Playing for Love is a Form of Flight- an Inspirational Message for those who desire to heal and connect through song.
Playing for Love is a Form of Flight
I believe that by examining our deepest, hidden, and overflowing feelings of extreme joy, paralyzing darkness, and everything in between, we perform a necessary healing action not only for ourselves but for our communities small and large. When feeling is repressed, suppressed, unexplored and unexpressed, we get sick. Unexplored emotion manifests in the form of illness, accident, violence, judgement and cruelty toward the self or others. When we do not share our humanity with each other, we suffer.
Art is a powerful means of inquiry, expression and release. The Art of the Song is an exceptionally accessible form of expression. A song can be many things, but in it’s simplest form it is a creative template contains the depths of human experience.
I believe that if you desire to heal and connect through song, you absolutely have the foundation to do so. What’s more, if songs call to you powerfully and move you deeply, you can write your own. Exploring impressions, reflections and experience through song is to view life from the lens of the heart and intuition. Poets, dancers, painters, writers, seers, channelers, artists of all kinds achieve the same.
I don’t believe that it’s an accident that most of us are constantly surrounded by music, wether we are humming, listening on the stereo, at a concert. Not so long ago, making music was a collective experience. In many cultures, it still is. In the western world, the act of making music has been commodified, put on a pedestal so that it can be bought, sold, and controlled. Yet people keep asking, insisting- shouldn’t music be free? It is older than speech, a basic human need.
Dare to touch the world with your song, your voice, your music. There is a space here, waiting to be filled with your song.
Dear Play For Love Community,
I hope that the following excerpt from my daily writing will inspire you in your dreams, your path, singing your unique song today and all days, and stepping out on the luscious and mysterious path of creating and sharing. I believe that sharing our voices, our vulnerability, our hopes and our fears with each other through creativity and song is an essential and healing act.
Love and Blessings on this Full Moon Friday!
I have a beautiful day planned, it’s the full moon, my body is healthy, my hopes high, my motivation strong. But I’m tired. I’m weary. I’m so tired of running from abundance, success, love, blessings. Why do I run?
Because I’m afraid of the unknown. I’m afraid to embrace the way life gives you something different than what you thought you wanted. The lack of control. We aren’t in control. We don’t control the outcome. When we open up our souls and walk forward, life collaborates. Life rushes in. It’s organic, it’s messy, it’s a constant cycle of growth and rebirth. It can be dangerous, sometimes it’s a fight for survival. It’s a constant play between light and dark.
I believe whole heartedly that this path I am stepping out on will bring true love, abundance and stability, a nurtured home, health and beauty not just to me but to my family and community. And I don’t mean superficial beauty, I mean the inner light that shines out, the spark and hunger for life, joy and connection that makes us shine with glory. Love, Family, Home, Abundance, Joy, Love, Love, Love, Love.
And the thread that connects, weaves, forms the patchwork into the story-quilt of dreams, past, present, future, spirit, divine, earth, is the song. The simple song in simple voice. Not trying to be what we are not. Rather, embracing and diving deep into who we are, the nature of each of our own unique voices. Discovering, strengthening, sending out our signature sound, in healing waves for the planet. This is the vision. We need ALL of our voices to change the world.
Find your voice. Find your song, and sing it to the world.
I had a very sweet day of teaching today. It started with working with a student who just wrote her first song. It's an epic song with an environmental message and a story. It was super fun to hone in the final edits with her and talk about how learning your OWN song is sometimes more challenging than learning someone else's- as counter- intuitive as that may be. Especially when you have poured your whole heart and soul into every line, with ambitious poetic imagery and lots of language.
Then 2 young students (7/8) who are singing, playing, and exploring their musical interests. One wants to learn a David Bowie song with about 17 chords in it (So much for the four chords of life I vi IV V!), and the other is thinking about organizing a talent show at her school this year. So that's pretty rad. I suggested that she join student council expressly for the purpose of getting the talent show going : )
Lastly I worked with a new songwriting student who is clearly a kindred spirit with an only child/raised by a musician/ public school music teacher vibe. Lots in common with this special woman and mama. Once we made a solid plan for how she can create a sustainable self care/musical/creative practice in context of the balancing act that is life and especially motherhood, and got into some restorative and repleneshing vocal exercises, she said- "Ok, now I can die happy!"
