central Park at midnight, and a statue of Robert Burns, the author of the poem Auld Lang Syne, was a few paces away. I also thought of having found two forgotten recordings of my voice in my mother's basement a little less than a year ago (you can find them in the right hand column, and my original post here). Know what? I'm glad I got to know that young man again.

Here's one thing you can do in the New Year: record your singing for the people you love. You'll be giving them something quite unique, precious even. Think you aren't ready? Give yourself a deadline, study with a good teacher, practice with a mirror, and a digital recorder with a high quality microphone. Capture the singer you are and want to be. You'll thank yourself in 20 years.

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