Music of the Moment

I like to open up my mouth and sing whatever emerges, without thinking in advance about what it will be. I call this Music of the Moment. It is how I warm up my voice before practising songs, and often how I keep myself warm and entertained as I walk about in the cold winter city. It is a great joy and pleasure to engage in this process. As I listen to what emerges, I play with the sounds and use a combination of my musical vocabulary and my immersion in the present moment, to allow a new song to exist and sing itself through me. I have occasionally found words, and have crafted some good songs through this process, but by far the majority of my music of the moment is voiced as wordless vocalizations. I often start with vowels, moving on to different syllables depending on the type of music I am singing. Sometimes I discover sounds that would seem strange in a song but in a rhythmic pattern they work, for me, in that moment.

Most of these songs are ephemeral, and although I have often mourned the loss of these tunes to the wind, ultimately it is fine that most of these tunes are forgotten. Each one was a wonderful song of that moment but my interest is not to craft each idea into a full song but to keep engaging in the process of raw creation. Music of the moment is functional singing. It is not about the product but about the process.

In this way it is linked to my other passion, traditional folk song. The oldest songs and the songs created right now share many attributes that appeal to me. The process is oral and repetitive, unencumbered by paper or gadgetry, and builds on small, simple riffs that are well established in the collective memory. Unlike jazz music, my kind of improvisational singing generally uses very simple, 2- and 3-chord progressions. As with folk music, the complexity comes with the layering of riffs that work over that pattern. It is, structurally, much more folky than jazzy, but there is a lot of room for jazz elements such as playing with syncopation and other aspects of phrasing. In fact, music of the moment can reflect any musical tradition that is familiar to the singer. My style is folky with jazz and pop elements, but each singer brings something different to the process.

When I bring music of the moment to a group, we share the creative energy, and follow different patterns to create something we can all sing together. One such pattern is call-and-response, which is also a major pattern in folk song generally. First, I sing a riff and everyone echoes that. We might do that for awhile, with me changing the riffs as I go. Or I start a groove and everyone falls into it. Sometimes I divide up the group and give each section a part to hold while others are doing something else. After people are used to the idea of singing something they just heard for the first time, they are given the opportunity to initiate sounds themselves and have the whole group echo them. People surprise themselves all the time with what comes out of their mouths!

That relates to another similarity between traditional folk songs and music of the moment: they are both accessible for non-professional, recreational singers of all ages.

Music of the moment is one powerful tool I have discovered for unlocking parts of our voices that can get stuck. My purpose is always to help more people enjoy singing in their daily lives, so I am suggesting this tool if you feel you would like to explore it, either on your own or with a group.

To sing music of the moment, first situate yourself in a private, quiet space. I do it all the time walking on the street, but you might want to start in private just to feel more free to make loud sounds with no particular tune.

Then, simply open your mouth and allow whatever comes to emerge. Listen to it and repeat for awhile, until something else comes. Repeat … That’s it, really. You will discover your own music of the moment if you keep doing it.

If you want a group context in which to try Music of the Moment, I would gladly offer a class or workshop if there is enough interest. Contact me through the contact page.

Remember, open your mouth …


About Maura Volante

Maura Volante is a talented and experienced performer. Although she has written many songs over the years, her main focus these days is traditional folk songs. These are songs that have stood the test of time and have an enduring quality that speaks directly and clearly to the human experience. They also tell us about our history. Because these songs are not commonly sung in these post-folk-revival times in which folk music generally means singer-songwriter material, Maura has taken on the project of helping to keep this valuable material alive. Her specialty is Canadian folk songs, but she knows many songs from the British Isles and the USA as well. All her concerts and other programs are designed with group singing in mind. Whether in a concert, a tour, a social gathering, a classroom, a festival or a conference hall, Maura creates an encouraging atmosphere, relaxed and inclusive. She uses her strong voice and facilitation techniques to bring out the best possible music with these voices in this moment. Maura firmly believes that everyone can sing and, moreover, that everyone has a right to sing and be part of group singing activities, without judgement or criticism. No matter what the various skill levels of participants may be in any group singing activity, it always sounds good in a group, because the voices naturally attune with each other. Maura also teaches and calls contra dancing and simpler forms of traditional dancing suitable for all ages, often incorporating group singing into the dancing through the use of play party songs, which are sung by the whole group as they dance.
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