So- I am feeling the love this evening, and despite my tired eyes (it's been an internally wild few weeks of transition and realization), I wanted to share this new Ukulele song I wrote about LOVE.
I hope it makes you feel warm and fuzzy : )
I was visited by a deep, wise vision in the middle of the night. It began with me falling through layers of thin, rectangular darkness, shadow, blackness. Layers and layers, deeper and deeper. When I landed at the very bottom on the cold stone floor, I began to sob, crawl on my knees, terrified that I couldn’t find a way out.
I have had this experience emotionally, these are my waves, my breakdowns, when I cry to my mother and lie in bed for 3 days in rage and fear, feeling like I will never get up again. Asking desperately- where is the light? Wondering if I will ever see it again, if I will ever escape this darkest of dark places.
So I asked- How do I get out of this, Divine Spirit?
Divine Spirit lead me to a magic rainbow crystal, not a clear crystal but an opaque prism with rainbow colors of stone like the rainbow mountains of Peru. It could be held in my two cupped palms. Divine Spirit told me that on the other side of the wall was the light, the peace, and that if I held the rainbow crystal the water element would come and allow me to swim through the wall from darkness to light, in undulating, upward movement like a dolphin.
So my mermaid self swam through the veil and arrived in a light, limestone and marble (white rock veined with grey) underground cave of sorts with natural light pouring in from the top. The floor was of the same cool, smooth white limestone and there was a warm water lake, shallow and inviting, a place to release, heal, purify, be soothed and nurtured. It was very quiet there, peaceful.
But in balance, Divine Spirit, are we partly in the darkness and partly in the light? I asked.
The Divine Spirit said, yes. The partition between the worlds is watery, porous. When we engage in acts of Love, Creativity, Teaching, and Service in the spirit of Love and Healing, this is when we can stand between the worlds, with half of our bodies in darkness and half of our bodies in light. This is the sacred place where transformation occurs. It is why romantic love, familial love, our connections with soulmates in this life, journeys of teaching and serving, and the deep and mysterious inner journey of creating, as well as the outer journey of sharing your art, are fraught with challenges that bring your soul to the brink of your strength (so that you emerge stronger, more formed, dear one), and also illuminate and light you up until you wonder if your soul is still in your body, until your cells become unbearably light with the crystal fire of transformation and release.
This is the nature of your soul’s transformation, in equal parts taken by shadow and light. Devoting yourself to this journey is what empowers you to teach and bring transformation to all souls on this earth with your voice. It is a sacred journey you have been called to. Honor it, surrender to the unexpected landscapes and paths you will find yourself in when you walk this path steadfastly, with faith and devotion.
A reminder that love, inclusive love, compassionate love, love for all- love is what makes the world go around and we won't survive without it. xoxo Alison
This line of thought was inspired by a couple of dear friends of mine talking about the need to do a deep free fall into their souls in order to figure out the next right steps in life. The dark bits, the pieces of ourselves and our stories that we can't see through the darkness of the unknown, or the dark veil of trauma and pain. Mystery isn't always veiled in darkness, sometimes it sparkles and shines so bright we can't quite make out the outline of what is inside. Or we can only see the silhouette of something new, unknown, unimagined, but not the substance that forms it. Working with the creative muse is a window into the unknown territory of our souls and our collective experience and emotion. She will take you on a deep wild ride if you let her, and much can be revealed by working with the muse through creative arts if you open yourself up to the channel and the mystery.
Singing and Songs are an especially tangible art form because they are so closely connected to speech, and because music is made with the body, singing happens by resonating our bones and our cells through our throats, with our breath. We form the sound inside of our bodies and send it radiating out in sound waves through the air. Singing is pretty freaking magical when you think about it.
Working with the Muse -A Reflection-
Surrendering yourself to the creative muse is to dive deep into the shadows of self, community, and collective consciousness. It is devotional surrender to unknown mystery, a willingness to channel the mysterious workings of our hearts. It is embracing the pain and isolation that has been suffered through all of time, with the knowing that singing one's own song from one unique vocal frequency has the power to heal. Secure in the knowledge as we traverse paths in total darkness that it is from this darkness that light is born. We must travel through dark tunnels underwater in order to emerge fully into bright cleansing sunlight. Be conscious of the magic you create when you play with the muse in the underworld. Bring the treasures you unearth there in the depths to light with intentions of love and healing. Know that while some of the things you find will sparkle with radiance when brought into the light, others will shock the eye of the soul with vicious ugliness. But these still must be brought to light, for in the light they loose their dark power, the kind of black magic that eats away at love, compassion, humanity, and communal joy from the inside out. In bringing these dark pieces of pain and collective suffering into the light, they can be explored, the mysterious nooks and crannies no longer holding sway over our bright destinies with the mystery of the deepest dark. It is in these places that true healing takes place, on a collective level.
