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The different notes of bathroom singing and hazardous humming

open page bathroom singers colour 181216

open page bathroom singers colour 181216  

There is a comical scene in To Rome With Love (2012) that involves a reluctant bathroom singer who is egged on to audition as an opera singer because he excels in singing Pagliaci. There’s only one problem: he can sing well only in a shower… so a shower stall has to accompany him!

Would it be an exaggeration if one suggests that bathroom singing (or bathroom belting?) is indicative of a happy, productive home? Aren’t bathroom-singing guests more amiable? What does that tell us about the guest (and the host)? Bathroom singing, I’m convinced, can brighten domestic climate no matter how inclement the weather outside.

Bathroom singing is not uncommon because it is known that acoustics of enclosures give that reverberating, fulsome experience. Enclosure surfaces also affect the experience either way; sharp edges, discontinuities like windows and curtains, surface hardness and smoothness impact the reverberation. Some musicians, like bass clarinettist Michael Lowenstern, prefer their bathroom for practising!

There’s some worthwhile psychology also behind BS, I think. What, for instance, can be a good indicator of gender equality and democracy at home? BS, I’d say at once. Will not a home where women sing spontaneously, particularly bathroom singing, indicate a happy home that exudes mutual respect and esteems individuality? (It is another matter that some men think bathroom-singing by women is a sign of incipient lunacy.) If parents indulge in BS, will not children too?

Some bathroom singers believe in BS etiquette largely determined by the state of the bathroom. Clean bathrooms invite bathers to croon from start to finish. Less cleaner ones may invite a morose entry but the sound of gurgling water can make the devoted b-singer lose all control. Some delay their performance giving the impression they’re cleaning the bathroom with their bathing and signal the cessation of it, or their snaan, with a song. Bathroom singers must maintain their dignity and not qualify for ‘public nuisance’ by distressing quiet neighbours, or misusing BS to send messages or hints – pleasing or displeasing – particularly to guests and neighbours.

Bathroom singing, like humour, can also serve as an emollient to most domestic spats. But humming, in the bathroom or elsewhere, can have the opposite effect. Particularly obnoxious is opportunistic humming whose only objective is to distract, annoy or scorn someone – usually an underdog, or a neighbour, or a colleague – or simply to dominate. Several such experiences have made me resent humming and hummers. Rarely, if ever, have I heard innocent humming because one is cheerful, or to cheer oneself up. Unlike singing, opp-humming is targeted because singing can be heard by many and its torment, alas, gets diffused. Resorting to opp-humming to one’s domination after a domestic squabble is particularly distressing because of the intimacy factor; listening to that hum – Oh, it can be so gentle! – can send one apoplectic. Beware of opportunistic hummers, those malicious specialists in ‘sonic torture’.

Weekend dose

Most crooners prefer pop/film songs. In fact the ablution experience is a good opportunity to learn songs. I’d recommend at least a weekend dose for the time-challenged to keep their personal and domestic health on the upswing. (I use lyrics inserted in a plastic sheath stuck to the wall.) While most songs are bathroom-friendly, some, like devotional or patriotic songs, are clearly improper. Belting ‘item numbers’ such as piya tu ab to aaja (1971) with all the panting and gasping may not be a good idea if family’s around (or especially risky when they aren’t around). Fast numbers are a no-no; songs sung at medium tempo are, I think, most suitable. And will anyone ignore Bollywood’s sterling contribution to bathroom singing tande tande pani se (1978)?

Those who lack music affinity, the Bard observed, are ‘fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils’. I suppose one might extend it to bathroom singing and assert that those who do not sing even in their bathrooms are fit for politics, parsimony and pusillanimity.

And now I must return to rehearsing Smoke On The Water, whose legendary riff completes a warm winter bath.

mjx143@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 2:15:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-different-notes-of-bathroom-singing-and-hazardous-humming/article16907299.ece

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