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A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Real People Press; 4th Printing edition (June 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0911226214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0911226218
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A wonderful book--absolutely infectious. When I wasn't laughing aloud or dancing, I found myself nodding enthusiastically in agreement with every page. -- Mary Jane Cope, Lecturer in Piano, U.C. Santa Cruz<br /><br />"As a professional dancer and singer, it is indeed encouraging to see these important concepts so clearly and passionately articulated. -- Paul Oertel, Nancy Spanier Dance Theatre<br /><br />"Aside from enjoying and savoring each chapter, I'm awed and excited by the many ideas in this book." -- Angeline Schmid, Piano and Pedagogy professor at Mansfield State College, Pennsylvania<br /><br />"Eloise Ristad's alternative teaching methods have given me deep insights into some of my long-standing playing 'problems' that traditional methods have failed to touch." -- Patricia Zurlo, Bassoonist<br /><br />"In A Soprano On Her Head, Eloise Ristad displays an extraordinary knowledge and insight into the myriad problems that beset all performers. -- Endre Balogh, Concert Violinist<br /><br />"Reading this book, rereading it, trying it out, living with it--these are musts for every musician." -- The American Music Teacher<br /><br />"Required reading for all my students at the New England Conservatory of Music." -- Charles Schlueter, First Trumpet, Boston Symphony<br /><br />"There are many ingenious and useful ideas here for teachers, learners, or makers of music." -- John Holt, author of How Children Fail, How Children Learn, and other books about learning and education<br /><br />"This is a fascinating work. -- Samuel Sanders, Concert Pianist, professor, Juilliard School of Music --Samuel Sanders, Concert Pianist, professor, Juilliard School of Music

From the Author

The nontraditional workshops that I lead for musicians usually start with body movement warm-ups that are designed to encourage spontaneity. The effect is both exhilarating and exhausting. After one such warm-up all eight of us in that particular group stretched out on the floor, sensing our bodies, our breath, and then our voices, until we found the most comfortable tones we could produce. As we let the tones change and followed the changes with body movement, Liz, our soprano, ended up on her knees with her head upside down on the floor.

Effortlessly, and without thinking how--for who could have told her how to sing on her head--she found all the resonance she had been struggling for, with the added bonus of incredible dynamic control. The rest of us had goose bumps and shivers as we listened to her voice fade in and out. Someone went to the piano and started the Mozart aria that Liz had been singing earlier, just to see if standing on her head would work as well for Mozart as it had with random tones. It did, and our goose bumps got bumpier.

"I love it, I love it! It feels wonderful!" said Liz as she sat up and let the blood run back where it belonged. . . .

I put my hands on her lower back and asked her simply to be aware of how my hands felt. I asked her to follow the vibrations of her voice around the room, to sense the space between the front of her chest and the back of her spine, to dance the music with her arms as she sang. Each experiment opened up the sound still more by taking her mind off the conscientiousness that ordinarily got in her way. "Liz, if you could sing the way you want, how would you sing? Can you act out what you want, even though the sound might not be right?" She hesitated for an instant, wondering if she would get the sound her new voice instructor in California wanted.

But Liz knew what she was after, and something suddenly clicked. "Suddenly" again. But it was suddenly and I refuse to qualify it this time. She was thirty-five years old, and she had been behaving like an eighteen-year-old going to the "singing master," pathetically eager for his approval. With a new gleam in her eye, she pulled out the famous aria from "Carmen" and opened it on the piano for her accompanist. Her eyes turned darker, and we could almost see a costume change as she became Carmen. She was running a fever that day, and should have been in bed, but she sang right through the fever and the weakness and her usual stage-fright clutch. She sang as she wanted to sing, as she longed to sing, as she was meant to sing.

