THIS BLOG POST IS #3 IN THE SERIES ‘HOW SONG INTERPRETATION CAN SAVE YOU FROM YOUR NERVES’. HERE YOU CAN READ THE PREVIOUS POST.
In this series of blog posts we are examining some tools that will help you create a concrete structure for working on song interpretation. The title of the blog derives from my fascination with the connection between interpretation work and relieving performance anxiety.
Today we will create characters (a Sender and a Receiver) for your story, and talk about how using characters can help you relieve performance anxiety.
WHO is singing?
Who is the Sender?
You can sing the song ‘being yourself’. Or you can create yourself a character. This can be especially helpful if you have to sing a song that feels difficult to relate to, or if ‘singing as yourself’ feels to vulnerable for you.
When you’re creating your character, you could even think of details such as:
- Where does the character come from?
- How old is s/he?
- What does s/he do for a living?
- …and so on.
You get the picture. This is like creating a ‘passport’ or a life story for the character.
Obviously, there will always be a part of you in the character, because you are using your own life experience when you create and play the character.
To WHOM are you singing?
Who is the Receiver?
Who are you communicating with?
In my work with singers, I have found this a helpful tool for many that are suffering from performance anxiety. Having an imaginary Receiver gives you someone/something outside of yourself to focus on while you are singing. Focusing on communicating with the Receiver feels safer for most people than having to focus on the whole audience.
The Receiver can be a character you invent, or a real-life person that you don’t know (some people use historical characters, movie stars or film characters as the Receiver). You can use people from your own life too, but be aware that you don’t cross the ‘emotional safety line’ doing this. It is, for example, not advisable to choose a real-life person with whom you are having an open conflict as your Receiver.
If it feels emotionally safe for you to use people from your own life, go ahead and do so. If it does not feel safe, invent a character that you are singing to. The Receiver is your own secret. You do not have to the audience about your Receiver or about the situation you picture. Remember, these are just tools you use to make your interpretation better, and/or to relieve your performance anxiety.
Can’t I just sing the song to myself?
Singing the song to yourself is not necessarily the best option, because this might result in an introvert performance. Introvert can work well in a recording situation, but does not work on stage. So think of another person, or something else outside of yourself (for example God), to use as your target.
Singing the song to a Receiver will also help you keep the song interesting. Remember the Kenny Werner quote about music being communication? Well, that’s what we want to achieve. The communication (drama) will also be useful in other ways. It will help you remember the lyrics better, and it will help you stay focused on the story. We will talk about creating drama in tomorrow’s blog post.
Listen to these two different versions of the jazz standard ‘You’ve Changed’. What kind of character do you imagine is telling the story? What is the difference between the first character (song version #1 performed by Billie Holiday) and the second character (song version #2 performed by Sarah Vaughan)?
1. ‘You’ve Changed’ performed by Billie Holiday
2. ‘You’ve Changed’ performed by Sarah Vaughan
©2012 Katja Maria Slotte