My husband and I working with a designer for our house because, while we’re pretty good at picking out pieces – art work, rugs, colors – we’re not so good about actually putting them up on the walls (and I get absolutely paralyzed about window treatments). When we met with him yesterday to discuss some of his ideas, I mentioned that my philosophy of decorating tended to be similar to my philosophy of performing: “I meant that.”
I took that from the late great comedian George Carlin’s Live at Carnegie Hall performance from back in the early 1980s, when he talked about the difference between cats and dogs. Dogs are easily embarrassed and will take blame for the things they do. Cats – not so much.
Does this mean that there shouldn’t be purpose in your performance? That what happens is all a matter of circumstances without any planning? Not at all.
Awhile ago, I wrote a blogpost about my recent return to the Kennedy Center, in which I quoted Seth Godin’s blogpost about the importance of intent in art, specifically the idea of generous intent.
Having the attitude of “I meant that” means having a command of your vocal technique so that you can choose when you’re going to breathe, how you’re going to breathe, at what dynamic level and/or tempo you’re going to sing your song, informed by your thorough study of the music and the composer’s intent (there’s that word again). You are certain in your interpretation, and you have the technique to execute that interpretation.
You also have the ability to accept when things go wrong and keep going, so that if you do have to take extra breaths, or if you do hit a “clinker,” you won’t be thrown by it and think, “What was that?”
I can tell you from experience that indulging in the “What was that?” moment will lead to a series of “what was that” moments that will ruin your performance.
You can stay in the moment and move on, and people will either not notice or they’ll think that’s how it was supposed to be. Or you can be distracted and obsess about what went wrong and worry what people are thinking, and everyone will notice.
You have one job and that is to convey the intent of the song with the technical and interpretative tools that you have developed up to this point. With that in mind, whatever happens in between the introduction and the end of the song is what you intended.
As a much lesser comedian once said:
Whatever comes out, you have to stay in the moment. You have your story, and you have to stick to it. You meant that.
If you’re tired of thinking “What was that?” when you sing, maybe it’s time to develop a consistent technique to allow yourself to think, “I meant that” (and mean it). I can help! Contact MVS to set up lessons and get 2022 off to a good start.
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