I believe this is an important topic and I hope it will inspire dialogue in anyone who takes the time to read it. If you spend any part of your day listening to music, I’m going to to go out on a limb and guess that you are hearing it on the radio, streaming it from the internet, or playing it from an mp3 player. The fact that I can think of a composer or artist and have an exhaustive list of their songs/albums in seconds on Spotify is truly mind-blowing. It’s especially difficult to wrap your head around if you grew up consuming music before Steve Jobs brought the ipod into our lives. The other really incredible aspect of this technology is the quality of sound we receive from these devices. Many of us no longer seek out live concerts or performances because the sound quality we can obtain with the right equipment in our living room or on our headphones is sometimes better than if we went to a theater or noisy bar to hear our favorite musicians play.
I would like to focus for a moment on the changes that I believe are occurring in performance, and consequently vocal production, as a result of the shift towards consuming pre-recorded music. It has been on my mind as my first auditions in Berlin are happening this month. Auditions have always been difficult for me and I believe it is because the voice in my head is telling me to look and sound my best in order to impress the panel of inherently critical listeners in the room. “If I sing well, they will think I’m good enough”. This mindset doesn’t work sooooo I’m going to change it 🙂 I have been reading a fascinating book that I hope every singer will make a part of their library: Singing and the Imagination by Thomas Hemsley. It addresses the issue of concerning oneself primarily with “sound” in performance and it has challenged me to think more carefully about my intentions both musically and dramatically when I sing. Although auditions are not necessarily performance, really good auditionees have a way of convincing themselves that they are onstage. Hemsley describes a magnetism between a singer and his/her audience that requires exhaustive preparation and vulnerability from the singer as wellI as open hearts and ears from the audience. I believe that every audience enters a performance with these qualities, but it is really the singer’s job to keep her listeners in that state of mind. I have obviously had experience on both sides and I believe that it is abundantly clear in the first few moments whether or not a singer has made the music and the text her focus or if she is more concerned with creating a “perfect sound”. I think we can all agree that not only is perfect boring, it is impossible, and striving for it is a sad, unfulfilling journey. Bringing intention and honesty to a performance with a willingness to tell the story and breathe life into the music requires courage and A LOT of work, but the result is a shared experience between performer and listener that cannot be replicated on any sound recording. Not only that, I have found that my technique tends to find it’s way when the music and poetry have direction. I choose to believe that this is even possible in an audition room if we want it to be. Generally, I think it takes both an informed audience and an informed singer to begin addressing this issue and so I hope it inspires you to re-think your intentions if you are a performer/auditionee and to continue to seek out live performance and listen with an open heart if you are a music enthusiast.
Your thoughts are welcome! Bis bald!