Why I won’t sing at my book launch
Yes, my new book is called Bad Singer. No, I won’t sing at the launch party.
That’s because I am part of just 2.5 percent of the population that suffers from amusia, the technical term for tone deafness. Amusia is a brain disorder similar to dyslexia. And if I’d written a book about being dyslexic, no one would respond to my invitation by saying, “I’ll come only if you read for us.” Apparently, singing is different. Maybe people want a laugh. Maybe they get off on the humiliation of others. Maybe other bad singers want to say, “At least I am not as bad as he is.” But I suspect many of my friends simply don’t understand how hard it is for an amusic to sing and I don’t want to make them feel bad for asking, even if their asking makes me feel bad.
Yes, (spoiler alert) my book ends with a house concert. Even to sing badly in front of people, though, I had to work intensely with the world’s most patient singing coach, Micah Barnes. And now, alas, my short, happy public singing career is over.
Frankly, my guests should be relieved about that. I want people to have fun at my launch, not be horrified. (If you really must hear me sing, you can listen to “The Ballad of Tin Ears,” the radio doc I helped make for CBC Radio’s Ideas.)
Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music is a passion project and I can honestly say it’s the best book I’ve written. I first had the idea in 2007 and, initially, no publisher was interested. But instead of giving up, I wrote a piece about being amusic for Maisonneuve and kept working on the book proposal. Fortunately, Sarah MacLachlan and Janie Yoon at House of Anansi took a chance on me. And the result is a book on much more than singing. As the subtitle suggests, Bad Singer is, ultimately, about how we hear music.
I think every book is worth celebrating. If you agree and want to come to a fun party — where I will be signing books, not singing songs — I’ll see you on May 11.