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Note from The Radical Virgo: So many readers are approaching their Chiron Returns during the current transit of Chiron in Pisces. Mads gives a bigger-than-life example of how the Pisces modalities of music, dance, and the arts in general are healing power tools for those with this placement. His experiences illustrate not only how music heals but the powerful healing capacity of Chiron in the 6th house. With Chiron in Pisces in the sky until 2019, all of us, regardless of our Chiron sign, can take a note from Mads’ song and ”Pisces up” our tool bag for the current times. Not exactly a tough prescription and pill to swallow—go out and dance, sing, make love, and make beautiful art!
|See Photo Note 1|
So, when you speak and when you sing, you do it always by activating unconscious reflexes and impulses. But while speaking involves involuntary diaphragm usage primarily, singing involves voluntary diaphragm usage.
When singing, the relaxed breath flow starts in the diaphragm. The baby’s eternal screaming without ever getting hoarse, is the best picture of how the still unconditioned human being instinctively knows how to use the right set of muscles. In most cases, the process of learning to talk leads to a letting go of at least parts of this instinctive knowledge of voluntary diaphragm usage. In extreme situations, experiencing joys, laughter, crying, surprises, shocks or other acute traumas, we can immediately, again, gain access to this knowledge. Also, stutterers who have trained as performing vocal artists, and thus have strengthened their diaphragm, tend to stutter when speaking but not when singing.
This connection of the nervous system, the heart rate and the vocal chords contains the physiological secret of why singing, can have such an impact on us all. Our primal feelings and anxieties, our sorrows, joys, angers and lusts are all stored in the diaphragm. Through the vocal folds’ unconscious connection of heart rhythm and diaphragmatic breath, you easily get in touch with this treasury of feelings that you have collected and stored.
Laughter and crying both immediately release blocks in the diaphragm. But the magical key to a profound healing and transcendence of these feelings through singing is that you connect with the steady breath flow and, of course, through music.
Singing, together with dancing and sex, are generally considered the three primal ways of expression, producing endorphins, the happiness hormones. If you’re desperate, sport apparently also works.
Of these three, which I all love, singing is my professional field, my vocal organ is the only one that I take money for using, but I have personally often experienced a direct connection between the sensations of sex and singing.
So many people are intimidated by singing in public. Countless times, people have told me that they can’t sing, that nobody should ever wish to listen to them singing. The very idea sometimes seems worse than walking naked through a busy town. Even most of my well-educated and acclaimed singing colleagues' will rarely be heard singing outside the secure context of a concert hall, a practice or a private nursery room. With my unaspected chart ruler, my 1st house Venus in Libra conjunct my Libra Ascendant (and/or my Leo Moon and Mercury), I have, till now, never been able to restrain myself to that, and I think this has been my salvation in facing my life’s various challenges.
On YouTube, there is a wonderful interview with the reclusive Swiss operatic diva, Lisa Della Casa, celebrating her 90th birthday in 2009. She sits in her castle at the Bodensee with her husband, happily smoking cigarettes. When asked whether smoking is not dangerous, she matter of factly states, ‘There is nothing more dangerous than singing!’
And to me, the quest of finding my true pure voice, trying to find a way of letting go of all mannerisms and defense mechanisms, has also been the most dangerous path I have ever had to walk—yet also the most rewarding.
Remedies for Sorrow or Pain
- Weeping or groaning
- The sympathy or company of friends
- Contemplation of truth
- Sleeping and taking baths~ St. Thomas Aquinas ‘Summa Theologica’ 1274
Music was my first love and singing my first language. My parents met in a choral society and would always sing to me. In my father’s family there are many singers, actors and musicians, and my mother’s parents and grandparents all loved to sing.
According to my mother, I was singing long before I started talking. I would pick up songs from my parents, from the radio, from the gramophone, no matter what source or what song, as long as it could be sung. Strange as it is, neither my older sister nor my younger brother can hit a note straight. It doesn’t keep them from enjoying singing, but the musical inheritance was exclusively given to me.
We grew up in an old orchard in the countryside in Denmark. There was no kindergarten. Our neighbour would come and mind the house and us, while our parents worked as teachers in the city.
When I was four years old, Uranus left my 12th house and transited my Ascendant. It was discovered that I had some very unusual learning abilities. When I was six years old, Pluto also exited my 12th house and transited my Ascendant, and nothing was ever the same again. My parents divorced, and for some reason they never told anyone, including us children, that they had done so. Both stayed in the house with new partners. It became my father’s wife Hedvig’s ungrateful task to inform a very naïve, frightened and terribly enraged child about life’s facts.
