So much of improvisational vocal music-making involves glossolalia, or scat syllables, or “nonsense sounds” (though we’ll be unpacking those semantics later). So let’s open up the floodgates in a no-pressure environment.
Try every syllable you can think of, in the order you can think of them, no matter how strange or outlandish they seem. When one of them feels good in your mouth, try it a second time, or a third, before you move on to more syllables. Make it as musical or non-musical as you like. Allow all the sounds you produce, without judging them.
Here is a demo response from and Amado, just to break the ice. Jascha is, at the moment, visiting with and learning from Rhiannon, a master of this.
It’s good to have options. Here we offer ways that you can meet this prompt right where you are; or, alternatively, ways you can challenge yourself more deeply with it.
Option A: Sometimes, there is planning in improv: For an easier stretch, make yourself a cheat-sheet before you sit down to sing (or talk (or rap (or Sprechstimme))). Use a method that makes sense to you: perhaps a list of letters that’s a subset of the alphabet; perhaps a random list of words in a language that’s unknown to you, so you can make an effort to make the sounds; perhaps a systematic combination of all the consonants with all the vowels… don’t get too elaborate, but make yourself what you need to in order to feel comfortable doing this unfamiliar thing.
Option B: Who talks this way? For a deeper stretch, imagine that each syllable you come up with belongs to the speech patterns of an imaginary village, and try to find the other syllables that are native to that village. Then, when you’ve said all you know how to say in that village, move on to another that is as different from the first as you can imagine; find all of their syllables. Continue until… go as deep as you like, perhaps until you feel you’ve visited a whole imaginary world of languages. (Whether you return to Earth when you are done is entirely up to you.)
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing your Syllables recording.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, February 16, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be as long as you want, within reasonable limits. Try to go for at least a minute.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece—and how it felt.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-syllables1]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-syllables1” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “SSS Prompt 3: Try out as many Syllables as you can.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org . You can join the SSS at https://soundcloud.com/groups/society-for-spontaneous-singing
Multiple Responses: If you find that this Prompt inspires you to make multiple recordings, great! AND, let’s not make anybody to feel like somebody else is being over-represented in the group. If you make more than one response to this Prompt, make a Playlist of all the sounds you record, pick the response you like most, add this favorite to the Group, and include a link to the Playlist in the description of that favorite.
Thank you again, sweet singers!