The Sound of Me

It is perhaps a lesser known fact that I am a singer/songwriter. People recognize me as the one with the camera rather than the one with the voice. The truth is that music was and will always be my first love...specifically, music that comes from my own body...the sound of ME.

I'm fairly certain I was singing before I could talk...climbing trees and jungle gyms and letting my little girl stories spill out. It was my solace...a thing that was always accessible and, as the 5th of 6 children, also something that was uniquely my own. This piece of me was mine alone...not a hand-me-down (as sweet as those things were!) I suspect my siblings grew weary of my voice...and I know I exercised my tiny lungs in ways that were not so beautiful...but this lifelong relationship with my vocal chords has produced a voice that is relaxed, comfortable and familiar with itself.

It has picked up so many textures along the way...through classical training and the dynamic projection of performing arts and drama in my early teens...to several amateur band attempts in my late teens...to picking up guitar at 20 and fumbling my way through countless, nerve-wracking open mics while studying with renowned vocal coach, Raz Kennedy through my early 20s...this substantial piece of myself was a central focus for most of my life.

Then, caught up in life's unexpected turns, my voice fell silent for many years. I recall painfully realizing that most of those whom I then called close friends didn't even know that I had a voice, much less that I had once written songs...albeit overly profound and so very green.

I can't explain the why nor even really understand how it could be so, but nearly 9 years passed without a song coming through me. I quietly played other people's compositions, mostly just for myself, hidden away behind closed doors. That was my lifeline...and, I believe, in some very real ways, kept my spirit alive through the darkest part of my life thus far.

I began writing again just after Burning Man 2008, in response to the gentle coaxing of several dusty friends. Amazingly, I discovered that, all those years of relative silence had changed my voice for the better...as though it had been marinating, quietly gathering its strength, preparing to emerge again with a previously unknown vibrancy...more alive than ever...rich with authentic, human experience.

During my year in India and Nepal, the songs continued to spill forth, growing ever more light-hearted and lullaby-ish, picking up color and subtleties of movement learned through the study of classical Hindustani music.

Since my return in late 2010, only a handful of songs have birthed themselves through me and only a few of those remember themselves! I cannot simply decide to write a song...I can only show up, get out of the way and let them reveal themselves through the filter of my personal experience. They come on their own terms and, I am discovering, truly have their own personalities. I am realizing that they want to be heard, just as surely as the rest of us do.

They are not solely for me anymore, no longer simply the expression of my heart's truths, as they have been for most of my life. On the contrary, I am beginning to believe they are meant to be shared...to speak to those parts of others in empathetic ways that make them feel less alone. I have been selfish with them...releasing rough bits into the ethers at turns...playing hushed lullaby sessions for a trusted few....but hoarding them, really...keeping them safely hidden just beneath the surface...like tiny treasures I feared losing.

I have lent my voice as an instrument in support of other's beautiful music (Noelle HamptonAyla Nereo & Wildlight) and have occasionally collaborated with electronic producers (ill-esha: 'Wanderlust'), but generally, the music in me has remained a bit of a not-so-closely-guarded secret. Even those who have heard me sing harmonies don't always know that I write my own songs.

I think I'm ready for that to change.

Of late, I am feeling compelled to bring my music into clearer focus. I have this subtle feeling that it's time...my photography has held center stage for long enough now. Though it feels a little scary...my heart fluttering ever so slightly in its vulnerability...the time has come for me to share this significant part of myself more generously.

To that end, I made a (not so) small commitment to myself last night...to share my songs whenever the opportunity presents itself...to trust that, if I am feeing inspired or invited, it must mean there is someone nearby who has need of the sentiments these lullabies give voice to.

And that is what I believe my songs are...

...lullabies for waking...

Here then, humbly offered, is my newest 'baby'...recorded by me in my sweet basement room in Portland:

 'Hummingbird'

In gratitude, Zipporah