She didn't worry about expectations. She didn't try to sing. She just sang. No head-standing nonsense today, thank you. I'll take mine standing up. And striding around the room. And singing from the heart, and who cares about ribs and diaphragms and resonating chambers and diction! I've got a voice and I know it and I'm delighted and I can show the whole world.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
My own music teacher recommended this book to help me overcome performance anxiety.
Small Group Facilitator
The book has 16 chapters, each chapter taking you on a fabulous journey in practicing in a lot of different ways.
lykke anholm
I beleive that any one who has struggled with themsleves and their music should read this book.
A. Rader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 100 people found the following review helpful By lykke anholm on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I really don`t know how to praise this book enough, and I highly recommend it to anyone, who would like to increase their results in playing the piano, the cello, the oboe, singing or playing any other instrument, and surely the book could be more than interesting to other people practicing "performance" like actors, entertainers, footballplayer and so on. I was a bit puzzled by the title of the book, and bought it curious to find out, what was hidden behind these words. What I found was the most interesting book about practicing I have ever read, and I am amazed and sad about the fact, that the author is passed away years ago, wondering how the principles of this book can remain unknown to all the teachers I have had. The book has 16 chapters, each chapter taking you on a fabulous journey in practicing in a lot of different ways. The author gives you all the material you need to explore the music and more important your everyday life in a new and different way. She talks about handling inner judges, inner clowns, dancing your music, handling your symtoms of stage fright, giving up "playing it the right way" and finding out your way to play and sing the music, and gives plenty of examples of students finding their way through. And when it all comes down to final it is strictly about being aware. During the authors experience teaching, she makes you realize, that often we are so busy and messed up thinking about what people will say, how we will sound or what someone else would have done in our place, that we don`t even have the ability nor the energy to make a single decent tone, whereas if we put all that energy into awareness of what we are doing, we could really make something out of it.Read more ›
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
I'm a Freshman at Portland State University. After playing the trumpet for upwards of eight years, I decided to major in music. I had finished off most of my first term when it came time to play a robust and quick piece infront of my collegues. I froze. I had never had an experience like this before and it was terrifying. I wanted to perform for a living, and this was threatening to stop me. The next day, a dear friend of mine, and a graduate student here, set this book on my case. "Try this," she said. "It helped me." She was right. After reading this book, I discovered secrets that not only have helped me unlock my music potential, but also helpedme in the competitive world of English Horseback riding. I remain forever greatful to her for her recommendation, and I make the same one to anyone with a fear of performing.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm 15 years old and had to read this book as homework from my voice teacher. I thought it was going to be a really lame book, so she told me to just read a few chapters. I thought " fine, I'll read 1 or 2 and be done with it". But once I started,I couldn't stop! I was increadible! It has helped me not only as a singer, but as a cellist, an actress, a dancer, a performer in general, and as a whole peson. This book isn't just for musicians and performers, it's for anyone who loves music and movement. For anyone who loves life! Because just as you will learn from Eloise in her masterfully written book, life is a performance. This book has changed my life in such a significant way, and it will change yours, too. Now my teacher keeps bugging me to give it back! Open your heart to this book. Sing and play and dance and discover and laugh and cry with it. She exposes the passion inside you and coaxes it out so gently and beautifuly. You will never be the same!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By "kangarex" on May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was recommended this book by my voice teacher when I would consistently over-control my voice trying to do everything "perfectly". It not only helped with that problem, it helped with my stage presence and just about everything else. Anybody who has lost their love of singing because of the need to "get it right", anybody with stage fright (or even just a severely stiff stage presence), anyone who doesn't believe they can really perform should read this book. It's written with warmth, humor, and great clarity and lots of personal examples. Any musician (and a lot of other people) would benefit.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tobin Sparfeld on April 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
The first chapter of this book was a reading assignment for my voice pedagogy class. I wasn't completely sold by the title (or the cover), but I was instantly hooked once I started reading. This book will be loved by all musicians as well as anyone engaged in any sort of practice. Through her exciting and light approach to dealing with "serious problems," Ristad shows us that our harshest critics are those "judges" within us, those inner voices to which we currently worship. When we are willing to put those voices aside momentarily and give ourselves permission to try, to experiment, even to fail once in a while, we actually give ourself permission to grow and excel. An inspiring message to all.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Melinda on May 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was an unofficial "required reading" for my teacher's viola studio in undergraduate and is one of the best books I have ever read! It can help you change your approach to practicing, auditioning, and your approach to music problem solving. It also may make you examine the way you approach other aspects of your life. This is a book about keeping ideas fresh, keeping your spirit free, and not being afraid to try something new (and {gasp} potentially unorthodox). You do not have to be a professional musician to enjoy this book. Wonderful!
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