The Simplicity of the Voice
Sometimes it is daunting to think about just standing there and singing. Without costumes or staging, just singing, we have to get comfortable communicating what we are singing. “What am I supposed to do?”, I sometimes hear from my students. “Communicate what you are saying in the song”, is often my reply. “??????? “, is the response.
Express YOUR interpretation of the text. The beauty is in the music and the delivery.
Imagine you don’t understand any of the words that someone was saying to you in a conversation. You would be lost, right? This is what happens when we as singers don’t understand what we are saying when we sing. It could be a foreign language or our native tongue, but if we don’t understand the meaning of the text, how can we communicate through the music?
Spend time analyzing exactly what the poet is saying and how the composer set the text. If the text is in a foreign language, do a word by word translation (google translate will do if need be), and put it in terms you can understand and relate to. 16th century Italian arias can be re-termed in a way that a 16 year old can relate to. An oversimplified version of a love aria: “I love someone and it hurts me so much because he is far away from me” can become “I have a crush on a guy and I just can’t stop thinking about him, but I know he doesn’t even notice that I am alive.”
Write poetry out on a piece of paper in paragraph form. Analyze each phrase. What does it really mean? If you don’t know a work, look it up. Is there symbolism or is it clear cut? Put it in terms you can relate to (simplify it) so you can communicate it.
Once you have analyze it and know what poet is saying, look at how the composer sets the words to music. Where are there dynamic changes? Where are the goals of phrases? Is there interplay between the voice and accompaniment? Look at the poets and composers intentions and the history of their lives. Look at the history to enhance the meaning. Then relate it to you and your life.
The more details you absorb from life, the more context you give you performances- Deborah Domanski. The more you feel the emotion of text, the more you communicate it and the more the audience feels and hears the authenticity of emotion.
If it is a text you cannot relate to, research the history and try it from that angle or personal experience as best you can. i.e. The sadness of losing a lover or anger of him leaving you for another is hard for a 15 year old to relate to. Change the angle slightly. The sadness and anger you feel because a guy you have a crush on is now dating your best friend is easier for a 15 year old to grasp. It may not be 100% what the poet says, but it taps into the emotion of the person singing. The feeling of loss or anger can then become authentic.
Convey your emotions through your facial expressions and occasional body movement when you are performing in a concert. Remember you are communicating words and emotions so you will move a little bit, but there is no need to map out true acting and blocking. After all, there is no space often. This doesn't mean you don’t communicate the meaning of the words. We were given music to communicate in a different form. Authenticate the poet and composer’s intentions and add your individual interpretations to make YOUR best performance of a vocal selection.
Hopefully this helps make you more comfortable with 'just singing'! Read on next week about my students learning experience of singing in a studio voice recital.