Friday, October 13, 2006

A Lesson on Snorting

I'll admit; I'm not the one to go crazy over celebrities. Especially movie celebrities. Heck, I have a hard enough time trying to figure out who is who. I rarely know who people are talking about, unless of course, they tell me the character they played in a specific movie that I had seen. Then, perhaps I would be able to place them.

Tons of people I know go crazy over famous people. I remember many of the girls I grew up with plastered their bedroom walls or school lockers with grinning poses of old men and skinny women with funny names. I could never relate. The most pictures I got in my locker was a naked picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, a picture of a cross-dresser, the letter "A" inked out in pretty calligraphy, and a snapshot of a cherished beanie baby. I wasn't what you would call "celebritity obsessed", but I wasn't what you would call popular for her locker contents either.

Of course, I am also not the one that doesn't have favourites when it comes to musicians or actors. My 'blog explicitly shows how much I am a fan of Leonard Cohen and James Spader. But, truth be told, I have no tangible pictures of them, I know little of their backgrounds (especially very little of Spader's), and I haven't (unfortunately) had erotic dreams about them. I just find them talented, like I think many people are -- the two of them just happen to be well-known.

However, as much as I can babble on about this, I do have one claim to fame: Stephen Chatman, a Canadian composer, born in 1950 and who teaches at University of British Columbia, wrote me an e-mail. I was in the process of learning one of his piano songs and absolutely loving it. It was a very modern piece, called "Night Sounds", and it involved playing strange key combinations, using a pencil to tap against the ledge of the piano, and using your voice! I had to whistle to imitate the wind, meow like an alley-cat, and, here's the kicker, snort like a pig.
It was really a great piece. I had the most fun with this song, and did it ever show -- that one piece got me into the most festivals I had ever done in any given year. Audiences loved it, adjudicators would always smile when I played it, and my piano teacher and I would get such a kick out of it.

There was only one problem: I cannot, for the life of me, snort. Never mind like a pig, but I just can't snort. You know how some people involuntarily snort when they laugh and then feel embarrassed about it afterwards? Well, that just doesn't happen to me. I can't snort. I can hork back spit decently enough, but that's really the extent of my snorting. I cannot snort on command, and if I do get it, it sounds like some pitiful cat wheezing. My piano teacher and I knew that the situation was hopeless, so we substituted pig snorting for dog barking. It was well received up until one of the festivals at Carleton. The adjudicator politely asked me at the end, why I had barked instead of snorted. I patiently explained to her that my vocal chords, or whatever does that sound, is just not able to spit out a snort. She went on from there, even though I knew that the answer wasn't satisfactory to her. She was only "OK" with it. After I told this to my piano teacher, he suggested that I write to Stephen Chatman himself and ask him what he thought about the pig snorts and the dog barks.

So at age sixteen, this is what I wrote, and followed is the response I got:

----- Original Message -----
From: Miranda Glen <>
Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2002 6:33 PM
Subject: Night Sounds ~ from a fan
Dear Dr. Chatman,
Hi, Dr. Chatman, my name is Miranda Glen. I am a piano student in Chesterville, Ontario. I am presently playing your piece: Night Sounds. I'm really enjoying it; I love the contemporary notation and the sounds made by voice. It's so much different than other pieces, and that's a reason why I love it!
The only thing difficult for me to do are the pig snorts. I have tried so many times to do them, but all that comes out is a sound that sounds like a dying cat. So, I have substituted the pig snorts for dog barks. I know it's not what's written, but it's easier for me to do; you won't believe how many times I've tried the pig sounds. I was wondering if it was OK for me to perform it with the dog barks. I have performed it at a recital, and an adjudacator commented on it. She said the pig snorts didn't sound like pig snorts; I told her they were supposed to be dog barks. She seemed to find that OK.
Anyway, I was wondering what you thought about it and if I should keep on doing it or find an alternative suggestion.
Thank you!
By the way, because I really enjoy your piece, I think you should writemore in that fashion: with the contemporary notation. I know you have others like that, but have you written any above the grade 7 Grade? It would be great if you wrote more!
From a great fan, Mirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrranda

From : Dr. Stephen Chatman <>
Sent : February 11, 2002 1:37:43 AM
To : "Miranda Glen" <>
Subject : Re: Night Sounds ~ from a fan
Dear Miranda,

I REALLY enjoyed you email. Thank you for writing to me.

Re: pig snorts, this might help: On a whispered "oh", try breathing invery suddenly and quickly through your nose, completely relaxing your mouth,and beginning with your tongue on the roof of your mouth, then removing yourtongue from the roof as you breathe in.

This might work. If this doesn'twork, a dog bark can be convincing as well. --- don't let any judge bother you!!

Best wishes
Steve chatman


Sarah said...

That's adorable.

Zaksy said...

It is always great to find another Cohen afficionado