Where Has the Craft Gone?

Where Has the Craft Gone?
Sunday musings...

I heard some young performers this week.  It left me angered, dismayed, and frankly exhausted.  Why?  Most of them had simply no craft. 

Craft needs time to build,  and it affects every facet of the singing performer. True craft needs thought, practice, gestation, decision, re-practice, exploration and more!

First and foremost,  the craft of the vocal technical behavior is CRUCIAL to any performer.  Without it there is no place for a song to inhabit physically.  Loud is not technique.  Screaming or yelling is not technique.  How can you move in to inhabit a space that is not yet built?  This is what is exposed when one tries to sing something that is beyond the technical ability of a singer:  the immediate indication that the voice simply cannot handle it physically.  If the physical instrument cannot handle the demands of the material one should not be singing it. Simple.  I don't care if you want to sing it!  If you cannot sing it,  you shouldn't be.  Why expose to the world what you cannot do?  Why expose to the world your lack of awareness of what your voice is capable of? And why show such disrespect to the process?  To the song?  To the composer who wrote it and had an expectation in mind?

There is the craft of the song.  What are the stylistic and musical demands of that song?  Can you meet them?  Are you simply in tune?!?!?  Do you know how to create dynamics with your voice (goes back to that technical behavior doesn't it?!).  Do you know how the structure of the song is created? Are you aware of the stylistic demands of the song, of the show it is from, of the composer who wrote it, of the time it was written?  Do you understand the rhythms, the subdivisions, the phrasing, the shape of the physical structure of said song?

There is craft of language.  Do you know how to shape language with breath and get it into your mouth?  Do you know how to articulate fully? Can you actually discover how the rhythmic and textural rhythms marry each other? And then can you execute it?  Are you continually discovering and re-discovering the detail of this in order for those words to come off the page in a physical way?

There is craft of dramatic intention and character.  Who sings this?  Why?  What is the context stylistically?  What is the subtext?  Where are the dramatic tensions and releases musically? Dramatically?  Texturally?  Where are the dramatic beats?  How are they best physicalized?  How are they best punctuated?  Can you embody this character realistically? Are you able to discover a reality for this dramatic craft to live on stage, or is it simply pretending?  Acting isn't pretending. Acting isn't jazz hands.  Acting is behavior.

So, you see, simply picking a song because you like it, simply isn't a good idea.  Beginning to explore a song because it speaks to you in some way is a BEGINNING.  As you begin to expose yourself to it honestly, you will see if it is truly a good and right choice to be singing now.  It is okay to simply tuck it away for later, or for never.

THIS is where craft begins and develops from.  THIS is what is lacking in the attitude of the "16 bars and a cloud of dust - let me impress you with how loud I can scream".  That is not craft.  That is not singing.

Disregard of the craft, in any of its forms, of anything true in the development of a song shows the lack of authenticity in the so-called performer.  That lack of authenticity only furthers the illumination of someone willing and able to do the work and follow you on stage or in the audition room. 

No matter your talent or your prowess, you have a choice.  You can either slum and pretend to be an artist and expose yourself thoroughly as such, or you can simply get to work and LEARN the craft and begin to develop what you have and what you could have to its fullest.  The work will be authentic and therefore your choices will be real. 

It's your choice of course.  There are so many out there who are willing and able to help you discover. All you have to do is ask, and commit to the work.  What is so difficult about that? 

Craft defies time.  We live in an instant society.  Craft is not.  Are you willing to take that stand and find it,  whatever it takes?  Only you can answer that. 

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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