Scattergories is a creative-thinking category-based party game originally published by Parker Brothers.
Why I Sing is a creative-thinking but currently somewhat unfocused blog currently published by Christine Thomas-O’Meally (why, that’s me!).
Recently, I established the Curiously Stronger Performing series, which focuses on specific elements of performance:
- The functional (how to present your music, how to walk into the room, how to talk to the pianist);
- The creative (selecting music, creating themes);
- The expressive (interpreting text, whether in English or another language; developing an inner monologue; physicalizing a song in the most efficient way).
And that’s what this blog needs to do. So a project I’m setting out to do over the next few months is to go through my blogposts and assign them a category.
Blogposts that are specifically about practical things like vocal technique, audition techniques, translating, and diction will go under the area of function.
Blogposts that are about finding new ways to look at things will be about creativity (and possibly about expressivity as well).
Blogposts about interpretation and physicality will be categorized under expressivity.
Announcements will either go under general or will be uncategorized.
Hopefully, this will help organize things so that they’re more easily found.
This will take awhile. Some might go under multiple things. Some of the older blogs might get reworked and updated.
Seth Godin wrote a blog a few weeks ago about the conventional wisdom of making your case vs. how it actually works. This was from a business/marketing perspective, but when I read this, I thought, “Wow, this could apply to auditioning!” My notes are in brackets.
Find a large group of people [audition for as many people as possible]
Explain why you’re better. [show off your technique]
Prove that you are the right answer. [sing better than anyone else]
Done. [get cast]
How it actually works:
Earn attention from precisely the right people. [audition for groups for which you’re the ideal candidate]
Gain trust. [be reliable – show up on time, be prepared]
Tell a story. [tell the truth – get into more than just the notes]
Create tension. [find a point of view that no one else has found before]
Relieve the tension by gaining commitment. [again, tell the truth]
Deliver work that’s remarkable. [go the extra mile in your interpretation]
They spread the word. [word of mouth – even if you don’t get the role this time, they might tell someone about you]
What would happen if you approach auditions this way, instead of just focusing on getting the part? Try it!
One thing that annoys me is mandated recitals where people are assigned music to which they have no affinity. And, consequently, they sing it with no connection to the text, to the music, to the history of the song or the poet, or to the style of the period. They’re singing the right words, and often, according to the diction rules of the language. They’re singing the right notes. They’re singing with technique appropriate to where they are in their vocal development. But it’s not interpreting the song, or expressing anything. It’s just duplicating what they were told to do. And as soon as it’s done, it’s forgotten. It’s like a school uniform that they’re required to wear, and soon as they can take it off, it’s off.
Whose fault is that? Is it the fault of the student? Of the person who assigned the song?
Sometimes, you are assigned songs that fit a requirement and may or may not be songs you really want to sing. If you are an artist, it is your job to find something in the song that speaks to you. If your song is in a foreign language, translate it. Whether it’s in English or not, create a vernacular translation/inner monologue for yourself. Know the history of the poem, of the composer, know what its performance practice (style) is, know how the accompaniment enhances the text, and what you can do to bring that out.
This post was inspired by Seth Godin in a post called memorization and learning. In it, he says, “memorizing anything that you’ll need to build upon, improvise on or improve is foolish. You’ll need to do the work of understanding it instead.”
You need to do the work to understand that which you sing. And you need to make it your own.
Stay tuned for more information about the Curiously Strong Performing series of performance workshops I’ll be presenting in 2020. We’ll be doing the work.
As I recently wrote in an earlier blogpost, I’ve set up a fall practice challenge. Beginning this Sunday through December 15, my students (hopefully) will submit an online practice record regarding their practice habits for the week. (Please note that I’ve amended the form to correspond to the practice challenge.) The person who submits the most amount of practice time will receive a lovely binder that can be used for lessons or as an audition book. I will set it up and present it to the lucky recipient at the studio recital at Springwell Retirement Community on December 18 (6:30pm).
But what is the point of doing this, other than a valuable prize? Why should you practice regularly? And what do you want to accomplish this semester, in your lessons and in your practicing?
In yoga, in mindfulness, and even in entrepreneurship, it is very trendy to speak of setting an intention rather than a goal. Goals tend to be in the future, general or specific, short-term or long-term. Your goals might be:
- A role in the musical
- A solo in choir
- To be a star!
- To connect to my breath more consistently
- To open up my upper register at F5, where I tend to pinch
- To be more expressive, no matter what language in which I sing
- To win that binder at the December recital
But your intention has to do with today. What is your intention? What is it that you’re going to accomplish today, in your practice session?
- Perhaps your intention for this particular practice session will be openness. Perhaps you’ll choose to manifest this by singing all your exercises and repertoire with a released and quiet inhalation.
- Perhaps your intention will be freedom. And perhaps you’ll choose to manifest that intention by drawing awareness to your jaw and tongue.
- Perhaps your intention will be communication. Maybe your manifestation of that will be to analyze the words and poetry, to create an inner monologue, and to take some risks with interpretation.
Intention can help you set goals. Maybe you’re going to set a goal for that day, but first you might want to try an intention.
On or about November 7, I will write another blog to address what to do if you’re practicing regularly and you don’t feel like anything is changing.
I follow a fashion blogger whose site is called une femme d’un certain âge and recently, she had her colors and style done and it turned out she was wearing all the wrong colors and styles for her “type.” (I have to admit that the company who did her analysis was right – her clothes are much more flattering than they were before, and I thought she looked good before.) Someone asked her if that means she’s thrown everything out, even some of her favorite things, and she said, in today’s blog: “No. I still believe in ‘tools, not rules.'”
That phrase resonated with me. There are so many rules that we think we have to follow as singers. We have to avoid certain foods, we have to stand a certain way, align ourselves just so, sing only one kind of repertoire or one kind of style, and never do anything that might be considered “wrong.”
What we work in lessons is collecting a series of tools that you can use for learning and performing your music. For example, we work on having a silent inhalation and a balanced onset, and releasing into the breath, rather than gasping for air or sighing at the end of a phrase. And for the most part, those tools are the rules.
Except when they’re not.
What if your character is upset? Would they have a clean onset? Would they have a balanced release? Would they be standing with their head balanced upon their spine and thinking of their feet as tripods with their weight evenly distributed between the big and little toes and the heel?
What if breathy was better, just for a particular phrase? What if a hard release was better, just to convey an emotion? What if the head was thrown back to the sky, just for that one line?
You can’t do it all the time, but sometimes, you have to break the rules.