But thankfully, she survived my attempt to kill the messenger. For the last 40 years, she has been a loving, inspiring and steady factor in our volatile lives, and through her, over time, I gained three more brothers.
|Mads jumps stones as child. See Photo Note 2.|
Around the same time I started school, and it was decided that I could skip first grade. School was easy, but connecting to my classmates was impossible. To them, I seemed to come from a different planet, which I might as well have. Instead, I would retreat into my own world, reading books and singing songs from the radio, song books, anything as long as it could be sung.
One rainy summer, when I was about 10, and Pluto passed my natal Libra Venus, my father and Hedvig borrowed some records of old Danish cabaret music from the public library--elegant, witty and cheeky stuff--and I was delighted and saved.
I learnt all the songs instantly, performed them whenever there was a possibility and also at many impossible occasions. Nothing would keep me from singing my songs. Many of the sexual implications of the songs might have escaped me, but I could always recognize a good rhyme.
Things lightened up even more, when at 15, I changed schools, entered high school, and Saturn, having passed Pluto and Uranus, crossed my Ascendant for the first time. I started making friends, some of whom I still have. Turned out I was no alien after all (or maybe just a friendly alien). It was not a big problem being brilliant in school anymore, and then I saw an ad that a church choir was looking for tenors and basses. They amazingly paid for the people singing! I immediately auditioned, and even though my voice hadn’t finished breaking, I was accepted as youngest tenor.
Singing hymns, the thrill of the dancing rhythms of baroque music, learning to blend your individual voice with colleagues, learning to be on time, practicing and practicing, striving for perfection, almost attaining it at your level, and then performing in wonderful church rooms with fantastic acoustics, what a wonderful world!
I sang and sang, and then I heard a program on the radio with an opera singer with a resonant bass voice telling about opera and his life. And I was thrilled again. Singing and even acting, what could be better?
How do I get to be an opera singer? I asked myself. I was 18, walking around in the countryside, my voice was developing but I had no idea, if it was good enough for a professional career. I auditioned for a voice teacher at the local academy of music, who was cautiously encouraging.
That was enough. It was really a thing I couldn’t leave alone. Neptune passed my IC, and I left the countryside with a table lamp in my hand as my only luggage apart from my clothes, moved to Copenhagen and signed up for musicology at the university.
I also at the time realized that I was homosexual, and thus the big city held more than a few attractions and infinite exciting possibilities for me. Pluto conjuncted my Scorpio Mars, when I was 20. I sang and sang, in choruses, in churches, and I took solo lessons. In my free time I did astrological readings for friends and gay radio programs about rent boys and Nazi experiments with homosexuals in the Second World War. Sans comparison, I did my own experiments, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I also contracted a little virus. At 21, I auditioned for the Royal Danish Academy of Music and was accepted.
I also went to Switzerland, to take master classes with an old Swiss tenor, Ernst Haefliger. In his time, in the 50’s and 60’s in Europe, he was the preferred tenor for Bach’s passions, for Mozart’s operas and for all kinds of works that required musicality, style, beautiful sound, an open heart and a highly developed intuitive brain. This was perhaps the most decisive encounter for me, and I went to Switzerland for six summers to learn and learn.
Things developed quickly by then. I had a huge capacity to learn and understand music, well developed organizational skills, and an enormous appetite, curiosity and stamina. What I might still lack in technique was compensated by energy and will power. I was offered many exciting jobs, just by being at the right place at the right time. And I got into the world of creative artists, experiencing composers’ work with musicians, and later on having them write music for my voice was another incredible world.
While singing in the Danish Radio Chorus, I was also discovered by a German Chorus Master, Uwe Gronostay, who invited me to audition in Berlin and engaged me as a soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, in the Berlin Philharmonic, of all sacred places. My first foreign job, at 27, it was all very surreal.
|See Photo Note 3|
At the same time I gave my debut as an opera singer, and I felt I could walk on water. I was invited many times to Germany. I sang in Holland, in England, in France and at home in Denmark, of course, and I was still a student. My technique was by now pretty steady and my sound clear.
I graduated around my Saturn Return, and the reception was suddenly not so enthusiastic anymore. Musical, yes, big understanding, yes, but the voice had weakened in power and beauty of sound.The telephone didn’t ring as often and I got a part-time job as manager for an ambitious contemporary music orchestra. That was interesting too, but I had to work full-time, getting paid part-time wages, and had no time for singing.
I started having strange sicknesses, and over three months, I lost 25 pounds due to an intestinal infection. The musicians were difficult to deal with, and I felt very wasted. After a year I quit the job and tried to find my voice again, but something was not working right.
