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Like the first time, every time

Last week I had an incredible voice lesson with Noah Drew and got my mind completely blown. At the end of a 90 minute session I sang ‘Defying Gravity’, which I’ve sung many times. I’m telling you, I felt like I had never sung it before. At least, I felt like I had never truly connected with it before. Wow.

Here’s what I learned that offered me that experience: I learned how to *really* be present. I know, I know, we talk about being present all the time, and we think we know how. Before this lesson, I thought that being present meant that I noticed things, appreciated them, took in the details and such. But I was missing a piece; I wasn’t allowing completion of the ‘circle’ between me and the other thing/person. I was giving my attention to something and noticing things about it, but I wasn’t inviting anything to come back to me. By looking at something (I tried objects first, but of course it works with people too) and inviting it to affect me, I was completing the circle. I gave up control, said to the tree/bike/crow/raindrop – what have you got for me? And then I took whatever it ‘offered’ (i.e. the meaning that sprung immediately into my mind), and let that change the sound of my voice – I allowed myself to be in relationship with the tree/bike/crow/raindrop. I became present. Here’s where it gets REALLY interesting…

Every time we sing a song, we combine what we’ve prepared (lyrics, notes, dynamics, story, etc.) with whatever is going on in the moment… or we don’t. I’ve probably been guilty of this every single time I’ve sung a song for my whole life until last week. We bring our preparations, and we stick to them with rock-hard stubbornness. We sing the RIGHT notes, with the RIGHT words, in the RIGHT way. All. According. To. Plan. Never mind what’s actually happening – what we might feel (nervous, anyone?), how our audience or co-performers are reacting to us, how much the glare of lights is blinding us – we stick to the plan.

When we so stubbornly stick to the plan, we unconsciously decide that the truth of the moment (I’m nervous! I don’t like those lights! Why don’t you think I’m funny? I’m worried about that high note!) is not fit to offer our audience. We decide to offer them a facade instead: the two-dimensional byproduct of our planning and preparation. THIS IS A MISTAKE! They don’t give a damn about your plan – the best you can possibly do is impress them, but you won’t really connect because you’re not letting them in.

So – try this! It uses objects, which I find easier to practice on than people. ;) Using a song you know well, break the lyrics down into tiny chunks. For each tiny chunk of lyrics, close your eyes, open them and let them land on an object, and look for some way that that object relates to the lyrics. Get it? We’re constructing meaning in the present moment, with what’s really there, and connecting it with our song lyrics. For example, I’ll use the opening lyrics of Defying Gravity, with some stuff I can see around my studio.

‘Something has changed within me’ – wind chime – there are some new tinkling sounds happening within me, sounds I’ve never heard
‘Something is not the same’ – toaster – once bread is toasted, it’s never the same again. I’ll never be the same again.
‘I’m through with playing’ – bottle of shiny pink kids’ paint – I’ll never use that shiny pink shade again, that’s for little kids
‘By the rules of someone else’s game’ – sheet music – those dots on the page are just rules; that’s not music! I’m going to do what I want!

Get it?? The magical thing is that the possibilities are endless. The mind has an infinite ability to create associations. And guess what? The act of associating things to other things creates meaning. And THAT, my dear friends, is being present. Right. Now.

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