Making a list … and checking it …

No, I’m not writing a blog to the tune of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” (But don’t tempt me.)

Last weekend I judged the MDDC NATS auditions and saw some people sing with little or no expression in their eyes. Their eyes were fixed on a spot slightly above the judges’ heads, and it never varied. Sometimes, they smiled or gestured, but it never reached their eyes. It wasn’t natural – it wasn’t comforting as an audience member (judging or just watching) because I didn’t believe the song meant anything to the singer. I didn’t believe the singer. No matter how good the voice was, I didn’t believe him or her.

When you’re singing a solo that’s not intended to be sung to another person on stage or when you’re singing an art song, you are doing a soliloquy. You’re talking to yourself (a monologue, on the other hand, is usually a speech intended for someone else to hear).

When are times that you talk to yourself? The main time that I can think of is when you’re making a list of things you have to do.

Think about it: you’re making a to-do list. The majority of the time, you don’t just write without stopping and looking up. You think of what you have to do. You look up. You look around. You see something that reminds you of the next item you have to do. And then that reminds you of something else that you have to do. Try writing a list and be aware of what you’re doing. What’s the process?

Another example of “talking to yourself” is when you’re reflecting on something. Say you’re writing in your journal and thinking of your hopes and your dreams. You stop and reflect as you’re writing. You might write a bunch of stuff in a burst of creativity. You might feel stuck and pace around. What do you do when you’re reflecting?

Maybe your song is a list of things, like “You gotta die sometime” from Falsettos. A list of all the things you’ve done up to this time. Of what death will be like. How to handle it.

Maybe it’s a realization and awareness, like “Ring of Keys” from Fun Home (although the chorus is a list – “your swagger, your bearing… short hair and your dungarees”). It’s a realization of who Small Allison is.

Another time I talk to myself is in the shower. Or when I’m driving a long distance. I try out all sorts of scenarios, usually regarding how I should’ve handled something differently.

So take a song you’re working on and write it out as a list. Or as if you were journaling. What do you do? Where do your eyes go? Are you looking out? Are you looking in? (Just don’t look down too much, because you’ll lose your audience.)

We’ll work on things like this in the Curiously Stronger Performing Series, Our next workshop is at 7pm on Tuesday, March 10. Come. Bring a song. Make a list and check it twice. Or three times.

Articulating your text: Could Siri understand you?

8461B1E0-155C-4E01-B562-43667B451AB3_4_5005_c.jpegOne thing I was thinking about yesterday – if I were to use voice dictation for a monologue or the text of a song I was working on, how well would Siri understand me? Would she spit back my text relatively close to how I intended it, or would it be gibberish?

It might be an interesting practice technique to try this the next time you’re working on a monologue (or song text, which you should be working as a monologue anyway) and see what happens. Will Siri (or Alexa, or “Hey Google”) pick up every word you say? If not, why not?

  • Are you dropping the end of your sentences?
  • Are you slurring words that should have more emphasis?
  • Are you talking too fast?
  • Are you hypo- or hypernasal?
  • Are you inserting “ums” and “ahs” where you shouldn’t be?

Virtual assistants are, as we all know, imperfect. Sometimes I say perfectly ordinary things that Siri has managed to interpret in wildly inappropriate renderings (and thank goodness I looked at it before I hit “send” or else I might’ve been in big trouble). But sometimes, maybe I’m talking too fast – a common issue I have – or maybe I’m not articulating clearly enough. I do tend to be a bit hyponasal, and sometimes in voice dictation, the words come out  with Ds where there should’ve been Ns.

(One word Siri always gets right, for some inexplicable reason, is “Kardashian.” Which I think might signal that the end of civilization is nigh.)

Give it a try. The results might be fascinating. Tell me about them in the comments.