I finally asked for an HIV-test. I had had a negative one at 19, with a very scary two weeks’ wait before the result. After that first time, it had just been too frightening to deal with the whole AIDS thing, that I hadn’t been around a doctor’s (for that) since.
I didn’t dare to call the doctor for the result. When a month passed by, I convinced myself that no news is good news. But then she called, and it was positive. I was to go to the University Clinic for more tests and consultations with an expert.
Since it was 1998, the combination treatment had existed for a couple of years, and the prognosis was: I would probably not die from AIDS, but live a perfectly normal life. But it was a close call. I had just 13 T-Cells left and a lot of virus.
Apart from my first two years in Copenhagen, I had been so scared about the whole AIDS thing that I always had had protected sex. But not back in 1985. That was when we Europeans thought, it’s just an American thing, avoid Americans and you’ll be safe. We were wrong. Due to whatever strengths lie in me, the virus had been dormant for so many years.
Somehow, life went on, and I was in good spirits most of the time. I worked for awhile as a tour guide in Spain, meeting new friends and earning enough work hours to make sure that I wasn’t thrown out of the Danish unemployment benefit system.
The cure worked little by little. Soon, the virus was untraceable. I lived, and good friendships deepened much in quality. I was sometimes devastated about my voice, it just wouldn’t find its old sound, and getting used to a lesser quality of sound was not very satisfying.
The lowest point was performing Iago in Rossini’s Otello (in this opera Iago is also a tenor). I got a review, saying I sounded like a Hoover vacuum, blowing the air outward. I didn’t perform as a soloist for a year after that. By that time I had met a lovely man, a doctor, and we lived together and got married. (In 1989, Denmark was the first country in the world to introduce same sex marriages with totally equal rights).
I went to Berlin to have voice lessons to try to improve my sound. It got steadily better, but still not like before. But it was good enough to sing rather well professionally. Better that, than not singing at all. Once in Berlin, I then stumbled upon a German male group from the 20’s, The Comedian Harmonists, who had toured the world with male harmony music.
That was love at first hearing. I assembled a group of colleagues, we rehearsed for a long time and had a short recital in the Danish Radio House to very enthusiastic reception. In the following years I wrote three theatrical shows for the group, I had always known I could write, there had just never been a reason to do so. People wouldn’t stop laughing at my jokes.
I had an acute eye for the potentials of my cabaret partners and drove them to very friendly places of their capabilities, places they had never imagined that they would ever visit. Work again thrived. Singing fun music released a lot of my vocal tension. I got opera jobs in Germany and in Denmark again, I did recitals, and it was so indescribably wonderful to be back singing again, successful and having fun at it. Good family life, health, big dinners, surrounded by loving friends.
But after awhile I got restless. My voice was still not totally the way I knew it could be potentially, and I got a strong urge to carry on with my youthful sexual experiments. This was fun and liberating, but also detrimental to our marriage, which started slowly but steadily going to pieces.
|Click chart to enlarge|
In 2009, Pluto, having lurked close to my IC for a while, finally crossed it. Neptune, Chiron and Jupiter opposed my natal Moon. Uranus, having nothing better to do, squared my Jupiter. For the first time in 30 years, I started crying and cried for three months every morning, when my partner left for his work at the hospital.
Saturn had already once, the previous year, passed my Pluto/Uranus conjunction. He now slowly retrograded back and at the very time he conjuncted them again, I was told that a routine blood sample had detected the Hepatitis C virus. Another sexually transmitted virus. I do not believe in God’s wrath towards homosexuals or towards any other of his beloved creatures, but there was definitely something in my attitude toward my sexuality that needed correction.
Hepatitis C is a very tricky bastard. Some people can live for a lifetime without ever noticing it, others get big liver problems. Some people’s systems can cure it by themselves, others need to go through interferon therapy of 6 to 12 months’ duration. The cure is in some (most) cases successful, in others it has no effect. For some, the side effects of the cure, very close to chemotherapy, are so bad; they can’t carry it through. Depression is a common side effect, for others the side effects are comparable to a slight touch of flu. One thing is certain. If left untreated, you can infect others.
No one gets much pity from self-inflicted woes, be it sunburn or hangover and when they are sexually transmitted there’s a very stigmatic dimension too. In the homosexual world, hepatitis has become a new taboo, like AIDS in the bad old days. Few talk about it, and if they do, they often say things like that is something I never want to deal with. I did talk, and I have never regretted being totally open about my predicaments.
