Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Responding to lj: music performance and participation

It's one of those weeks when my responses apply to more than one post at once, often more than to the specific posts individually. Also often tangentially. So:

Most of you are unlikely to hear me really sing. It's not a matter of confidence or lack thereof (although it used to be). I have discovered that I am not even slightly interested in anything that can be interpreted as performance. That is not how I interact with doing music. Obviously I can interact with other people performing music just fine -- I go to concerts and listen to albums and so on. It's not that I believe music is or ought to be a purely participatory art form. It's that that's the end of the art form I care to take part in myself.

For much of the time we lived in California, markgritter and I belonged to a church. We had friends there, and we sat in roughly the same place every week. One week the choir director came up to me to ask me to be in the choir, because they were looking for people and because my friend Lisa, who sat in front of me, told her that I had a good voice and could hold a harmony line by myself and could sight-sing. I wasn't as good at saying no to requests then as I am now, but it also felt to me like there was no longer any point in me not joining the choir: I was being treated and evaluated as a performer even when I considered myself a participant, so I might as well perform. I did not enjoy it for various reasons -- it was a very small choir, and if you're thinking "small" maps to either "elite" or "cozy," you are wrong, and having to hit notes with weird emphasis when I've noticed the other two altos wandering off into soprano-land without visas to cross those borders is not my idea of a good time, as I am not a vocal border-guard -- and am not interested in repeating the experience even with a larger or more inherently gifted group. This was not my only experience with music performance -- I was in school choirs for years, and I played piano recitals, and I was in school band and various honor bands -- but it was, I think, my last.

Feel perfectly free to cast this up to me in ten years and laugh at me if I've done a complete about-face. But I don't think I will.

Karaoke? Performance. Music circles? Mingled performance and participation -- so if everyone is singing along to a song I know, I, too, will probably sing along. In fact, I would probably have difficulty not singing along in a room full of people singing a song I know. But singing along with a herd of people is not the same thing as leading a herd of people in singing, and I'm pretty sure you can tell the difference. It's not that I don't have confidence in my voice. It's that performance, including leading a participatory group, is a different skill than just singing or playing well. It's that with something additional, and I don't care to cultivate that something additional; I didn't enjoy it when I did. Also, in many cases there are hidden interpersonal politics to performing for a group; if you enjoy doing so, it might be worth the effort to learn what they are for the specific group, but if you don't like performing in the first place, it looks like a lot of trouble for very minimal reward.

If you're interested in hearing what I sound like when I'm actually singing, the best thing to do is to hand me a nearly-sleeping baby or toddler, or else a mid-sized preschooler who needs entertaining (although listening to someone teach a toddler a song is not the best way to tell how their voice goes). Other good tips involve getting in the car with me or singing something yourself in a very small group setting, while doing something like hiking. (I was a Girl Scout for six years, which means I practically burst into song when I see the backyard.) I will sometimes hum or quote a line or two of song, but rarely in full voice.

timprov and I play weird little musical games, but it feels like us doing it together rather than like me performing for an audience of one and him performing for an audience of one (or each of us performing for an audience of two, but markgritter is still learning a lot of the musical references timprov and I had in common from before we met each other). (markgritter was raised by wild classical music lovers. When I suggested that my mother-in-law, who is in her early 50s, sing something in the style of Bob Dylan to get an earworm out of her head, she couldn't think what that would sound like. I turned into a human motorboat: "But but but but...." They had no idea why I thought they should be concerned when they stayed at the Hotel California in Palo Alto. Music popular in the last 200 years is just not their thing.)

Umm. This ran longer than I thought, so I'm going to say more on different subjects later rather than trying to jam them all into the same post.

ETA: This just applies to performance music. I'm also uninterested in performing dance or poetry at this time. I'm pretty comfortable reading prose.
Tags: same wrong words to amazing grace, stupid brain tricks

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