birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

I Learned to Sing Weeping

Music is HARD to describe in words. I’d never thought about it. Even trying to choose what song feels impossible. What is this quality of music that defies describing?

Is it a lack of descriptors? Well, yes, but—

More it is that words don’t capture the sounds—the plunk, the tinkle, the boom, the moan, or blare, or honk. Depending on what instrument one chooses.

And, then there is the voice—the human voice, with its pitch, its timbre. Is it nasal? Is it head? Is it chest? Is it resonant throughout the body; or is it a slim, one-note sound?

I sang a song when I started lessons when I was in my late forties. It was a beautiful haunting opera aria. It was plaintive; it was longing; it was seductive—with its second soprano, big-voice overtones. My teacher loved the song; and loved my voice singing it.

I learned to love it—after I stopped being intimidated by its complexity, its difficulty of rhythms and harmonies. And, its words were French.

Had it been Spanish, or even Russian, I had a chance at ease; but French pronunciation made no sense to me.

And, I did it because the notes and harmonies filled my soul and body with love.

Over the four years I took lessons, my teacher insisted I sing several languages I would never speak.

But this first song, Mon Coeur S’ouvre a ta Voix, was the love song (from Samson et Delilah): “My heart opens to your voice like the flowers open to the kisses of the dawn … Ah! Respond to my tenderness! Fill me with ecstasy! Delilah! Delilah!”

I could not sing it without weeping.
So I had to learn to sing weeping.

Andrew Birkenstein

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