Subtext.

All those who know me are well aware of the fact that I am not particularly good at expressing my feelings. Or rather, I am not very good at expressing my feelings to those who are the subject of them. I’m terrified of rejection and being vulnerable, so when I really value someone, like, or love them, I don’t say anything. I shy away from confrontation, so never tell people when they have done something I think is wrong, annoying or unfair. Instead, I bottle all this up until it inevitably explodes out at some point, usually in a singing lesson, shocking my teachers into thinking I’m some kind of psycho who has breakdowns over being asked to alter the length of an appoggiatura.

I’m not touchy about my appoggiaturas, but if anyone criticises my trill, they had better be prepared to watch me go all kinds of crazy.

I’ve become so skilled at suppressing my feelings, I often I manage to hide them from myself. At least while I’m awake.

Going to sleep is one of the most entertaining parts of my day, because every night without fail I have ridiculously vivid, absurdly detailed dreams. Usually it’s just my brain processing the day that just happened in its own nutcase way. But every now and then my brain identifies some kind of deep-rooted emotional issue or situation going on that it feels I’m not addressing properly, and tries to bring it to my attention.

But of course, seeing as I can’t have a conversation with my brain without being completely off my rocker or in a surprisingly moving animated Disney film, my subconscious has to try and communicate through symbols. In many instances, it is not very original. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I dream that I am swimming in the ocean, but the waves are getting bigger and bigger, and the sand is being constantly eroded, creating a cliff that makes it impossible to get out of the water. Everyone else is having a lovely time at the beach, and I’m the only one that notices there’s a frigging tsunami headed our way.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been stressed out over the rapidly approaching deadline of my Master thesis, but trying to convince myself (and my supervisor) that everything is just fine and dandy, and that have ample time to do everything I should have been doing for the last eighteen months.

My brain isn’t buying any of that crap. In place of the standard “in over your head” dream, it has substituted one where I’m about to reach the summit of a huge mountain, but I spark an avalanche that over the course of many video game like levels, destroys not only me, but all of my friends and any other randoms unfortunate enough to be on my dream mountain.

Yes, my subconscious quite literally has the subtlety of an avalanche to the face.

Which makes me a bit dubious about my other consistently recurring dream. Whenever I am feeling doubtful about my musical path, or feeling trapped by a particular creative situation, I dream that I have to safely guide my family’s old cat through swamps and lakes filled with crocodiles that want to eat her. I’m pretty sure the cat represents my artistic identity. Which is a bit insulting, because it means my subconscious thinks my creative soul looks like this:

Floss

No wonder I sing so well.

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In vino veritas.

I will freely admit that I am someone with a rather unsophisticated approach to wine. I do not see it as a magical elixir derived from a tradition honed and perfected over millennia. I do not see it as divine nectar, the swirling of its veiled complexities an expression of its inherent virtue. No, in my world wine is grape juice for grown ups.

However, I feel that having a developed palate and some kind of knowledge about wine are markers that prove you’re an intelligent, independent, well-rounded adult. The fantasy of being the perfect hostess, able to provide the ideal pairing of excellent wine to compliment every stage of an exquisite (but not excessively elaborate) meal holds fairly strong appeal for me. I once did a wine-tasting tour in Chianti in an attempt to develop my wine appreciation skills. All that happened is I got incredibly drunk before noon on a Wednesday. You can take the girl out of Australia…

There is one area in which I can claim to be an expert however. Years of post-performance, post-exam, post-opera, pre-lesson, what-the-hell-it’s-a-Tuesday drinks with a wide range of singers has given me a good understanding of some pretty basic principles in the conservatory singer – wine relationship. For instance:

  • If your favourite wine is cheap and/or comes in a cardboard box: you are a musician.
  • If your favourite wine can be described by any combination of the words fruity, sweet or sparkling: you are a soprano.
  • If your favourite wine is beer: you are an alto.
  • If your favourite wine is a 1973 Domaine de la Romanée Conti Grand Cru: you are a tenor. Nobody else gets enough work to afford such expensive taste.
  • If your favourite wine is whiskey: you are a bass.

Through extensive research (both active and observational) I have been able to identify a peculiar phenomenon that occurs far more frequently among singers than among the general populace. When normal people drink wine, they use their senses to draw conclusions and pass judgement on the wine. When singers drink wine, the overpowering insecurities that have driven them to alcohol in the first place mean that the wine ends up acting as some kind of oracle, drawing conclusions and passing judgement on the drinker.

