Friday, May 11, 2007

Choir as a Model for Community Life: Technique

[Chapter talk of Friday, May 11, 2007]

I mentioned yesterday that Kevin also has stressed technique. Again, I thank each of you for your earnest efforts in this area. It may seem as if technique is extrinsic, perhaps not something to bother with in a monastic choir, where after all, we are not trained professional singers. Whether or not that is the case, I would like to look at the idea behind technique.

There are two aims of good technique in general: reducing extraneous movement and channeling the freed-up energy to good use. So we try to breathe without moving our shoulders because eliminating this extra motion frees the energy of the breath to make the voice louder and also suppler. Similarly, a wide-open mouth gives the widest range of mobility to the voice and makes it sound better.

I said yesterday that we need to listen and follow one another. Often times, an earnest desire to do this is frustrated by poor technique. We want to move, and then our bodies don’t respond. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." The temptation is to blame the other brother for his inflexibility, but all of us surely have room to improve.

The analogy in the spiritual life is asceticism. Asceticism is no more about personal perfection than singing technique is about getting us to the stage of the Met. Rather, the goal of our life is the Kingdom of God, a life of blessed communion with God and with others. We are prevented from attaining this because our souls lack the flexibility and docility that purity of heart provides. To use the techncal language of the Fathers: our passions tend to be misdirected, ending toward dissolution instead of integration. Asceticism allows us to overcome anger, sadness, lust and so forth and use the freed-up energy for service. So, just as we work on singing technique to allow us to listen and sing in concert with our brothers more effectively, each of us also needs to be working at the ascetic life in order to be more and more free to live attentively and in fraternal charity.

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