One of the reasons I write a blog is to collect the overflow runoff from my brain. I get a chance to say the things I didn’t get to say at a conference session or rehearsal, which might otherwise fester in my mind. Regardless of whether anyone hears it, it makes me feel cleansed.
So. Today I presented at TCDA, thanks to the fun invite from Gary Seighman, whose wit and charm and realistic perspective make everything nicer. Gary names the session “Quantum Choir: Exploring the Hidden Forces in Ensemnble Singing.” It’s a great title, that really covers the important aspect of the embodied cognition and social psychology research that have been my interest for the past several years: that we have vast oceans of subconscious stuff in us, and that we inevitably and unavoidably pour it out over our choirs, and that they swim in an ocean of subconscious signals from everyone all around them. At the end, there was a question that I wasn’t sure how to answer, just because the answer was so big. But I wanted to try and make it small… and didn’t really succeed.
He asked for practical examples of how to use this knowledge in rehearsal. I gave two examples, one about how I deal with my subconscious ocean and one of how I deal with the ocean from the group: that I meditate before rehearsal so I can get in front of them with as blank a slate as possible, and that I have them entrain with a metronome. But really, it’s way bigger than specific examples.
When I was a master’s student, Joseph Flummerfelt taught Saturday morning masterclasses with us at Westminster. He said many times, “go deeper.” Lots of us has no idea where deeper was or how to go there. In a handbasket, for example? Turns out no: with mindfulness practice. I’m not saying I can go as deep as Flum–few people can, really–but I’ve become aware of my ocean and learned to love most of it. (It also turns out that sometimes people avoid going deeper because they are afraid of their ocean, or have been told that their oceans don’t matter.)
So, one big, complicated real life practical application of my non-musical reading is that I have learned how to go deeper into my ocean, and I believe that it informs the honesty (and therefore quality) of the art I make, allowing me to tap into my singers’ individual oceans and the ocean we create together.
Also, for the record: I’m a year older than Gary.