In order to help singers everywhere make full use of the opportunity for self-discovery each glass of wine occasions, I have developed:

B’s Helpful Guide to Wine Tasting.

  1. Look at the wine in your glass. What colour is it? Is it murky and unclear, like your coloratura? Or is it pretty and bright, like the singer that got booked at the audition you did today? If your wine is in a teacup, bowl, or goon sack, feel free to skip this step.
  1. Swirl the wine in your glass. This will help liberate your inhibitions from any vestiges of good judgement. If you spill the wine at this step, you might want to slow down.
  1. Take a deep sniff of the wine. Do you smell the aroma of disappointed dreams? Of unfulfilled potential? Or do you smell the enticing scent of future possibilities? If the last one, you are probably a first year student, and should be aware that your naive remarks are probably annoying the older students who have developed more sophisticated palates capable of discerning the full range of cynicism offered to them by their wine.
  1. Sip the wine and swirl it around your mouth. What flavours can you detect? Is there the metallic tinge of crushing student debt? Or the syrupy flavour of guilt for not having learnt your aria before your lesson this week? How would you describe the texture? Is it full bodied, like how you feel in your concert dress after gaining the fresher five? Or weak, like your commitment to practicing?
  1. Swallow the wine, and pay attention to the aftertaste. Is it unbalanced, like you in movement class? Is it awkward, like the Monday following an opera after-party when everyone pretends they didn’t hook up with each other 48 hours earlier? Does the aftertaste linger, like the student in the lesson before yours, who always asks your teacher complicated questions right as your lesson is supposed to begin?
  1. Repeat steps 5 and 6 ad libitum. This is the most important step, and deserves much practice.
It's medicinal, I swear.

It’s medicinal, I swear.

In vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas.

On a scale of one to what?

So, the other day I was discussing exam results with a friend, and we were remarking upon a common but confusing occurrence, whereby the jury says:

We feel you’ve made a lot of progress this year. We hear many different things happening in your music making now, and we feel that you have really developed yourself as a musician and performer. With this in mind, we have decided to award you exactly the same mark we gave you last year.

It can be somewhat disheartening to us poor, downtrodden music students to be given the same result year after year, especially when that is somehow supposed to reflect the improvement and development that we have (hopefully) achieved.

This is when my friend and I came to a very simple, but life-changing realisation.

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Operation Evacuation

So the last five months have succeeded in breaking me. Have succeeded in tearing me down, leaving behind a shell of a person standing in the rubble of my former personality. All too often, I feel that the part of me that was happy, playful, attractive and fun to be around has died and is rotting away inside me, poisoning me from the inside out. I used to be funny. Now I’m just glum.

Who knew a broken heart could hurt so much?

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Calling all psychopaths…

If there is anything I have learnt from the horror film genre, it is that the concurrence of a certain number of creepy circumstances will inevitably lead to a gruesome demise.

For instance, if it is a bitingly cold day with miserable rain and an ominous grey sky, and one is walking alone amongst warehouses in the middle of nowhere in a small European country where they speak a strange language, there is a 100% certainty that an axe murderer/possessed twelve year old twins are going to drag you into an abandoned warehouse, from whence you shall never leave and your screams will echo unheard through eternity.

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Wishful thinking

I’m going to admit it: I suck at shopping.

As a girl, I realise that this is an activity I am supposed to have a natural affinity for, and that being a female human sans shopping stamina is a bit like being a panther without claws or like a dolphin that can’t swim. Unless my shopping trip involves chocolate or books, my enthusiasm levels match that of Marvin the Paranoid Android, and I’m about as fun to be around.

Marvin

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The Swarm

I am sitting in Schipol airport, about to board a ridiculously long flight to Australia. My sister is getting married in about a week, and I am ditching school and the northern hemisphere in order to go get drunk with relatives. I’m also taking a road trip to see my friends from university, and go on a café crawl with them. They know how much I can eat, and won’t judge me when I throw myself with abandon into a day-long brunch involving multiple locations and far too many chai lattes.

My friends here in the Netherlands have had to put up with me randomly rambling about foods they’ve never heard of that I will eat in places they will probably never visit. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have been punctuating conversations with statements like “I’m going home in x number of days”.  Naturally I’ve been thinking about how I will describe my life here in a more evocative way than “pretty standard really” and how to give an idea of my friends here in a more accurate way than “yeah, they’re pretty cool”. And seeing as there is a possibility that I will be jet-lagged out of my mind and too busy eating to talk properly, I decided that mumbling “see the blog post” might be a more efficient and eloquent way of providing this information.

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