Monday, January 11, 2010

Performance Insight

I had an eye-opening (ear-opening?) experience yesterday. I was driving along, listening to the radio, when I heard the orchestral introduction to a Ron Hamilton song I knew well. The song itself has a lovely melody and is easy to sing, but as the song progressed I was struck with the way this man sang: robotically, with no feeling, no passion and obviously no comprehension of what he was singing. It was as if he did not like the melody and sang only syllables of text, unheeding of content. I did not know it was possible to sing any song that way. It’s possible to play notes that way if you’re not into the music—but to sing so insensitively, unfeelingly, is a feat in itself, because singing is such an intimate extension of one’s inner life compared to playing an instrument. I’m quite sure I’ve never heard anything like it. Absolutely robotic.

His vocal technique was low-to-average and he carried a tune well, but he did not produce any music. I do not know the name of this particular “artist,” and that is well.

Mary Jane and I have been discussing what it means to really get inside the music and portray the attitudes and the message the composer intended—so that your audience can experience the magic. It was most interesting to hear an extreme example of “what not to do.”

Are there any other musicians who have had a similar experience? Or perhaps you’ve just happily experienced something quite the opposite?