I got divorced, started the six-month treatment and moved to Berlin. Very much Pluto crossing the IC. I broke off the treatment again, as I thought the hepatitis had been cured. This proved to be premature, so I had to do a second round, this time for a year. On the day Saturn passed my Ascendant for the last time, I also started a very fruitful series of therapy sessions with a German psychologist and astrologer, Werner Held.
I needed a big thing to work on with my voice, also to prepare my comeback and a presentation of myself in Berlin, when I finished the hepatitis treatment. I said to myself, what can I do that is immediately recognizable as a thing no other tenor can do as well as I can. I can learn unlearnable music and interpret ununderstandable texts so that they become much more accessible.
And I found a piece, ‘Engführung’, (narrow or intimate guidance) that had lain in my closet for 20 years, written in 1968 for my old Swiss teacher, Ernst Haefliger, by a Berlin composer, Aribert Reimann. He’s now 76 years old and generally considered the finest German vocal composer. Haefliger had 20 years ago said, ‘That would be good for you.’ I had bought the music, read it through and stored it away.
The text was by Paul Celan, a Romanian German-speaking Jew, who saw his parents being transported to concentration camps, lived in Paris terribly scared of atomic war, until he took his life (or chose the free death, as the Germans say), jumping into the Seine in 1970. The poem is hard to grasp. The words can be interpreted, very simplified, as the universe or a person being split in two, with no apparent hope of ever finding a way of bringing the two parts together. (Very appropriate for any challenging outer planet/inner planet confrontation).
Working and working and waiting and waiting for years and years, the only way, at last, is in the poem going through a stone, a metaphor to which I discovered a very personal physical connection. Read on and I’ll explain. Suddenly a miracle happens, and through unexpected means, the apparently incompatible parts are brought together again, now much stronger than before.
I organized performances of this work in the Nordic Embassies in Berlin and in Copenhagen.
Learning ‘Engführung’ was just what my voice needed, there are screams, whispers, loud and soft passages, prophetic visions, anxieties, enormous outbursts and quiet prayer. This extreme challenge made my voice suddenly respond in a totally different way than before and open up like it had not done ever. And being physically weaker meant that I always had to rely on flexibility and subtlety and not on my good old means, force.
I had over the years, to protect myself, hardened my diaphragm to an extreme degree. It had become the proverbial stone. Ironically, my strong, muscular diaphragm was a thing I had always been very proud of. Now was the time to soften, to let loose, and allow myself just to be me. The Scorpio Mars volcano found great pleasure and exciting challenge in mastering the gentle Venus Libra flow. My diaphragm responded again without filter directly to tears and laughter, and my abdomen relaxed. I remembered my old teacher Haefliger saying ‘When your stomach falls down, then you will really be able to sing’. It had fallen.
Singing this text through every day, going with my voice every day into the abyss and emerging with a triumphant, ‘Nothing is lost. Hosianna!’ was such an unexpectedly and delightfully therapeutic process, that I started contemplating the big healing powers of singing.
I started listening to all kinds of singers, to feel where I was touched, what made me cry or laugh instantly, try to analyze why it worked and why some artists are instant successes, even with moderate vocal means, while others seem have the whole package and leave no special impact.
What really worked among the great entertainers, was their ability to go on stage and enjoy themselves. Sort of saying, ‘Hello, how nice you are all here, I intend to have a good time, and you are all so welcome to be part of my party.’
As a contrast to Reimann’s Engführung, I did funny cabaret programs and was also invited to make a whole 80-minute television program with a Danish reporter telling stories about Berlin. Largest solo TV production in my life.
I would have conversations between my Leo Moon and my Virgo Sun conjunction. Big hearted, childish, creative Moon being sometimes instantly inconsolable, sometimes overly playful; and reasonable, organized Sun saying, yes, I understand so well, but another way of doing it could be like this, and finding a constructive way of releasing all the creative energy.
That is the way I have always sung too. I practice details, work on line, on flow, on text, on intonation and all the other things that must be in order. And I always know, that when I go on stage I will start improvising. But it only works on a steady basis. To me, spontaneity requires proper preparation.
As much as I love practicing, I have sung for so many years by now; I also trust that this is preparation enough, that I can go and learn a piece really quickly and then perform it on second’s notice. I always enjoyed the thrill of filling in for someone, coming and saving the evening for an ailing colleague. And since I have total recall of all pieces of music that I have studied properly, even if it was 20 years ago since I last opened the score, it is very exciting for my Virgo Sun to rely on Leo Moon’s capacities.
