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'Singing: The key to a long life'

Desert Dancer 18 Oct 10 - 12:05 AM
GUEST,Desi C 18 Oct 10 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,Gerry 18 Oct 10 - 07:55 PM
VirginiaTam 19 Oct 10 - 04:19 AM
greg stephens 19 Oct 10 - 02:28 PM
RoyH (Burl) 19 Oct 10 - 02:35 PM
Crowhugger 19 Oct 10 - 02:51 PM
Desert Dancer 19 Oct 10 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Cuilionn 19 Oct 10 - 08:11 PM
Crowhugger 20 Oct 10 - 04:15 AM
breezy 20 Oct 10 - 04:59 AM
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Subject: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 12:05 AM

In the series, "This I Believe", with essays from people from all walks of life broadcast on NPR, musician Brian Eno contributed this in 2008 (a friend pointed it out - I don't think it got into Mudcat): Singing: The Key To A Long Life.

Here's the full text:

I believe in singing. I believe in singing together.

A few years ago a friend and I realized that we both loved singing but didn't do much of it. So we started a weekly a capella group with just four members. After a year we started inviting other people to join. We didn't insist on musical experience — in fact some of our members had never sung before. Now the group has ballooned to around 15 or 20 people.

I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor. A recent long-term study conducted in Scandinavia sought to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing.

Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

Well here's what we do in an evening: We get some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics and a strict starting time. We warm up a bit first.

The critical thing turns out to be the choice of songs. The songs that seem to work best are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music. You want songs that are word-rich, but also vowel-rich because it's on the long vowels sounds of a song such as "Bring It On Home To Me" ("You know I'll alwaaaaays be your slaaaaave"), that's where your harmonies really express themselves. And when you get a lot of people singing harmony on a long note like that, it's beautiful.

But singing isn't only about harmonizing pitch like that. It has two other dimensions. The first one is rhythm. It's thrilling when you get the rhythm of something right and you all do a complicated rhythm together: "Oh, when them cotton balls get a-rotten, you can't pick very much cotton." So when 16 or 20 people get that dead right together at a fast tempo that's very impressive. But the other thing that you have to harmonize besides pitch and rhythm is tone. To be able to hit exactly the same vowel sound at a number of different pitches seems unsurprising in concept, but is beautiful when it happens.

So I believe in singing to such an extent that if I were asked to redesign the British educational system, I would start by insisting that group singing become a central part of the daily routine. I believe it builds character and, more than anything else, encourages a taste for co-operation with others. This seems to be about the most important thing a school could do for you.


Brian Eno's group-sing song list:

Can't Help Falling In Love
Love Me Tender
Keep On the Sunny Side
Sixteen Tons
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
If I Had a Hammer
Love Hurts
I'll Fly Away
Down By the Riverside
Chapel of Love
Wild Mountain Thyme
Que Sera, Sera
Cotton Fields

The series has concluded (after 4 years) on NPR, but now has a home where the essays are archived: This I Believe.

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 07:52 AM

Very interesting and very true. Growing up in Ireland we had daily singing lessons at school, and we all looked forward to going to school as a result

Also I've always found singers on the whole to be calmer and contented and more content with themselves. Vocal exercises are known to reduce stress and anxiety levels in people, in fact most people do breathe quite poorly which floods the chest with oxygen which in turn causes anxiety and tension, so it makes sense that good vocal control makes you calmer. Good musicians too learn to breathe better as their heartbeat learns to keep in time with the music, obviously so in woodwind instruments but it's apt for all instrumentalists.

It would indeed be a great thing to make singing a part of the School cirriculem. But maybe our politicians too, it might help them pass more logical laws instead of the numerous ill thought out ones the usually come up with. Sing the budget speech for a change

Ok, I'm off to practise

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 18 Oct 10 - 07:55 PM

I think birthdays are the key to a long life. The more of them you have, the longer you live.

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:19 AM

This makes sense... my Mom is 82 and though she has life long lung problems, she still sings with the senior choir at her church and still does solos.

I know when I was at home (mom and wife thing) I sang all the time and I did feel more fit. Now, I stumble into the door from work I don't have any energy to sing.

I need to change that. It would be easier if I had a weekly group to sing with. I loved blending into a group of singers.

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 02:28 PM

My partner Kate Barfield runs two singing groups, the Loudmouth Women and the Clay Chorus(mixed sex). No auditions, anyone welcome.I sing with the Clay Chorus once a week, and it's terrific. For a couple of hours, we are all laughing and enjoying chords and just having fun of a very beautiful kind. Brilliant organisations, and so good for people. Brian Eno's article is excellent, he highlights the benefits very well.

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 02:35 PM

Greg, congratulate your partner on running those singing groups. A terrific effort. Cngrat her also on the names -'Loudmouth Women' -fantastic. 'Clay Chorus' - grreattt. Happy singing.

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: Crowhugger
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 02:51 PM

Desert Dancer, I totally agree with your OP.

I live to sing, preferably a cappella with others. It's utterly the best way to spend time with people. The only criterion I'd add to yours for music selection is one my quartet (and the a cappella chorus to which I belong) likes: We go for songs with a clear story, and fairly simple emotions. If the emotional story is too subtle we find it can be harder to clearly convey the change from one feeling to the next. Possible, but more difficult.

Like you, when at last we get it, "it" being the mix of accurate notes, matched vowels, and the joy of the shared undertaking, the feeling is wonderful!

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 04:22 PM

Crowhugger, they were Brian Eno's words, not mine, but I know the feeling!

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: GUEST,Cuilionn
Date: 19 Oct 10 - 08:11 PM

Thank you for posting the Brian Eno essay. I've been really struggling to return to singing after a few years of serious hard knocks, and I'm finding it incredibly hard to work my way back into the head/soul-space of singing with spontaneity.

I try to assign myself some daily singing time-- in the car, in the shower, during farm chores, etc.--but it still feels really artificial. Considering I used to sing at the drop of a hat and was known for being able to come up with a song for almost any topic/situation, this is a really bothersome state of affairs!

I suspect it's like a lot of other skills-- I have to just keep at it until it feels natural again. I think it really does help to have a regular gathering in which to sing with others-- they can hold a person accountable for this health-giving regimen. I don't know of any regular song circles in easy driving distance, but maybe I can pull some folks together a few times this winter...


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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: Crowhugger
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 04:15 AM

Singing also saved what was left of my sanity when I went through PTSD, which took a couple of years to climb out of.

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Subject: RE: 'Singing: The key to a long life'
From: breezy
Date: 20 Oct 10 - 04:59 AM

Thank you Des Dan for posting this thread.

The decline in singing in schools beyond primary years is sad , I and others were the lucky ones.

But not all is lost.

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