Wednesday, October 12

Tutorial - thoughts

Are you supposed to feel more clear-minded after a tutorial? More focused? More reassured?
I felt more confused! But maybe thats a good thing... I think its tricky working by yourself - you can go forward in a certain route and because you are not in dialogue with anyone you forget other directions, other issues, which could be interesting. Or you manage to justify your thoughts and convince yourself that you are on track, whereas in fact there are a hundred things you have not thought of! So meeting my supervisor was very interesting for me.

We went to the music centre were i could play some songs on the piano. I felt that our discussions up until then were a bit surreal as he had never before heard me sing - like discussing a recipie without tasting the food. Actually I feel that way with everyone i meet - that they cant really know who I am before they've heard me sing, because its such a big part of my life - but in this case it was particularly relevant obviously.

So there were some immediate performance issues which came up. The uncomfortable nature of singing to just one person, in a small room, the intimacy, the pressure - do you make eye contact - the fact that it was within some sort of 'professional' or academic framework - not just singing for a friend. But that was just the subtle undercurrents, because its me, and i dont really get nervous, and i feel quite solid in my songs at the moment -- less so in this project, thats kind of new territory for me, but for now i decided just to sing as i usually would and the contextual project-questions would follow.. they did.

I sang A Case of You firstly, partly because my voice wasnt warmed up and its always a nice way in with Joni, and secondly cause im a bit obsessed with that song and its honesty. Then I sang a few of my songs. We talked in between. The first major comment was that the way i was singing in no way presentational, rather, it felt like a dialogue between me and the piano, or like i was alone and the listener was almost intruding and drawnt o listen in (this is obviously my interpretation/understanding of the comments, and also what i can remember...i wished i'd recorded the session on my ipod afterwards - next time) - its true i was almost singing to myself because of the nature of the set up - in a 'performance' i would automatically play more to the crowd, look at people; i often find myself almost ignoring, or pretending to ignore the listener when there is only one of them - a defence mechanism i guess. But this idea of drawing people in, like reading someone's diary illicitly, that interested me.

We discussed the effect of volume - not so much in terms of dynamics helping form the song, but rather the overall volume of a song, and how it changes the way the audience listen. I found myself saying 'do you want to hear a loud song or a truthful song?' - what a weird sentence! I thought about some of my more upbeat songs - they are no less honest, they also express an emotion - but perhaps its more the externalisation of an attitude - and is the display of attitude not inherently performative? - rather than confessional, or a song that is perhaps not supposed to engange so actively with someone else. In fact, i wonder if I could write a song that is for nobody, not talking to anybody..

We talked a lot about the preamble and interludes before and after songs. What an integral part of live performance - its true i feel cheated if an artist doesnt talk in between tracks - that is half the show - what distinguishes it from just putting on the CD. You want to get to know the person behind the music - again, that weird intrigue - so the patter is a big part of the show, and its what i find the hardest. It stresses me much more than the songs themselves before i do a gig. What to say, how to say it, revealing glimpses of the stories behind the songs - and that need to contextualise and explain 'this song was written because..' 'this song is about a boy who...' 'i wrote this song when...' Does it mean im worried the songs cant just stand up for themselves? It would be interesting to make some big dischord between what i introduce and what i play. Subverting expectations somehow. Or writing a song that is only made up of the interlude chat.

Audience and spacial elements obviously showed their importance, and i'd like to explore that further - taking people individually into a room to perform to them, performing in crowded spaces, in huge spaces, to friends, to strangers, all that. The framework of my final performance bothered me a bit. I couldnt get around the idea that however much i could try to sing a song without 'performing' it would inevitably be a performance because
i would be in the theatre studio, being assessed - the audience would be there to see my Theatre Studies Practical Option Final Performance - not because they liek the type of music i sing. There will be lighting, theatrical elements. But then my supervisor pointed out that in a normal concert set-up, lets say in a bar, the acts of having a drink, smokey room, chatting to the crowd, however intimate, is still a performance - going through the accepted motions, even. Maybe in the studio i will strip down the elements which you usually associate with singer-songwriter's performances and therefore be able to look more closely at what is and isnt involved. Hmm. Good.

That cringe-making term 'musical theatre' keeps haunting me. People always tell me i remind them of that style - maybe i cant escape the influence of all the musical theatre i did when i was younger, that training.. but for me its like my nemisis...its so false, its the opposite of what i want to do! Its an utter show, they are actors; I want to be utterly myself. Anyhow, the term was mentioned more than once! But granted, i see the connections - the wordiness of some songs, the importance of the lyrics - character, story - the pared down form in which i was singing, just me and piano (which is not how i imagine the songs in my head) - being reminiscent of a rehearsal for a band number with an accompanyist. I dont know. Maybe i'm just theatrical!

He asked me how I write - whether i ever just write text or just write instrumentals. Not really. Only because im focused on cracking this song-form..not because i dont enjoy the others. This is just where im at, what interests me - the relationship between the two. He asked whether it would be interesting to separate the two as an excersize, performing just the lyrics without the music, to assess how each functions. I'll try it out.

Also the idea of somehow prerecording a song so i can walk away from the piano mid-performance and make some commentthat way - i thin it could be effective, but im not sure to what effect. Im finding it quite strange being given some creative suggestions - up until now at university the imput has been purely technical or knowledge-based, and largely it has been me seeking it out. I dont really know what to do with creative ideas that havent come out of my own thought process at the moment, but i think they are probably very important. And when will I get that kind of structured critique and guidance again?

I am forming a preoccupation with these terms 'truth' and 'honesty' - hoping to find them somehow before my final show!! And rightly, i guess, my supervisor questioned these and tried to avoid them, because its true they are a little sticky and if not essentialist, then at least idealistic. Still... i guess i'm a 21 year old and an aspiring artist before I am a sensible student and an academic... so im not giving up on them yet!!

It was a very stimulating tutorial