How to Find Your Artistry – Advice from a Professional Opera Singer

This article deals specifically with the singing performer but can be applied to most other genres and styles.  I speak from my own experience, these are my feelings, my thoughts and opinions on the subject from my perspective.

The challenge can be, where do I begin.  There are of course naturals who just find their own voice right away and don’t need much interfering.  But this was not my case and I kind of had to build from the ground up my experiences with artistry and find my own system to approach making things, creating.

I believe that one should approach a musical score, a blank canvas, a script etc. with the mentality of “I don’t know”.  I don’t know what I am about to make, create. It means relinquishing the reins to the character inside the music or words or still life etc.  Let it tell you who it is.  The irony of creating is that you speak while it speaks.  You paint while it speaks. You play your instrument while it speaks.  You both listen and act (as in take action) at the same time.  The character will tell you its context. It will feed you its emotions and mentality; all its pains, all its love, all its happiness, all of its frustrations. If you’re playing the cello, let the melody tell you what to do. Don’t impose dynamics, don’t impose articulations. The artistry lies in lack of “artistry”.  Don’t shape. Let the character tell you what to do.  And you don’t know the character, none of us do.  The character speaks for itself.  If we impose we ruin the moment, we ruin the individuality of the moment.

Now how does this relate to the performer, the human put in the circumstance of expressing someone, something.  The character you are reading, perceiving boils up inside of you.  It calls upon all of your own experiences, your own pains, your own feelings, your own life as clay. It boils up inside you.  You change, the performer changes, it’s one of the great thrills of performing.  It is intimacy. Your artistry and performance come from your blood, not from your mind.

Again, the irony is that the performer or artist is discovering as the audience is discovering, at the very same moment.  The beauty of this is that the performer can go into a performance essentially without fear, without nerves, without anxiety.  Their job is no longer to replicate something they have done in practice, some high point in rehearsal.  They don’t know as much as the audience doesn’t know. So you are equal to the audience, not a slave to them.

On educators.  There is a real problem with educating the performer, the artist. The simple answer for an educator is to tell; do this dynamic, this is the more appropriate color to use, this is who the character is, now play it that way.  The student loses the critical experience of finding this out for themselves, for deciding this for themselves, for making this decision, intuiting this decision and finding a way to act on it.  The student never learns how to problem solve.  From my perspective answers cannot be given because there are no answers.  It is up to the student to decide and the educator’s job is to help show them how.

Every piece of poetry, every instrumental piece of music, every still life, every medium has a character; a deep deep soul from which the abstractions flow.  And of course as these principles apply to characters they also apply to us.  To our own nature.

 

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