Her voice stretches. It curls around words. Gives them a prick. Then sends them out. Something that sounds effortless is from someone is not trying. Here, the voice works to convey a hatred of love. And it’s good at its job. The words give a clue, but the words are not her main tool. The singer uses tone of voice. This is what separates musicians from the rest. They rely on sound to express emotion.
“Who’s next?” asks Annabel. Sometimes I forget she’s there. I been pretending that she was standing next to me, though since she’s not real she does occasionally dip out of my mind.
“Not sure,” I looked at the guide. “Don’t care.”
Having a friend who vanishes can be good. Especially when squeezing past popular people.
“Why don’t we go to the park?” The blue sky and green fields influencing her decision.
“Do they have beer?” I sometimes ignore the weather.
Bendigo’s Blues and Roots Festival 2013. Venues across this country city hosted over a hundred performers, including Geoff Achison & the Souldiggers, Llody Spiegal, Talisa Jobe, Alanna & Alicia Egan, and Genevieve Chadwick. They applied their trade in pubs, bars, parks, on trams, closed streets stages, and in hotel foyers… and probably some impromptu hotel rooms and houses too.
“What’s scat?” Annabel was looking over the timetable.
“It’s rat poo isn’t it?” I answer.
“I don’t think they’d advertise someone as being a renowned rat poo artist, Dean.”
“Are you sure?”
“It could be something they show at La Trobe Visual Art.”
“It’s at the Rifle Hotel.”
I paused to consider the conversion so far. “Not likely to be rat poo then. It’s probably the type of jazz signing when they don’t use words.”
“Like when you sing?” she said. An hour later Annabel was convinced that my incorrect approximation of lyrics was scat. She wouldn’t reveal what kind.
“It’s buzz, buzz, zoop, zing, do-wat,” she said in a monotone. This made it lose a bit. “Anyone could do that.”
To this I went introvert, forgot about her, thunk, and then said, ‘Yes,’ to nobody.
Instruments are used to pass meaning, through wood or brass or string or skin. Humans are taught to use our words. Hence singing usually comes with words. It’s hard to separate the two. I think it misses a building block when it tries to break them apart.
The weekend of blues and roots was excellent. There’s no denying picnics in the park or pots at the pub with good tunes is ideal for many local, or visiting, folk in Bendigo. The point I got focused on was the lyrics.
Some songs don’t need lyrics, and let’s face it, as my voice testifies, singing is hard. Pitching a voice and harmonising words is a proper and delicate skill. To do so and express meaning is even harder. In writing they say “Show don’t tell”, and that means one must convey an idea without expressly writing it. Jamming guitars, drums, etc is similar. A party groove for the roots, or a dredging riff for the blues, are some ways to express joys or sorrows in sound.
With lyrics, there’s a value in words. Of course I’d say that, since I’m writing stuff, and I think a great meter in lyrics sung to melody is important, even if unnecessary. What is harder and more impressive is when these lyrics get usurped. While the written words hold their meaning, if the voice can bypass this and give a direct emotion then that is amazing. In those times it is as though the words become syllables, components, tools, notes. Used by the singer like sheet music to a pianist.
It’s great to be able to experience this sort of talent in Bendigo. Those who sing, those who play, those who scat… in terms of singing, and those who marry it all. It’s a great way to experience emotion.