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New soundscapes

November 12, 2009

I’m getting so excited about this recital. Had another rehearsal, and I am falling in love with the music we’re singing. I am learning so much from Wendy, who is a (classically trained) jazz singer. She comes at this from a completely different perspective, which is so refreshing. I wonder if she can teach me to improv, or maybe to karaoke decently … She makes it look so easy and fun, and she sounds amazing.

Wendy will be singing a set of Barber songs. I have sung some Barber in the past, but I haven’t fallen in love with him yet. But as I listened, the music started to make more sense to my ears. It felt similar to when I began to study Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. At first I thought I didn’t like it, or was ambivalent at best. As we delved into it, I began to hear the beauty and the brilliance of his music until I was hooked.

I am also singing one of Harvey’s compositions, which is very modern and has some tricky intervals. But he reworked the accompaniment, and it’s starting to get in my ears. Today I wandered through it mostly successfully, and I was enjoying finding the pitches and tuning the chords, listening closely to the harmonies. His is most challenging in that sense. I’m pretty sure I won’t be building my career off of tricky intervals and complex harmonics, but it’s fun to experiment, and I enjoy singing music by living composers. (It’s fantastically heartening when they revise something especially for you!)

Getting ready for a performance like this is a little nerve-wracking because I haven’t been working an entire semester or year on this repertoire. On the one hand, it’s great because I have performed much of it already. On the other hand, your relationship to the music changes when you study it over several months versus just picking it up and polishing it over a few weeks. And the new music is already going to have less depth in the sense that it’s never been performed by me before. I hope I can bring the familiar repertoire up to a new level.

One things that I’ve been struggling with is how to perform with music. I watched myself sing the Bach at my recital, and it was spectacularly boring, as I was just standing there staring at the page the entire time. Now, the camera was off to one side and not zoomed in on my face, but my eyes looked closed, too. I know they weren’t because I was trying with all my might to follow the notes on the page, but I cannot help feeling that I have to do something to combat how slanted and small my eyes look. Eyes being the “windows to the soul” and all, I know they should be open when I’m singing in order to better connect to the audience. But for some reason, they keep flashing closed. Even when they are obviously open, I blink a lot. Like Nancy Pelosi a lot. *sigh* I know I should practice in front of a mirror so that I won’t look or feel stupid on stage, but looking at myself singing makes me feel stupid. I guess it’s just one more thing I’ve got to get over so I can move on and get better. That still doesn’t answer what to do with the music …

I’m too chicken-shit to go without for the songs that I’ve performed before because I know I would screw up, not having focused on re-memorizing anything. If I put the stand too low, then you get slanted eyes in the extreme. If I put it too high, it blocks the audience from seeing my face. Even at a middling level, I’m afraid I will be so focused on the page that I will neglect the audience. I don’t want to stand up there giving a recital to myself behind my music stand, but I also don’t want to worry about all these things and mess myself up because I try to look up one too many times, or I do it in an awkward place or at the wrong page turn. I know this sounds neurotic, but weird stuff always happens in performance, and for me, preparation means reducing these chances as much as possible.

We have another session on Friday to run everything in order. Hopefully that will give me one more chance to confirm that yes, I really am hearing things correctly; yes, I do know what I’m doing; no, I’m not winging it. If we can remember what we did and build on it, Sunday should be quite lovely.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Julia Bates permalink
    November 12, 2009 4:40 pm

    I’m so sorry I won’t be able to be there. Fall dinner at the church and a pile of other stuff. How does the church treat your voice? Are you recording this? With that new camera of yours? Or does the church have equipment?

    As you look at yourself in the mirror, can you see the image as like a piece of art that isn’t finished? What would you add? Change? Would holding the music help? I’ve seen soloists kind of dance with the folder held in one hand. Looked very graceful. though one could drop it, lose the page, etc. I wouldn’t worry so much about your eyes. Think more about your smile. Specifically, don’t wince when you make a mistake. I noticed that once. We can’t hear your mistakes. We don’t know the music well enough. Leave us in blissful ignorance!!

    You are lovely to look at while music soars out of you. Just focus on conveying the intent of each piece?

    All the best. Julia

  2. November 12, 2009 7:56 pm

    As someone else who was at that recital, I just noticed the joy and energy that emanated from you. Nothing about slanted eyes. You command the stage when you stand there.

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