I wanted to talk a little on what my purpose is with this blog. From some of the comments I’ve received, both public and private, it seems like some people have the wrong idea of what I’m doing. First let me state that no one is going to learn how to sing from reading this blog, my web site, or any other. The same applies to books, CDs, and videos. These things very well may help people better understand the concepts involved and may even guide them to improvement. But there is almost always an uncertainty that lingers asking, “am I doing this right?” That question can only be answered by an experienced person to guide their progress.
I understand this limitation. So I have no intention of trying to actually teach people how to do the things I’m talking about. I can only do that directly in a one-on-one situation where I can give immediate feedback. What I am trying to do is present concepts, principles, even ideas that people may not be aware of. I do this in a hope of stimulating some thinking and curiosity. Maybe even guide someone in a direction that helps to overcome a problem, or at least understand a little better why they are experiencing it.
That is basically all. I have started to provide examples of some things I find worthwhile. It doesn’t mean they are the absolute best. They are just one example of something good. There are many examples and no one has the time to cite them all. As far as me providing examples myself. That is something I intend to do. But just like the understanding of the voice comes gradually, so does the development of this blog. To criticize me because I don’t have recordings of myself singing and performing is, from my perspective, unfair and irrelevant. I’m not trying to promote my singing. I would have a separate website for that anyway. If examples of me demonstrating things I talk about is what is wanted, then it is planned but I just haven’t done any of that yet.
I know I can’t avoid all criticism. That would not be realistic. But to criticize me says more about the critic than it does about me. It shows that they have not taken the time to try and understand what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to force anyone to believe what I’m saying, so no one should feel threatened. Hopefully everyone can come to this information with an open mind and some objectivity. We can only know what we have experienced. And if you haven’t experienced what I’m talking about it might not make any sense. But the remedy for that is to investigate it and experiment yourself. You are not going to get it by just believing me or by me trying a hundred different ways of explaining it. The responsibility is always with ourselves, not someone else.
I think this might be the most important thing I can communicate. The ability to hear function, as well as coordinating our vocal function, takes time to develop. The brain and the body take time to acclimate to new experiences, ideas, and concepts. Keep investigating and exploring what is possible. Don’t limit yourself to a method or a technique. Try to see what is real. Look to nature to guide you.
Another key point that I want people to understand is even though I studied with David Jones, I am not limited to his opinions and assessments. Before I ever met him I was interested in exploring and understanding the concepts that were expressed by Giovannin Battista Lamperti. These are mostly found in the book “Vocal Wisdom”, which is where the name for my web site comes from. I was attracted to David’s teaching because of the Swedish/Italian School being associated with Lamperti and representing the same concepts. But it is important to recognize that the Swedish/Italian School doesn’t have any value in itself. It is the fact that this school of thought followed the principles of natural function that makes it worthwhile. The same applies to Lamperti. He expressed things in such a way that sometimes it is hard to understand what he’s talking about on first reading. But that is the enigmatic nature of the truth. It takes a little mental struggle to grasp it. There is a quote that represents this I thought was from Liszt, but I can’t find it. It goes something like “Art doesn’t give up her secrets easily.” I can’t remember it exactly, but it applies here.
So I am trying to follow the same example as Lamperti of looking at the principles of natural function as my guide. Not some method or technique. It is human tendency to want to follow someone or something. It happens in all aspects of our lives. But whenever we follow something we have created a layer of interference between us and spontaneous action. And that is what is natural. So there really is no method or technique. There just is what exists. Any attempt to have more than that is an interference that limits our performance.
One of my clients shared with me something the pop-star Usher said on American Idol last week. He emphasized the importance of a performer “connecting with the audience”. This is a widely recognized characteristic of good performance. And I agree with it. If we don’t the audience doesn’t receive our expression. My client made a very interesting observation about this concept. She said if, as many spiritual thinkers and philosophers have stated, we as human beings are naturally connected then why is it so hard to connect to an audience. It seems like something we are trying to do but shouldn’t need to try to do because it already exists. I found this to be a very interesting idea to explore. It makes me wonder if when we perform we create blockages or interference in the energy that normally connects us with others. I don’t know for sure, but it is something to think about.
Well, I guess that’s it for now. I thank you for reading and hope you find the information here helpful.
A writer usually does not just experience divine inspiration. That does happen sometimes, but usually they work on their writing through drafts and re-writing. This is true of composers and novelists. All of the writers I have heard speak of this say the secret to great writing is to just write every day. Nothing fancy or necessarily spiritual to it. More like working at their craft.
The same goes for performers. Singers should be no different than violinists and any other type of instrumental musician. The skill that allows us to be expressive and communicate to an audience starts with the skill of being able to mechanically play our instrument. Until we can do that at a high level we won't be able to realize our highest level of artistic expression.
I am reminder of a quote from Pavarotti. He said something to the effect that as the performer he is not enjoying the performance in the way the audience is. He is enjoying the participation in it. Perhaps like an athlete enjoys participating in a game. But he doesn't experience the beautiful music coming from the stage because he is in it.
