She’s Not There (2008)
I picked up my sousaphone this afternoon, with the idea that I could improve my chops and work out some angst. As I lifted it, the spit valve fell off. As I played it, several other bits rattled loose. Alas. So I put the headphone part of a usb headset around the part of the bell just above the bolts and started recording.
My voice has been changing. It’s more or less stable now, but I only have good control of it for about the bottom fifth of the main octave. After I sing some warmups, it feels tired. This process of learning to sing again in a lower pitch reminds me very much of switching from playing trumpet to tuba. Vocal cords and buzzing lips use the same physics, so it’s about the same idea. This is the first recording I’ve made of my voice since it began to change.
I found the last recording I made before it started to change and discovered I’d used the words “boys” and “girls” in a longer text. So I grabbed those two words and stretched them out a bit. It’s very very strange to me that’s no longer my voice. My voice now is the voice of a stranger. I wouldn’t recognize it in a recording.
I overdubbed some low frequencies from my MOTM synthesizer to make up for the headset’s inadequacies – it doesn’t have good frequency response in the tuba range.
The title of the piece is from a book by Jennifer Finney Boylan, She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders. She talks about how she chose to keep her old voice. I can’t keep mine. It will never return. I feel a profound sense of loss for an attachment I never knew that I had. This is an elegy for my old voice. It was never lovely, but it was mine. No longer. It’s also an introduction to my new voice. The new instrument I’m just learning to play.