Vox Singulae is a project inspired by an assignment I had in college. The class was called Sound Image, and it was a class about storytelling through the use of sound. The assignment was called Vocalization, and the task was to record something – a song, a story, a dialogue – through the use of only our voice.
I decided to use this opportunity to sing Ode to Joy in four parts, meaning I recorded the melody line and then improvised a bunch of harmony parts under it. It was the first time I'd sung for an audience (childhood Christmas concerts don't count), and it was the first time that I felt singing was something I was capable of doing.
In the years since, I've often reflected on that assignment with a certain fondness. I'm not sure what it is: it was the first time I recorded myself singing and played it back for an audience, so it represents the start of my journey as someone who sings. I love the bare minimalism of the assignment's parameters. The voice has a strong claim to be the first musical instrument (the only other realistic contender is the drum), and yet with this most primal of instruments there is an infinity of possibilities. That's only if you regard the voice in purely musical terms and ignore its potential as a verbal medium. The voice is how we tell one another stories, and how we have been doing so since the dawn of Homo Sapiens. The voice is such a simple instrument, and at the same time so versatile and expansive.
Depression is a savage beast. When its grip is strongest, it strips you of the ability to do anything. Sleeping works well as a temporary salve, when you are able to fall asleep. Otherwise, you find yourself empty and incapable of doing even the most passive things: reading, listening to podcasts, watching inane YouTube videos. That, at least, was the course of my depression.
During the worst of this time, I found that one of the very few things I could still do was sing. Somehow, when the pleasure had drained out of every other thing in my life, the comfort of singing remained.
So I sang.
Vox Singulae, then, represents three things:
- A creative exploration of what the voice can do,
- A training ground for practising and testing my vocal ability, and
- A way to connect with an activity that's emotionally important to me.
Vox Singulae is best thought of as an ongoing experiment, rather than as a series of finished products. For the time being, I'm working on song covers, but at some point I'll dip my toes into audio dramas as well, all made with just my voice.
You can join me on this experimental journey by subscribing to my YouTube channel, where I host Vox Singulae, here: Grace Teng's YouTube channel.
I’ll see you around, then.