So I think part of the definition of art is based on from which perspective are you coming to it. The artistic experience from the perspective of the audience is not the same as the experience of the performer. The perspective of the performer is more of the type found with a builder doing their work.
The result of that skill and craftsmanship is experienced by the audience as "fine art". An expression of some aspect of human emotion.
For those of us interested in being performers we need to recognize that we are in a sense an artisan. Using our craftsmanship with our body to make music. And be careful not to get confused and remain in the position of the audience. The perspective is different and makes it hard to understand the necessary skills of the performer.
Well, these are just my initial thoughts in response to your comments, Olga. Hopefully it stimulates more thinking in everyone who reads it. But in no way am I saying this from a point of authority on the subject. We can only figure this stuff out through discussion and seeing what makes sense to us. Not by just accepting what someone says. Good luck.
Thanks for you comment Olga. You bring up some good points. I can't really discuss much about your points of where these esthetic values come from, because I have not studied those things. But I do have some thoughts on what you say.
Regarding what is fine art. I feel that the best definition of something is the most simple one. It is easy to get very complicated when discussing how to define something. One way that comes to mind is Art is an expression of the human experience that is not the actual experience that it represents. I don't know if that is acceptable. But it makes sense to me right now. We may come up with something better as we discuss this more. But it seems like a good enough place to start.
You bring up my description of the two artistic facets of singing. One being the musical art of expression and the other the art of the act of playing the instrument.
How I am thinking of these two different but related things is the art of expression is the overall experience that the audience receives. They are touched by it or not. They like it or not. They feel something or they don't. This aspect I feel is mainly experienced from the perspective of the audience on the receiving end.
And because it is really only experienced from the perspective of the audience we can't really judge it universally. I'm sure we have all witnessed a singer along with others where after the performance one person liked it and another didn't. Maybe they even argued about it.
But if we take a step back and look at this calmly without attachment to what we like or don't, we realize that we can't successfully argue the matter. Argument, like in law, requires truth to exist at the heart of the point being argued. But art from the perspective of the audience member is based on individual feelings, which is actually just opinion. I liked it and you happened to not like it. Or vice-versa. That is how it goes so we can't get upset about it.
Obviously there are plenty of us, because of our strong feelings, still try to argue the point that this was a great performance and these people are crazy for not thinking the same. And this experience proves the point I'm making. Artistic expression is determined by the response of the audience member.
Now, when I talk about the act of singing, or playing any instrument for that matter, being an art in and of itself it is, like you said, more a matter in the sense of craftsmanship.
Another term that relates to this is "artefact", which in a dictionary has been defined as "a product of human art and workmanship". This aspect of art seems to refer more to the experience of the artist. That their work is a practical knowledge and skill. And I'm sure many artists of all kinds would describe their experience much like that.
Hi Michael. I have been considering something for quite some time, but didn't think it was exactly relevant. However, since your last post is kind of "philosophical", this is probably where it fits. The fact that most classical singers (or musicians in general) study in
conservatories gives us ideas about what is art, how is "art" produced and what is our role in it – ideas that have a history behind them, and sometimes we find ourselves
repeating them without even stopping to think if we really believe them. Our education is strongly based in nineteenth century esthetic values: (1) the concept of art as a "poetic" form of expression (that would be Schumann); (2) the concept of "genius" as a pre-requisite for "fine art" to be concieved (that would be Kant); (3) the importance of virtuosity in performance (that would be more of a tradition than a philosophical idea per se); etc. etc. etc, there are a lot more I can't think of right now. I'm not saying these things are wrong, but they have a tendency to make our relationship with art more obscure, kind of like we need some sort of mystical experience or rite of passage as a pre-requisite for great art to happen.
Just to start, what is "fine art"? Music is among the fine arts, OK, but where does performance come into play? Does it mean if somene isn't a genius or a world-class talented musician, one cannot produce, or take part in producing "fine art"? And, more importantly, where is the "art" in music? Is it in the music itself, or the performance, or both? Recently you have said something about making a difference between "the music, and what it expresses" and "good singing as an art itself" (or something like that). There is a huge difference between these two, and yet, there is a naïve part of us, students, that believe that, if you have grasped the "meaning" or the "direction" of the music, then you are ready to perform it.
This somewhat "mystical" concept of art as an esthetic experience is quite recent, philosophically speaking. It started to appear only by the end of the eighteenth century. Sure, this is how Schumann and Liszt and Wagner, perhaps even Beethoven thought of their music. Bur this is certainly not how Mozart, Handel or Vivaldi thought of their music. Before the invention of esthetics, Music – and Art in general – was only a PRACTICE. In Aristotle's classical theory of art, poetic and musical works were spoken of more as a craftsmanship than anything else. Aristotelian "poetics" is a theory of making and producing. Which means that, for a very long time in history, ART was understood merely as a set of rules to be observed in order to produce a particular work or object correctly. It was PRACTICAL knowledge, and not some divine unaccessible truth that needed to be "revealed" by a great master to his pupils. Maybe we should think of singing more like that, as well.