Sunday, April 1, 2012

Betty Sings

One of my more useful and perhaps less irksome quirks is that my methods of relaxation tend towards meaningfully productive activity. My personal getaways include cleaning up kitchen and sorting through heaps of accumulated I'll-put-this-away-laters. After a long weekend of under-stimulation with family, there's nothing so relaxing as a couple of hours of coding software.

There are many positive side effects to my relaxation techniques. We're never without clean clothes. I always know where to find even the most obscure spare part to any of the numerous gadgets we have lying about the house. I can shop for food without running inventory or preparing a list. We get to implement many of Iris' brainstorms which otherwise would have ended up lost on scraps of paper left lying where ever the storm occurred.

Over the past week, I've been motivated to copiously employ my relaxation methods at an accelerated rate. Yesterday, as I unpacked a box that had traveled with us unopened through four moves, I found a surprise. It wasn't a half-eaten sandwich from 2004; it was a recording of a solo concert by mom in October 2000, just a year before she passed away. I pulled open the case and slotted the CD into my Mac. Listening to the piano's opening refrain, I could tell from the wobble, phase shifting and the absence of higher frequencies that the CD was a copy of something originally recorded on cassette tape.

So I did what anyone who uses meaningfully productive activity to relax would do; I ripped the CD into AIF files, opened up my mastering program and began fixing the recordings.

Together, my mom and dad represent the yin and yang of my existence: my mom the bright-eyed singer with big ideas and unbounded creativity, my dad the overly practical engineer who values hard work over inspiration. They're about as opposite as two people can be and yet they spent nearly fifty years together.

My mom was one of those fortunate people who died healthy. At seventy she could still sing with all the control and expertise that she had at twenty. She taught aerobics classes. She was active from sun-up to late in the evening. She was so healthy that they didn't spot the cancer until it was far too late to treat. Unlike many for who death-by-cancer is a long and tortuous road, my mom died quickly, less than a month after the diagnosis.

I sit at my desk processing the recordings. I poke and prod each audio file pushing for the best it will give me. I listen to my mom singing for the first time in over a decade. As she sings, I hear everything she ever taught me being put to work. I hear her focus her voice to optimize the sound quality and projection. I hear her use dynamics in unexpected ways to surprise and delight her audience. I hear how she articulates so that even people in the back rows can understand every word. She focuses her energy. She makes nothing else matter in that moment. Her joy and freedom are contagious.

As I listen it all comes together for me. My mom was able to perform with such ease before an audience of six or seven hundred people, because she brought that focus and energy to everything she did. Whether preparing a cake and coffee for a lone friend, entertaining a houseful of guests or singing before thousands of people, she was the same person.

I just felt like sharing that with you.

Happy Sunday,


  1. Well said, but still a reduction of the original experience. Would you be willing to share the recording with us? One mp3 is worth a thousand words.

    1. Mark, That's a great idea. I'll post something later today or tomorrow.


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