6. On Musicality

Where I live, there is a 3/4 guitar that has shared residence with me for the past 10 years or so, and an upright piano that has done that for twice that time.

(it seems that even blogging, like any other venture, starts off exciting and fresh, and for a terribly brief time, you enter into a fragile sense of invincibility where it seems that you will never run out of ideas… Until you reach the one-week mark and you begin to wonder where had all those good ideas packed up and went off to)

Both of these things were bought for my elder sister, whom I blame for most of my feelings of inadequacy – everything I have attempted to do while in secondary school, she has also attempted and yielded far better results than I.

(It’s a good thing that she has never ventured into writing)

I understood very early on that I will never be able to tinkle on the piano or the guitar the way my elder sister does. But occasionally, when no one is home, I’ll sit myself by the piano and hit away at the keys with all the skill that an elephant has in dancing, but also with all the passion that Michelangelo possessed as he chiseled away at that block of marble.

And it would be glorious. No one has been around to tell me otherwise.

If I understand my brain science correctly, there is a whole section of the brain that is devoted to all things musical: the understanding of harmonies, the intuitive grasp of chords and keys, the sticky memory for music and lyrics. Music is as much the language of the soul as words are the language of the mind, and movements the language of the physical body. It flows out of one’s being effortlessly, albeit with varying degrees of grace – unveiling the complex layers of clockwork that is at work within.

When there are people present at home, I reach for the 3/4 guitar.

I consider myself a mediocre kind of guitar player – I won’t be earning any money out of doing it in this lifetime, but I won’t inspire in people a desire to leave the room when I do strike the chords either. I have a good-enough grasp of rhythm and groove to play songs with easy chords – that is to say, 90% of what you can hear on radio these days – competently. And sing along to it as I strum away.

When the occasion calls for a performance, however, I put away the instruments to sing.

In the days when I was in my school’s choir group, I was one of the tenors. I was told early on that I have a baritone register; but the SATB arrangement for most songs composed for choral singing did not bother with the baritones. So tenor, it was.

The human voice is easily the most complex musical instrument known to mankind. There are people out there who make good living by replicating the sounds of conventional musical instruments with their voices (YouTube Pentatonix); but despite the best efforts of many parties, there just isn’t a device yet clever enough to recreate the sound of a human voice.

(although Vocaloid seems to be cutting pretty close. Then again, it’s only due to the excessive use of autotune and remastering tools that people have gotten used to the idea that artists could sound like machines)

If there’s any form of musicality in me that I can be proud of, it would be my voice. I have sang with my school’s choir for competitions alongside 39 other voices; I have sang solo before a congregation of 800 during worship services; and if you stay around me long enough, you’ll come to know that singing comes as naturally to me as observing the world around me.

Fast songs. Slow songs. Happy songs. Sad songs. Trippy songs. Poetic songs. Especially the poetic songs – I’d sing them all. If music is the language of the soul, my first language is singing.

And I’m bloody proud of it.


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