Kashu-do (歌手道): Change 1: Getting To Know Our Changing Selves

I have not been writing very much lately…No, I have been writing a lot, but not publishing anything here on the blog!


I never want to post something here just out of the need to keep the blog active.  In fact, there are more readers reading the blog now than ever before, despite the fact that I have not been writing.

Why not post my writings here?

Because singing is about a lot more than technique in the physical sense.  Also, so much of what I write now needs vocal examples which I should be putting up and yet I do not feel that the product I would put up here is consistent with my standards.  I don’t care anymore to put up clips about “how much closer to completion I am!”  The next clip needs to be about the completed process and what it has yielded.

I often tell my students that the final step of their mastery needs to be taken alone!  I have been my own teacher for 5 years…by choice…Only with the help of a couple of wonderful coach-pianists who have had better advice for me than the average voice teacher might offer.

Why is that?

The great Steve Crawford gave me yet another amazing wisdom:  “When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail!”  Unless I become a victim to the success of my own technique, I had to consider a few things relative to that statement.

I became aware that I should drink more water.  Why do I not get thirsty as often as most people?  Is it a personal peculiarity? Or is it a defect?  I had considered the former for quite a while.  Then today I had a particularly dry day.  It is winter!  I sleep with the heat on, it is dry outside and in my studio, I did not sleep enough the past couple of nights since arriving in Berlin…All important factors!

Then I considered something else:  What is the oil capacity of a Nissan Titan? Officially 6.5 quarts!  7 quarts is safe!  What is the water capacity of Jean-Ronald LaFond? 45.3 liters according to Watson’s formula for body weight/age/height to body water content!

What is the average oil consumption rate of a Nissan Titan? 2.5 quarts per 1000 miles!
What is the average water consumption of Jean-Ronald LaFond? 2.5 liters per day.

If the Nissan Titan has an oil change every 1000 miles, the oil gauge should not go lower than -2.5 quarts per 1000 miles.  Many factors could lead to greater oil consumption, including dirty oil, driving in extremely dry and/or hot conditions, malfunctioning catalytic convertor, dirty oil filter, etc…

Water consumption in an average human being can also vary depending on myriad conditions.  Unfortunately, unlike the Nissan Titan, which has an oil gauge, Jean-Ronald LaFond does not come with  a water gauge.  Humans close to 50 years of age also lose thirst sensitivity.  A human being in a chronically mild dehydration state can adapt to that state until it becomes normal.  Tangentially, there are many symptoms that lead me to believe that I may have been mildly dehydrated.  I will not bore you with all of them since they can easily be found through a Google search.  One thing I will say however is that my voice (we singers are hypersensitive when it comes to our voices) is always more consistent when I am in Italy.  This I credit to balanced diet and increased water intake as a virtue of the culture.

Assuming that I am mildly dehydrated—deadly to a singer’s health because the viscosity of the vocal fold cover (mucosa) depends greatly on water intake—I will not return to normal hydration by suddenly drinking 2.5 liters of water every day.  This may help to a certain extent, because it would be more than I generally drink, however it would not bring my body to the kind of hydration that would support vocal folds at optimum levels of functionality.  If I were like a Nissan Titan, I would have a gauge that would determine my hydration level and the viscosity of the vocal fold cover.  To ascertain that I am drinking adequate water, I would have to drink far beyond my comfort level, because what feels normal is not normal at all!

So today, dealing with my extreme dryness and suddenly becoming aware of my potential chronic mild dehydration, I immediately drank four fillings of my .5-liter bottle (a recent present from my very attentive girlfriend–Thank you, Darling)!  Within 15 minutes my raspy voice began to clear and I felt a surge of energy that inspired a few repetitions of one of my Kung Fu forms.  My mind was clearer and my balance was decidedly more consistent.  Nearly two liters was more than I would ever drink at once.  It felt like my stomach was full.  I began practicing and felt clarity in my lower range where I usually do not.  Then the top of the voice was much more flexible and several high Cs felt unusually free.  After half hour of practice, I drank two more fillings of my water bottle and continued practicing.

I did not expect that all my problems would be corrected in one day, and of course some level of dryness remains as does a degree of inflexibility on certain notes (interestingly enough not the the notes that normally feel inflexible).  Most of the literature would suggest that at least a week is necessary to rehydrate, including potassium intake and salt intake to prevent water loss.  In other words, all the water I drank today did not get absorbed.  I did urinate quite a bit two hours later (not immediately).  I am interested to see how the voice responds after I feel properly hydrated.

I will keep you posted.  I do feel I am on to something important.

Interestingly enough as I write this post, I feel decidedly thirsty.  It could be the power of suggestion relative to writing this over the last hour, or it could be something truly significant.  I am betting it is the latter because I exhibit all the mild symptoms consistent with mild dehydration.  Because they are otherwise mild, except for the perceptible difficulties with respect to the voice (stuff that a non-singer would not care about), I did not think much of them.

I have to change!  I have to become aware of mild discomforts.  It is part of a long process of learning to honor the body as the temple of the spiritual self.  It is part of honoring one’s inner worth.

In every sense, my voice has been improving and I have been extremely excited.  The frustration has been with the lack of clarity in the voice and any kind of vocal damage has been ruled out.  Reflux is the laryngologist’s default diagnosis.  I have stopped treating myself for reflux more than two years ago and I have not felt any adverse effects.  On the contrary, once I dismissed reflux as the unpredictable devil, I have improved on many levels.  It will be interesting to see what this brings.

© 12/02/2012

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