So- BE BRAVE when calling the muse. Let her take you where she will. Be open to the journey and don't shy away from the feeling she imbues each time you call to her, be it playful joy, feeling rooted on the path, wild flight, or deep dives into excavations of the scariest, darkest pieces of our stories. She is wise. She will lead you where you need to go, to find the find the forgotten records of the healing medicine you are destined to bring to our ever evolving cosmic story.
I love you,
Dear Singers and Creators,
I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and singing. They are both forms of expression and communication that have been stripped away from a lot of people who are told- “You can’t sing” in one way or another. Using your voice is powerful, so I don’t wonder that so many people are told that they can’t.
The consumer market takes powerful, authentic things and turns them into a commodity that someone can make money off of. To fuel sales, Artists are presented as Gods, Unreachable Beings who aren’t like anybody else, who are more beautiful, more talented. Super-Human.
A lot of people don’t realize the amount of production that goes into creating that image, especially young people, who tend to take the image at face value. Neither the economy, or our culture values the arts, and there is tragically little arts education and creativity in schools. Corporate American Media strips people of their personal power by making them believe that they are NOT natural singers and creators.
When I was younger, I didn’t believe that somebody who couldn’t sing in tune could learn to communicate effectively with singing. I thought it was just a skill you had or you didn’t, because I started singing and being taught about music at a very young age. My father was an elementary school music teacher, so I had a ton of support for my musical development. Over the years, I discovered how wrong I was the hard way, with many humbling lessons about the incredible damage of judging others to cover up one’s own insecurities. My music teaching practice opened my eyes to everyone’s natural ability to sing and make music. It’s an ancient creative, expressive right that we have lost along the way.
In many ways, people consume music like it’s air, or water. They are constantly tapped in. People listen to music with their whole souls, and absorb it in their bones. Learning to sing is a lot more like connecting the dots than starting from scratch. With a little bit of know how, and physical technique (how do you get that sound out, how do you access breath support, how do you create tone, how do you use your vowels so you sound like a singer?), I believe that ANYONE can learn to sing with joy, healing, and authentic self expression from the heart.
I am constantly amazed by the strong learning foundation of my student’s love of music, even if they have never shared their voice with anyone. I’ve truly been humbled by the realization that everyone is a natural singer. Everybody has the right to sing, and share.
There are some studies that have been done that suggest that the brain’s ability to process music predates speech. Consider that for a moment. Singing might actually be more natural to us as humans than speaking.
Then there is creatvity and creative self expression. For me, being able to create songs and music in a supportive, artistic community saved me. I was SO shy as a middle school kid. I was bullied starting in fifth grade through seventh grade, and had very little self confidence. As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. The only place I could put all of those new social feelings, hormones, desire- all of that stuff- was in my music and my songs. Music was my outlet for exploring feelings and to sharing them.
Creative thought is so natural to us. It’s essential to take time to create and to feel, and reflect on what you’re feeling, wether it’s from internal sources or external sources, wether it’s from a relationship, or a parent, or the world, or your community. Being aware of one’s emotions and processing them through art is so key to our healing and balance. Sharing those creations with other people - empowers other people to do the same work, and creates incredible ripples of healing.
It’s kind of miraculous that I was ever brave enough to start performing. My musical foundation allowed me to take the extreme risk of singing a very personal song I had written at an open mic, on stage for the first time. What happened is that a couple of people came up to me and said- “Did you write that song about [such and such situation], because that happened to me, and I felt like you were telling my story!
That kind of human connection is a basic human need that we need to thrive and survive. Art is a powerful means for making that connection. My passion is musical creativity, but there are so many different ways to be creative- writing, for example, or even just reflection and thought in a beautiful place.
These are some of the things I’m thinking about lately. I’m working on some programs to empower people to sing, share, and create more. Songs are such a beautiful, simple structure for containing really complex emotions. Songwriting is a lot like speech, it’s a very colloquial style of writing. Melody and song are more intuitive to us than most believe.
