I had a question about something that we discussed during the last lesson. We’ve been talking about allowing the emotional content of the music inform our performance, with the chief example of that being the slight smile which also opens up the nasal resonators, etc. However, what if you are singing sad music? There seems to be a conflict there.

I also wanted to let you know that I’ve been putting things together a little bit more and have experienced some real success, and not just in practice sessions. I’ve had two singing events in the last two days, and I was able to finish them with far less fatigue than I’ve been experiencing in the last few months. I was finding that I had better control, and that the style of singing did tend to more or less adjust itself to the context. I dare say I was even having some fun rather than feeling that it was just hard work.

I am very glad to hear that things are already coming together for you. Being able to experience what we are talking about in action is the best reinforcement. And the added benefit of having fun while singing is the best confirmation.

Your question is a common one I get when I present this information. The first thing to remember is we are talking about OUR emotion. The individual singer. Not the emotion of the character. The act of singing comes naturally from the emotions of joy, love, enthusiasm, excitement. These types of things. The character can have any emotion, but WE still need to love to sing, enjoy singing, be enthusiastic and excited about singing. It is the same as what you mentioned about the style of music naturally adjusted itself to the context. The emotion of the character adjusts itself to the context, but you have to provide the enthusiasm or this will not happen. We certainly cannot let the sadness of the music become our emotion or that will conflict with the act of singing. We don’t sing when we are sad, we cry. (And yet there is an element of crying in good singing) So the act of singing is a physical manifestation of emotion. And in order to ensure we experience the necessary flexibility and freedom in the act of singing that we need, the emotion has to be positive. Negative emotions will cause us to have a physical response that is counter-productive to our singing.

If we stimulate the heightened emotion that causes the physical response of singing while keeping in mind the mood of the song, we can express the emotional content while personally feeling enthusiasm, excitement and joy in the act of singing. You can test this by doing an experiment. Try to go from laughing and a feeling of joyfulness to singing. Then compare that to trying to go from a feeling of sadness and crying to singing. Most likely the second one will not feel very good. The only difference we need to make is a slight adjustment of the expression. We don’t actually smile. (Although when we sing we shouldn’t really be smiling either. It is a pleasant expression that has an element of smiling in it, but we go from smiling to opening the mouth to pronounce while continuing to lift the face under the eyes and along the nose. This feels like we are still smiling in the face and eyes but not the lips) We can easily morph this expression into one of sadness. When we are sad and cry we can still lift the face in the same way. I see it every time my little girl cries. So the expression is essentially the same, it just has a different meaning behind it and in the eyes. The problem is as we get older our faces get less expressive, so when we are sad we tend to tense the throat instead of stretching the face like a child. I think this is because as we get older we have a tendency to get more self-conscious and stifle our emotions instead of letting them out freely like children.

I hope this gives more clarity to these concepts. Thanks for asking.