This time of year, Americans gather with their extended families for enormous feats of eating and drinking. It has been marked as time of gratitude, as well as a time of buying. But it is a time when it is nearly impossible to avoid thinking about what one thing means to you. And that thing is “family.”
The concept of “family” is laden with cultural assumptions. Not everyone has a mother and father who are alive, or who they are in touch with. Some have multiple Moms and Dads. Some have dozens of cousins; others none at all. Some celebrate with just their tight nuclear family; others gather with “chosen family” and friends.
With all that in mind, this week let’s sing about what family means to us. This might be a song of spontaneous thanks to your beloved family. It might mean a ballad of longing for a family you never had. It could mean choosing a long-lost relative and singing in their voice, however you imagine it. Or it might be as simple as a Sister Sledge cover.
Here is a demo responses from Jascha, who seems to be exploring the “extended solo with words” format these days.
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: Mother, father, sister, brother. Many songs in folk traditions use family for their very structure. For example, the classic gospel song “Bright Morning Stars” asks “O where are our dear fathers?” and then goes on to ask about mothers, brothers and sisters. It gives a nice warm feel to the song. So use this conceit to invent your own folk song. Feel free to be as creative as you’d like; here is Jascha’s solo effort along these lines.
Option B: Voice your ancestor. This one comes from the stack of prompts we generated at the “annual meeting” at the Circlesongs workshop in August. Choose an ancestor — or perhaps a living senior relative — who holds some allure for you. Someone who had a strong voice in their prime; or maybe someone who never got to speak their mind fully. And then just sing from their spirit. Words, rhythms, melodies, soundscapes—see what comes out.
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing for two minutes.
- 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, November 30, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about the time it takes to eat a slice of pumpkin pie.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-family]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-family” 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 44: Family.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org .
Thank you, sweet singers!
Jascha & Amado