When Did We Stop Singing?: Finding Voice Through Bird Song With Deb Hensley

Deb Hensley, who just graduated in Transformative Language Arts, moved many in the community to tears with her gorgeous presentation, using a power point to integrate her own compositions, the songs of birds (sometimes slowed down so we could the astonishing harmonics), photography, research and more, all to look at how we can recover and remember our true voice. She writes in her thesis,

I wanted to understand how deep listening to bird songs could serve as a bridge to a more primal voice that was infused with nature; with singing that is open, honest, voluntary, intimate, spontaneous and innate–OOHVIS. Iwanted to do this for my own vocal edification but also because I felt that Western culture needed more access to this primal voice and I wanted to help nurture it by identifying and practicing a new vocal imperative.  To conceptualize this “vocal imperative” I started to investigate the ways locality, community, music and singing intersect, how these concepts connect and interact with one another and how they could inform my own vocal work, performance and especially musical composition.

The result was not only a thesis and power point, but a body of work — ten songs she composed learning from the master teachers of the birds — plus some powerful writing about listening and learning to listen to the songs around and within us. Sometimes she used words, always she used sound and rhythm, harmony and contrast, all that came to her from a year of deeply listening to the birds around her.

As she writes on her website, When did we stop singing?,

In the Aborigional culture when someone is troubled he doesn’t go to a therapist, he goes to the medicine man. And the first thing the medicine man asks is, ” When did you stop singing?” Singing is about much more than entertainment. In some cultures the word ‘sing’ and the word ‘dance’ mean the same thing. Recent research suggests that when we sing together, our immune systems get stronger. Singing promotes well being and community…..Learned fear of singing, and abandonment of singing by educators, trainers, leaders and parents is costing children, young people and adults alike, precious cultural and educational opportunities. When people sing alone and together they develop invaluable initiative, social, creative representation, language, math and logic skills. Singing together promotes a vital sense of belonging and shared delight every child and every adult needs to be truly healthy.

With Martin Swinger, she leads workshops and consults with schools, churches, organizations and individuals to help them recover their voice through song. She also with ImproVox, a five-member a cappella ensemble focused on liberating the voice and building “….community through spontaneous vocal exploration– bringing singers of all levels together for uniquely freeing vocal experiences. Spinning music on the spot, ImproVox creates an unparalleled context for connecting meaningfully with others in both performance and workshop settings.”

About Individual Poet

I'm the poet laureate of Kansas; a poet, writer and author; a faculty member at Goddard College and community writing facilitator; and lover of the writing life.
This entry was posted in Creative Writing, Creativity & Imagination, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Music, Transformative Language Arts, Workshops and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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