HAPPY’S BOOK REVIEW: SINGING WITH YOUR WHOLE SELF – THE FELDENKRAIS METHOD AND VOICE
Rating: Four Happy Relaxed Faces (Out of four possible)
This book is already one of my top five favorite books of all time, quite remarkable given I’ve only had it a few weeks. This book is a book about how to relax and sing with less tension in the voice. There are no “singing lessons” in the book and it won’t teach you how to sing. Instead there are lessons based on the “Feldenkrais Method” of physical therapy, which is technique of gaining more awareness of your body through slow, stress-free movements. The Feldenkrais Method is most often used by people who have physical problems or people, like musicians, who want to gain a deeper connection to their body. As someone who falls into both of these categories this book has had a profound impact on me.
As an example of the insights in this book, it asks the age old question “from where does the singer sing,” the typical answer being “the throat”, or the “breath”, or “the diaphragm.” This book suggests that we sing from the “pelvic girdle” or by extension our legs and our feet. The idea being that our basic sense of physical support comes from there and if it is out of alignment (as it would be with certain Happy Men with hip problems) then vocal strain and fatigue will result.
This book will be most useful for people who want to take a good honest look at their voice and how to change the way they use their body to help improve it.
HAPPY’S BOOK REVIEW: RUTHLESS BY JERRY HELLER
4 Happy Faces (Out of Four Possible)
The Happy Man thinks this book should be made into a movie. It is the true story of the manager of the rap group NWA, both before and after his time with that band. Even though I never followed that group, I found this story to be perhaps the most compelling story (save perhaps the often told Beatles story) that I have read in music. It reads like a gang war, which, in a sense it was, with bruised egos, threats, beatings, shakedowns, broken alliances, ultimately death, heartbreak, and an unlikely happy romantic ending. Every page seems like another scene in a movie with the people acting in a larger then life way, perhaps the way all great people do in the end. It’s a story that has been told differently (in some cases with Mr. Heller as the villain) by other players, but Mr. Heller makes his case in a very effective way.
I also enjoy the author’s perspective (given at a recent music conference I attended) of the problems of the music industry today, which he put at the feet not of illegal downloading, but of the Beatle’s album Sergeant Pepper and also MTV, which he believes created a culture of spending large amounts of money creating albums and videos which makes cultivation of new acts so expensive that the industry can’t sustain it. His solution (very comforting to those of us who make our own albums) is to make music cheaply with small up front costs. He also gave us his philosophy of the music business: NAA (NO ASSHOLES ALLOWED). This echoes what I’m hearing all over the place nowadays from music industry people – we can’t afford to be dicks on the road to success, there are just too many people trying to do this and not enough room anymore.
My favorite story was about how Van Morrison refused to play New York, due to a bad experience there. Mr. Heller simply told him he was playing another city and incredibly Van Morrison was so much in “the fog of touring” that he didn’t notice where he was (even as they approached the distinctive skyline of New York) until the lights went up after his third song at Carnegie Hall and the crowd applauded. Somehow this story sticks with me as the ultimate story on how a great manager might serve his client and the public.
The author knows how to tell a story, and that’s ultimately what the music business is about. Telling stories.
HAPPYRON’S BOOK REVIEW: MAKE ME A STAR BY ANASTASIA BROWN
Four Happy Faces (Out Of Four Possible)
It always amazes me how so many people interested in a career in show business never seem to take the time to learn about the “business” side of things. As a matter of fact, many great singers and songwriters never seem to master the “show” side of things either – they have the songs and the voice but don’t know what it really means to put on a show. I’ve read many books and attended many workshops on these things and this book may be the best general introduction I have read.
Anastasia is a judge on the show Nashville Star, a country music show similar to American Idol. She makes some important points about these contest shows that people who dismiss them overlook: 1) They have been around long before American Idol, almost since the beginnings of television in fact. 2) they have been important part of breaking many big stars, many of whom did not win the contest and 3) that they provide a great insight into how to develop yourself (and listen to feedback) as well as into the often harsh realities of the music business.
If you win one of these shows they tend to take care of the business side of things for you, this is how most people envision success. But since most people won’t win these shows she gives a good basic description of the how the business side works. Understanding these things is essential in the age of the independent artist.
As a Happy Man, attitude is obviously very important to me and she stresses again and again the importance of a positive attitude combined with a good work ethic and a realistic viewpoint on the music scene. She ends the book with a positive outlook on the music business: it’s wide open now and that creates great opportunities for those of us who want to do it ourselves, but not do it alone.
HAPPYRON’S BOOK REVIEW: ELECTRIFY MY SOUL: SONGWRITING AND THE SPIRITUAL SOURCE BY DAN KIMPEL
Four Happy Faces (Out Of Four Possible)
The related issues of the “source” of your songwriting and “spirituality” are often written about in ways that obviously reflect one persons individual beliefs and experience. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but if you don’t share those particular beliefs or experience you can often feel like you are being lectured to or preached at. This book avoids that trap by interviewing people with a wide variety of experiences and letting them speak for themselves, from old time religion, to American Indian, to New Age proponents. The overall experience of reading this book becomes one of building understanding and shared experience which to me is the highest goal of songwriting, spirituality, and for that matter, book writing.
Somehow in reading this book I am reminded of two of my favorite quotes:
“Happiness shared is happiness multiplied, pain shared is pain divided” author unknown to me.
And Neil Young from a recent 2008 Charlie Rose:
“I know there’s a lot of stories, there’s the Bible, The Koran, theres all these things. Everybodies got one, everybody has a faith. And there’s stories that have gone through the ages and I respect all of them, but I don’t know I don’t know where I fit in I just have faith…. I don’t have a robe, I don’t have a book. If I have a book it’s somehow missing, but I have a faith and I respect faith.. We need to know, we need to feel it, we need something. ”