Expanding Your Freedom by Limiting Your Choices

I’m mainly thinking of my fellow improvising vocalists as I write, but this can probably apply equally well to any improvising musician, or any vocalist, or any other instrumentalist, or any artist if you want to stretch it. If you’ve ever felt like “everything I do is pretty much the same…” (in some way that you’re discerning) “…I wish I felt like I had some new/different/better ideas,” here I speak to that. Continue reading “Expanding Your Freedom by Limiting Your Choices”

The Daily Song Project

There was one lesson that everybody—teachers, fellow students, staff, random passers-by—seemed to want me to take home from this year’s Circlesongs workshop with Bobby McFerrin et al*. And that was:

Stop talking. Start singing.

At one point the lesson was delivered by a chorus, right on my face. I was trying to describe one of the things I could maybe show people, maybe it would be helpf… “Stop talking! Start singing!” Okay then! Continue reading “The Daily Song Project”

Dream a Little Dream

Life is trying to teach you something.
Life is trying to teach you something.

This isn’t necessarily about music, but it is for me. For you, it can be about… whatever it’s about for you. Join me for a little thought-experiment.

Suppose for a moment that it might be the case that if all your dreams were to come true, you wouldn’t actually feel any different on a day-to-day basis.

It would be like this: your ship comes in. You hit the lottery, or you find true love, or your novel gets picked up by a publisher and tops the best seller list, or your long-lost great-uncle bequeaths his working, debt-free organic farm to you. And you discover, once you’ve settled into your new life Continue reading “Dream a Little Dream”

What is Circlesinging, really?

(Here’s hoping I don’t get myself into too much trouble with this one, because it isn’t really my term to own or define. I’m going to attribute and refer heavily, but first, to business:)

Here are two definitions of Circlesinging which amount to the same thing: it is a community-singing practice that emphasizes the music-of-the-moment; and, it is a music-invention method that makes use of a chorus for help. Whether you experience it as more the former or the latter may depend on your vantage point. Continue reading “What is Circlesinging, really?”

How would an Improvised Choral Piece go?

If you’re an improvising musician – and if you’re doing it right – then every time you make music, I’ll be hearing your opinion on all the music you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter whether you’re faithfully reproducing a Classical piece from the sheet music, wailing free-jazz, or anything in between. From your song selection (or lack thereof) to your chosen approach to the songs you pick, you’re saying something about music, and about which approaches are valid, useful, and meaningful in the context of the material you’re doing.

Once upon a time there were 5 singers, on a stage, in a room, with an audience of 50. The singers knew that all improvisations, no matter how loose, need a structure – need some way for the improvisers to wordlessly understand what was expected of each other. So they had sought a structure that created a maximum of freedom for creative expression.

They had decided ahead of time whose turn it was and how the turns were going to go. And so the first singer had the silence – or the ambient noise – of the room to give an answer to, from whatever was in his heart at the moment, and from his opinion on all of music. He had freedom to do whatever he wanted, but he understood that he was beginning a process of music-making with others, and therefore considered what sound he could answer the silence with that they, in turn, could give answer to. And so, he began. Continue reading “How would an Improvised Choral Piece go?”