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Carmen Balthrop  –  opera singer
" [Music] is like air and water, it has the ability to affect you in small amounts with the same power and force as it does in large amounts. "
How were you motivated to choose your particular field?
  I was originally motivated to become an opera singer by my Father. At the time, I was eight years old, the youngest of three children and the only girl. My life and world were rich with the sounds, colors and smells of the average American child living in a modest income family. But on one Saturday afternoon, I heard the most wonderful and unusual sounds coming from the basement of our home. My Father, who had a small radio and television repair shop that was really more of a hobby than anything else, had tuned a radio whose speakers he was testing to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast. The sound of the human voice singing with such beauty, depth and power completely captivated me. It was at that moment, in that very instant, I knew what I must pursue in life - I was supposed to sing!   Click for larger image
What can you share about your creative process?
    Music, like all the other precious essentials in this life, exists in and of itself. It is given to us by God. We have been allowed to both discover and organize it according to our desires - so too, the singing voice. It is like air and water, it has the ability to affect you in small amounts with the same power and force as it does in large amounts.

For me, the creative process builds itself by layers. Interpreting the music that I choose to sing begins with my own understanding of the emotion that music is describing. I must then determine if that emotion is one I know or have in some way experienced or can readily imagine. Once this has been accomplished, I set about to "in-tone" the expression through the timbre and level of intensity with my voice. The right side of the brain sees the emotion in an image, the left side of the brain pushes, so to speak, the levers and buttons of the body (muscles and vibratory membranes) to produce the quality of tone that best expresses that image. Rhythm is a crucial factor in this process. The written rhythm of the tones will dictate the rhythm of the breath. Tone lives because of breath, therefore, the quality of the breath dictates the quality of the tone.

Through the quality and timbre (color) of my tones on each word, the listener understands the words and the emotions of the words. What takes place within the air molecules carrying the tones to the listerner is an intense communication of emotions and images. This produces everything from tears to laughter from the listener which then translates into a form of confirmation of that understanding. An opera tells a whole story full of emotion but singing the words rather than speaking them brings an enhanced and compelling depth of meaning in the moment that we hear the words and music simultaneously.

What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  A future community, such as the one that will be designed in The Mars Millennium Project, would be a perfect community to include the preservation and sustaining of the unique and engaging medium of opera as part of its cultural component. In that community, where the elements of food, air and water for the sustaining of the body would be so necessary, the sound of the human voice, singing, would be just as crucial and necessary as food for the soul.

Perhaps an interesting approach that would inspire new creativity in the area of music and opera would be to encourage students from the first grade through college to put melodies to their conversations with each other - to heightened the expression of the emotion they wanted to communicate. The accomplishment of this could definitely involve promoting: "an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to learning and teaching in the arts, sciences and humanities". Further, this could be an alternative to expressing and resolving conflicts, which invariably will present themselves. Music is after all the universal language!

You can download a soundfile of Carmen Balthrop performing Je ne t'aime pas by Kurt Weill.
PC WAV sound file (1.4M)
Mac/Sun AIFF sound file (1.4M)
Accompanist: José Cáceres
Engineer: Antonio D'Urzo, Opusrite, Greenbelt, MD
Je ne t'aime pas courtesy of:
European American Music Corporation

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