I hope that this inspires some ideas for you, and maybe some singing and creation. I’d love for you to share with me what you’re thinking, singing, and creating. Please visit my website at www.alisonsowls.com and get in touch with me there.
I hope that you do some singing and creating today!
I've recently started talking to my students about the importance of doing a gentle warm up every morning. This isn't the kind of warm up where you are strengthening, pushing, memorizing in every cell how to automatically turn on your breath support and tonal placement. That's also important to practice every day if you want to sing at your full potential, but this gentle morning warm up serves a different purpose, and it doesn't involve scales and arpeggios.
So what is it? It's all things gentle on the voice and soothing to the soul. Lip trills, gentle vocal sirens, humming a tune that speaks to the state of your soul, singing a melody to yourself on a gentle vowel or series of vowels. Ooh and an rounded ee (start with the ooh shape and then move your lips into an ee without losing the round shape at the back of the throat) are my faves for this, because they can be sung quietly, to the self, where Oh and Ah feel more external, vowels for projecting and singing out to the world.
The vocal purpose of this kind of singing first thing, and as a precursor to any warm up, is to relax and free the vocal chords. Because even when you hit those high, loud notes, which will push your vocal chords out of their comfort zone, you always want to come back to a place of total vocal freedom in the vocal chords by using the tools of unflagging breath support and tonal placement (knowing how and where to resonate different pitches and vowels to get the absolute most out of every single syllable).
But what I realized in my teaching process is that our vocal chords can serve as an internal barometer for the state of our bodies and souls. Because if you try to push your vocal chords without being totally in your body, without tapping into breath support and tone, if you are tired, sick, or out of balance- it's going to show up in your voice! You will feel it, and hear it in your voice. But- with this grounding, gentle warm up you can tap into every cell as well as your emotional being. Even if your voice, your body, and/or your soul are just tired, or sad, or gunky that day, you will begin healing through awareness, and you will be able to move through your day with respect for your current state and an informed intention of restoring health and balance. AND you might discover- wow, my voice feels like a million bucks today without even trying! Some days are just like that. Either way, this check in with your body through the voice will guide you as you use and share your voice, and ultimately result in more vocal strength and freedom.
[By the way, I just looked up synonyms for "unflagging" and they are all great, relevant words that communicate the level of physical engagement needed with breath and tone at all times to achieve true vocal freedom and sing like a pro: Indefatigable, Energetic, Vigorous, Industrious, Hard-Working, Determined, Enthusiastic, Keen, Zealous, Spirited, Dynamic, Dogged, Tenacious, Persevering, Untiring, Unwearying, Unremitting, Unflagging, and Indomitable. Check out my "It's Not About The Notes" video for more on that!]
Much Love to you all! I'd love to hear from you about your musical/vocal/creative journeys as of late- feel free to share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I've been driving these roads most of my life
Cutting a groove like a slippery knife
Then I hit that hairpin turn
It was hit or miss, so I had to swerve
Look at my life, it's plain to see
Those back roads had their way with me
When I turned 13 I was chasing waves
Hiked barefoot to the Indian Caves
Crossed creeks and brambles without my shoes
'Cause that's just how us country girls do
Look at my life, it's plain to see
Those back roads had their way with me
Now the road's like a river, winding around
And the river's like fate, it knows no bounds
You can try and try but whatever you do
You can't change the road, but it can change you
Look at my life, it's plain to see
Those back roads had their way with me
Back Roads- Alison Harris 2017
Monday mornings after dropping my daughter off at school I have been heading to the back for a long walk and a chance to feel, process, and plan. Mothering takes our whole hearts and this solo time is crucial to reintegrating. As I drove from Graton to Doran Beach in Bodega, I took a familiar route over Goldridge Road toward the Coastal Highway. Sometimes I am surprised that I never seem to tire driving the same roads over and over again. The scenery here in Sonoma County is so beautiful. And the sights are like old friends. It's a little like a dream as I pass landmarks of my past, places friends have lived, houses where music was made, small businesses along the way that have come and gone and sometimes stayed since my childhood. Fields that were lain in while stargazing as a teen. Calla Lilly patches run wild by an old friend's house. I am unfailingly wowed by how beautiful and healing nature is. It's the perfect complement to the transcendent healing of musical endeavors. Nature and music, hand in hand.
Alison is a Musician, Writer, Teacher and Mother. She lives in rural Sonoma County with her daughter, Ella.