Dear Mr Michael Mayer

I have just read your article on Emotions. (

I agree with most of it, especially the notion of total response and the necessary condition of joy & freedom.

Splitting the Human in Body, Mind & Emotion is right as long as we understand that nothing can work without the other. In fact human action & thought is a function of the three.I would add, from the perspective of the believer, the Soul which I differentiate from consciousness.

Of course the singer is concerned with the emotions of the character. But we all humans share the same emotions, we all produce the same “products”, however we set different conditions. Our job, I think , is to re-create the conditions that lead the character to feel what we identify in the text. Of course one’s response will differ from the other’s but this is not an issue as the basic emotion will be conveyed and recognized.

Interestingly you have brought forward the issue of negative emotions. I also note that you describe desire as implicitely underlying fear.

I’d compare emotions to water. It can be clear or troubled. The singer produces that water but he/she is also the container, the jug. The jug does not have “feel” the water, it just have to contain it and be bent so as to allow water to be poured. So the singer would rather remain serene. Birgit Nilsson was a perfect in this regard.

Thank you for reading my article and for responding. I agree with what you say. I don’t know if we actually disagree on the points you bring up. The point I was trying to make by categorizing the Body, Mind and Emotions is that they all need to work together toward the same goal. That is the meaning of the Total Response. I agree about the Soul. I guess I would say Mind and Emotions come from the Soul so we have Body and Soul as the main components.

I do try to illustrate the difference between the character’s emotions and the emotions of the singer. If they get confused it can lead to problems because singing is basically a joyful expression. So I recommend a singer try to express the words and music with love and joy and let the meaning of agony or hate come from the text and music. This is to make sure the physical response to the emotions do not interfere with the physical act of singing. Usually the enthusiasm and excitement from the joyful expression through singing will more effectively express the emotions regardless if they are love or hate. They just need to be heightened with an understanding of the text and music and the expression will be tinted appropriately.

If we look at fear closely we can see that underneath it is a desire for something. We desire this outcome so we fear the failure of that. The more we desire it the more we have fear. It tends to go hand in hand. So I recommend understanding the relationship between desire and fear. We don’t necessarily want to not desire anything. But we can understand that desire should stop at intention. This is what I want to have as an outcome. Then we know what needs to be done. This is absolutely necessary. But if desire for something grows and becomes very important to us then we almost can’t help but have fear about it not coming to pass. This is what causes stage fright and performance anxiety. That is what I’m talking about.

I agree with your analogy with the water. I see it especially true in relation to our breathing. If the emotions get too riled up and make the water troubled then our breathing will not effectively support our singing. I agree Nilsson is a good example. My model is Jussi Bjorling. Thanks again for your feedback.