The Pleasure of Song

There’s a lot of talk these days about digging deep, being attentive to detail and texture, and staying present in the moment. I spend most of my days in dogged pursuit of mindfulness (which I realize is a dismaying contradiction), and I work in an art form that is seriously in love with its big gestures. They don’t call it grand opera for nothing…

In spite of this, an opera singer’s life is surprisingly full of minutiae. Opera lovers are often truly surprised when they learn about the countless hours singers spend exploring vowel colors, examining resonance and placement, and dissecting the way the body handles the column of breath. And that’s just technique.

There’s another whole universe of deep dive called “song.” And in our world, that’s different than the culture of the “aria.” (My colleagues are shaking their heads at this point, acknowledging that the best practices of one are the same as the best practices of another. Yes, I get it. I know. But there’s still an important distinction to be made here, so stand down.)

Once every summer, Steven Blier’s presence at the Trap reminds me of the beauty and revelation to be found at the bottom of well of inhabiting a 4-minute song. Of spending dozens, sometimes hundreds of hours focused on tearing it apart, putting it back together, and shining it until it sparkles so much it hurts.

And our recital singers remind me that they – whose burgeoning careers typically are full of people urging them to honk relentlessly in pursuit of projecting their naked bodies into 2,000+ seat houses – are willing to stand literally 4 feet from listeners and build entire worlds with just their voices, a melodic line, a story to tell, a piano to support them, and the courage to do it.

This early morning post came at you thanks to Steve Blier, Joseph Li, and the singers of The Art of Pleasurereminding us of the pleasure of art and the rewards of song.

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