How to make beautiful sound

— December 15, 2021 —

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

Last night I was scurrying home from the grocery store, and pulled into my driveway just after dusk. As I was gathering my bags from the trunk, I turned to look up at the chilly sky. (I always look up whenever I am outside.)

I spied three planets (Jupiter -> Saturn -> Venus) in perfectly spaced alignment, just above the horizon, in the wake of sunset. They practically shouted at me from their ecliptic: we are just here, reflecting sunlight, hurtling through space, sharing the solar system with you, being beautiful… glad you noticed!

And, oh yes, reminding you that you, too, are just here, reflecting sunlight, hurtling through space, sharing the solar system with us, being beautiful. Glad you noticed.

They were SO glittery, so magnificent, so perfect, so planet-y, and this moment of presence was so simple and full, I just stood there holding my bags and started weeping in the driveway. I completely lost myself in their beauty.

Or rather, I surrendered to the whole moment of encountering that beauty that is all around me.

How could I not? It was so insanely beautiful, even in contrast to the utterly mundane activity of coming home from Trader Joe’s at rush hour.

Thank goodness for beauty. For art and music and theater and dance and food and wine and children and birds and nature and stars and planets. The constant reminder, if we are present enough to notice, that life is infused with beauty.

You know, my first major in college was astronomy. I love space, and all space-related things. And as a young person, all I really wanted to do was commune with heavenly beauty.

But the scientific pursuit of the stars only lasted a few years, when I realized that there was physics involved. Beauty became scrambled in the numbers, frustratingly taught in concepts that never harmonized for me. And why am I looking at a piece of paper when I could be looking up at the sky??

Numbers are not my kind of beauty.

So I turned to music. Is there anything more beautiful? I will next pursue the beauty of music (which also makes me spontaneously weep). Which is the stuff of life, pouring through me, ready to fill the cup of the world. I will study Music. I will be a Singer. I will study Singing.

But you know what sometimes happens when you study singing? You become obsessed with beauty. 

I have to make sure that this is beautiful. Or ELSE.

Which means that we obviously are missing the point. We become overly absorbed in assessing the quality of the sound we make, rather than surrendering to our innate capacity to be beautiful. 

Venus shines. She is achingly, heart-splittingly beautiful.

Could, perhaps, you shine, too? Could it be that you, too, contain the potential of aching, heart-splitting beauty? 

Of course. 

But you will not find that if you obsess over whether or not your voice is beautiful. Or if this sound is beautiful. And if it is not, well, then you must have a serious problem.

My friend, you will miss the whole damn point.

Beauty is not scientific. It is not worth-based. It is not skill-based. It is inherent

How do you tap into and express your sacred, innate, heart-splitting beauty?

You become present and learn how to shine, rather than squirm and question and evaluate and obsess over your brightness.

Yes, it’s that simple. I have seen it happen. I have been split open by the sounds of my students who, if even for a moment, drop the beauty hang-up and enter into pure being.

There is the sound that breaches the hard candy-coating of life’s scientific mundanity and has, indeed, made me cry like a baby who won the beauty lottery.

Take a moment. Enter your heart. Breathe. Can you sense the quiet there?

Here is where beauty emanates. Here is where you shine, reflecting gorgeous, divine light. Like a freaking planet.

Now, please… go fill the cup of the world.



IMAGE: Venus, from NASA/JPL-Caltech

further reading

Naked singing
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That time I sang for President Obama
That time I sang for President Obama

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel I remember that time like it was yesterday: it was a frigidly cold January day, and I was equal parts Ready-To-Kill-It and Scared-To-Freaking-Death. For years I had taught singing at Washington National Cathedral, occasionally...

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How do you (actually) use your sacred voice?
How do you (actually) use your sacred voice?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel The purpose of the voice is to communicate. The purpose of the sacred voice is to send love into the world. That's right... love. You inhabit an instrument of love. To activate and use our voice in this love-centered way is a process...

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