I’m delighted to share another guest post with you – this week it’s from artist Rylan Gleave who took part in our first Young Artists Development Programme. Over to Rylan.
About 6 or 7 years ago, I went to an ex-boyfriend’s house to help him out with a recording project, as a singer. Gabriel Faure’s art song Après un Rêve, or ‘After a dream’, seemed to be one we both knew – we’d trained classically, he could play the accompaniment, and I knew the tune (sort-of). I found myself zoning out when singing — he’d made a rude comment about usually working with better singers — and thinking on the lyrics instead – a dream where the protagonist flies away from the earth with their lover, towards heavenly light, before awakening, longing to return to the mysterious night.
I’d recently come out as trans, and my ex-boyfriend wasn’t great with that. We were recording the song in its original key, and I was high up in my top range, despite being more of a mezzo-soprano (a slightly lower voice). This was causing me some level of gender dysphoria and making me feel bad about how strained my voice sounded. I didn’t listen back to the recording for about a year – well after we’d broken up – and when I finally did, it reminded me of that uncomfortable place, in both my life and my voice.
Trying to make more space on my laptop recently, I found the recording again, and listened through with older ears. My voice has now dropped, after taking Testosterone for 3 years or so, and it sits in the bass-baritone register. You can still (just about!) tell it’s me singing if you listen very carefully, but the difference in pitch, timbre (quality of sound), and confidence between that voice and my voice now is wild. I also found my old sheet music for Après un Rêve, and went through the translation: ‘In sleep made sweet by a vision of you, I dreamed of happiness…your eyes were softer, your voice pure and ringing…’
I believe it’s important to treat my old voice (and current voice) with kindness. Training as a classical singer, and being an autistic perfectionist, meant that I was incredibly hard on myself when things weren’t flawless.
Exploring my voice during and after it broke in a non-classical way was an incredibly healing time, and I’m glad that I can now listen to those old recordings without being upset anymore. I decided to write After a dream, this new piece with both voices, as a further healing process. Reframing these lyrics from a trans perspective has been more cathartic than I can express. Radical self-love unites us and helps us love each other better, in a time where many are so heavily persecuted.
The piece itself is comprised mainly of excerpts from the old recording, edited, looped, and processed, and new live vocal material that I recorded in the dead of night in my Glasgow flat.
I’d love to say that this was in-keeping with the themes of sleep and dreams, but in reality, my sleep schedule is just a bit odd! I’ve tried to keep the balance of old voice/new voice/piano/electronics in that dream-like, hazy state, to reflect the original lyrics as well as the feelings that the music gives me. Hopefully it can be a piece to relax to or think only very gently on. Listeners are not asked to analyse the music and should instead ideally listen on headphones with a hot drink!
Thanks so much Rylan for your incredible contribution to our growing archive of work from young artists.