It was time for more singing. At this final stage of interferon, I needed some breaks when practicing to clear the buzzing in my head, but it went amazingly well. My high notes were fantastically clear and focused, and I was very eager to sing Reimann’s Engführung.
I stopped my medication, right on time! I asked the clinic for a medal. Today, eight months after ending the cure, there’s still no trace of the virus, which is the decisive moment to determine that it’s really, really gone. What an exciting time, and how I very much don’t need to do it again! There are other kinds of fun. After that, I had surgery on both my knees, repairing the old weaknesses. That hurt, but who cares. It went well, too. I recovered, and I can by now jump and jive and save an occasional distressed damsel again on stage.
The audience was very moved by the Engführung, and Reimann wrote me my life’s compliment. He said he had almost never experienced a singer, who not only sang wonderfully, but also understood all the intentions of his music and could give the text such a moving expression, sing with such a touching sound, and give it all such an exciting form.
I cried again. From happiness. I had finally found what I was looking for, for almost 16 years. I had not finished the work, I was still recovering, body and mind, but everything was pretty good.
I made the TV cabaret recording. As could be expected of a Leo Moon, I loved the camera, and it loved me. It was broadcast in Denmark on New Year’s Eve to a very good reception. But most of all, even if it wasn’t perfect, it was perfectly alright.
I went to Cologne to perform in the Cathedral for a World Peace Mass for 1500 German soldiers. With the Catholic head of the German Military Soul Comfort Organization, I was now developing my project of Music For Comfort in Sorrow. I had translated a Danish hymn to German which I sang at the reception afterwards. This hymn was the secret song of the resistance movement, during World War II, and is still sung when an old fighter is buried, the last verse standing up. It goes like this in my translation:
‘Fight for all that you hold dear,
Die, if that you have to,
Life will not so hard appear,
Death you lightly pass through.’
Die, if that you have to,
Life will not so hard appear,
Death you lightly pass through.’
I told about my grandparents hiding Jews in their attic, my hopes that I would in a situation like this be able to act as courageously, and my joy, that we have in our time not been put to that challenge. I told about the resistance movement, and the reception for this little song was overwhelming. The Germans have really worked on their traumas.
Shortly after, Joyce asked me to do an article for The Radical Virgo. Right on time, and I am very thankful to her for the opportunity to make a status of all my thoughts and experiences. A rather private Virgo as I really am, with the 11th and 12th house emphasis in my chart, this process has been my way to detach myself from my own story and give it to the collective.
A lot of the anatomical stuff at the beginning of this post can be translated into the various chakras: solar plexus, third eye, kundalini and so on. I’m not an expert in these fields so I won’t try to interpret too much. To me, all ways and all paths that are followed with love and concentration lead to fulfillment.
My own coming path seems to develop from my experiences till today. I sing, I teach, I coach, I write, I play and I love it all. I am happy not to know what the future brings. I feel well prepared to improvise, whatever may come. And I am excited about the coming Pluto/Uranus square, very fittingly squaring/opposing my solitary Venus.
Disclaimer: I have a fat Mercury-Neptune square. Sometimes my imagination is much stronger than reality. Although, as a real Virgo, I have asked my ex-partner to check all the physiological and medical references in this article, so they will be trustworthy enough. Incidentally, he entered and left our relationship HIV- and Hep C negative, and we did have great fun together.
|© Dietmar F. Koenig|
Mads also reflects the diverse, multifaceted nature of a Chironic individual—a multilingual, successful opera singer, a writer, and a man with all the ingredients to become a professional astrologer, should he choose to take on one of Chiron’s other roles.
He welcomes correspondence: madselungjensen[at]gmail.com. Visit his Facebook page and new web site when it's up by the end May, www.madselung-jensen.de. When asked to give us a favorite clip of him singing, Mads chose Mahler, Songs of a Wayfarer: ‘I have a glowing knife in my chest’ with Tom Ernst, Piano, live in Copenhagen, 2008.
Photo Credit: Opening Pisces constellation © ganko - Fotolia.com
1. Aarhus main railway station, Denmark 2007. In the world premiere of Peter Bruun's 'Soapera', tight-arsed lawyer Amon Gortis, head of the local opera friends' society, by meeting a real operatic Diva, discovers that he himself can release his feelings through singing. His ecstatic joy is expressed by a sustained top B-natural note.
2. Mads leaps stones at age 8 with a joy and abandon that would later be part of his singing.
3. Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria 2009. Salieri's Il mondo alla rovescia, 'The topsy turvy world'. On a distant island, a martial matriarch rules. Local beauty Amaranto, tries in vain to protect his most precious possession, his virtue, from fatal Veronika Hintzen's advances.