Friday, August 28, 2009

XXY: A small but vocal issue...

I am left today with a fear of the unknown. For more than three years now I have participated in singing studies, and my vocal range has significantly improved throughout that time. Indeed my range continues to improve, breaks are worked through, and my natural normal speaking range has changed, yet again. I have finally after all this time been told by one vocal instructor that my tone and clarity is much improved, almost acceptable or even, normal. This voice instructor went on to say that if I continue these lessons, then I can expect my normal speaking voice to change yet again...

Yet again.

So I asked myself, what if my normal speaking voice were even higher than it is now? I would be firmly in the higher range for normal women, is this a good change? So I resolved to test the current range and loaded a vocal analyzer and recorded several sets, at various normal pitch levels and lengths including generally happy, long and boring text, a bit down, etc.. Sure enough I'm ranging in pitch from 180 to 280 hz. The spectrograph shows a bit more than the average overtones that an ordinary woman would use; I have perhaps half of the harmonics a normal male would have. In this matter, science is not helping! All this singing is enabling me to use and adjust to what males would call the falsetto voice, or head voice. When I use falsetto the excessive overtones are much reduced from my full voice, ie.. closer to a natural female. And to make matters worse.. (better?) I took several sessions with another voice teacher whom started using the term counter-tenor, almost immediately. One test this instructor likes was the natural sigh, and tricky person he is, including it in the lesson without telling me about it first; But the result, middle C, was not what I expected. Middle C is the normal speaking pitch of women, and an half an octave to an octave high for 40 year old men.

All knowledge is good, the more you know, the more you understand, the more you can make personal choices about. Only in ignorance can others make choices for you. But what do I choose about the voice? If I want to present as male, then there are a number of challenges to overcome, and not the least is the appropriate speaking pitch. Males only exceedingly rarely use a pitch higher than 150 hz, and then generally only for terror, fear, or capitulation. If I were to use such a pitch, say 200 hz, then that is already one failure in presenting male.

On the positive side of this issue I no longer have serious throat pain from attempting to speak too low for too long. It is still hard to speak low, and has become more difficult to do so without being deliberate in the doing. It is disconcerting to sit down to a vocal analyzer and comfortably, naturally, speak at what is a middle voice for a woman. Another positive (?) is that as I become more competent at singing I can better hold my part, instead of following whom ever seems to know their part well. This is good, and bad. Good because I no longer automatically (well not often anyway) pitch match with other people, especially males because they still talk too low and I can end up speaking from the throat if I am not prepared. Bad because my natural vocal range appears to be +/-3 notes of middle C. I still pitch match with women who use higher pitches, because I am not as comfortable with that singing range, B below middle C to the G above.

Supposedly according to both vocal instructors that as I work out a normal high tenor full voice, this will give me an alternative to the falsetto that I find most comfortable (and not by choice!). Remember I am trying to live and work as a male, this makes doing that very awkward.

Life is...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What do to when depression cannot be avoided...

For the first 30 and some years of life, starting about the age of 12, and until 36 I felt a great deep depression. Now I'm not talking about something you can take a couple of pills and sleep on. Rather depression built upon pain. Lets see if I can pain a picture so bleak, your very world turns grey, dismal, and promises nothing more than the pain that is, the pain that will be, and the pain of merely drawing a breath. Most people will tell you they have once or twice in their lifetime had a morning so horrible that the very thought of getting up seemed too much effort to attempt, can you imagine every morning being like that... Some people know what exhaustion is, that deep binding crease through your body that drags you down constantly, muddies your thoughts, and makes a single set of stairs seem like a hurclean effort to climb. But very few people experience this effect for more than a short period of time, what would your life be like if tomorrow morning and every day thereafter you could look forwards to getting up in the morning exhausted as the last time you overdid work and was so tired that you only wanted to sleep. What would life be like... depression is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.

And then there is the pain... Most people have at one time or other in their life sprained a muscle, and they know that walking on a sprained foot is painful. Picking up a pen with a sprained hand is painful. Some people have broken limbs and they know the pain isn't in the break, its later, after the fact. The pain comes from trying to use that arm or leg, to push or to pull even lightly. Anyone who has thrown out their back and tried to stand up knows what pain is, it is crippling. I have seen grown men dislocate a shoulder and whimper like a child. No kidding, dislocations of any type hurt. Lets suppose just for a moment that tomorrow, the moment you were going to get up you could look forwards to the pain of dislocating or pulling a muscle in your back, every single morning, forever. In the next moment as you go to swing your legs out of bed, several other muscles were going to complain and twinge in pain. And it wasn't going to stop. Old people know the body creaks, but once you start moving the pain can be come tolerable. Motion reduces the effects of pain from joints not moving. Lets say that moving around does not reduce the amount of pain. How would you view your life then, I wonder... dim, slow, pain, grey, and dismal.

Now everyone has a choice they can accept life on its terms or they can check out (commit suicide). Sounds pretty harsh doesn't it. For my first 3 decades life hurt, it was grey, it was dismal, and I bore daily an amount of pain that would kill most people. In order to survive, you have to accept that pain is your life. And I don't say that casually, I don't think most people understand that when you have to juggle or control your own centers of pain that it might make a certain amount of sense to overload one side than the other. Neither are we talking about someone that cuts them selves to feel anything at all. No this isn't dementia, the individual need not be crazy. Rather the person can use the fact that the mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Sometimes it is necessary to redirect pain. I know how to do that... unfortunately...

So the basics of managing pain, depression, and overcoming insurmountable odds of accomplishment in our world. Step 1, you need a plan of action. I had a method that would result in things happening, but it required three parts to work.

A. You must train yourself to understand that when it is time to move, you HAVE to MOVE. Period. I don't care if you're lying on the ground in more pain than the world should have visited on anyone, you have to MOVE. You CANNOT NOT MOVE. Period. No exceptions, ever. I don't care if you've just been shot and are dying in the street, if your alarm clock goes off, you MOVE.

B. Keep lists of things you MUST do. When it is time to MOVE, you MUST do whatever is on the list. I don't care how much pain or exhaustion there is. The human body can operate on no sleep and in deep pain, the only limitation is you.

C. Never make a decision about anything important in less than 8 hours. Once your decision is made, DO NOT EVER second guess your choice.

This method kept me moving in a grey fog of pain and shock for 3 decades. I'm only glad I don't need it anymore.

Using this method, I have finished a college degree, completed a black belt in a martial arts, and worked as a professional in the IT world and achieved success. I have owned businesses and property. But I did not have anything resembling happiness, this was earned through determination. Life is, learn to live with it...

an aside, I no longer use this method, the pain of my first three decades has become managable. I no longer experience depression as a constant companion. Most of the pain of life has become managable. But this article is to talk to my years from 12 to 35.. :) there is hope. Although, I had to find my own answers the medical profession remained vocal and completely wrong.