March 3, 2013

NaCreSoMo #3: Song-Smithery

It should be so easy, right? Just--create something. Anything. But what happens when you're down to the wire and torn between three creations you want to be working on, and the one that you are required to be working on?

Specifically, I want to be working on NEEDS A BETTER CODE NAME. Barring that, I want to be working on the WIP I'll call ARCH-NEMESIS (see yesterday's post for that reasoning). And barring that, I want to be working on perfecting my piece for an upcoming audition for a local a cappella group.

It's interesting that I hadn't really considered my singing to be an act of creation until (literally) today. In my head, arranging a cappella music counts as creating. As does songwriting. These are two things that I have more than a passing interest in, but have never put in the time and energy to developing real expertise. (That time and energy has been spent largely in the reading and writing sphere, which I don't regret, per se, but it still makes me sad that I am forced to partition time and specialize, thus (for the moment) banishing some of my interests to the "hobby" level.)

Anyway, the acts of arranging and songwriting seem so clearly to be in the vein of creating, while the mere act of singing...does not. But why not? After all, the act of learning a piece for performance, really learning it, means first knowing the original note by note, breath by breath--and then changing it?

I don't watch vocal competition shows (American Idol, The Voice, etc.). But it seems to me that competitors who sing Mariah Carey songs in the style of Mariah Carey are automatically selling themselves short. One cannot hope to be Mariah Carey better than Mariah Carey. One must learn the song--and then breathe their own distinctive personality and style into the notes. Much more interesting than hearing another Mariah Carey impersonator is hearing a Mariah Carey interpreter, someone who takes a song and finds their own individual rhythm within it. (And now I've typed Mariah Carey more times in a row than I've typed ever...)

It's a lesson that as a singer, I don't think I fully learned until very recently. Anyway, that's what I'm attempting to do with this audition piece. Take a song and turn it into my own. And that, in my opinion, is a valid form of creation. (At the very least, I'm spending enough time on it that it darn well better count.)

...But that's something I won't have time to do until at least tomorrow night, because right now I am chained to the creating that I am required to be doing: the writing of five critical essays for my picture book class tomorrow. (I thought today's post would be all about the academic side of my work, the ways in which I'm playing with and interpreting illustration. Instead it's all about the creating I wish I were doing, and the whining I'm actually doing about the creating I have to do right now. One hopes that tomorrow I'll be ready to share some creation-y thoughts on that side of things...)


  1. Just a reminder, but I want to see a video of your audition song, whichever it is that you pick. Though I would recommend (because I know you) PICK ONE and just practice that.

    The distinction or lack of one between performance and creating the materials of the performance is one that I forget most of the time. So thanks for reminding me. I think this is exactly the problem I have with my music. It is not enough to write new songs, but also to practice and create the performance aspect of it as well.

    Can I ask what the topic of these essays might be? Just curious as what academics discuss with regards to picture books.

    1. It's going to be Never Let Me Go. (And I am planning to do a video tomorrow...? Yes...? If I can figure out how to work the recording equipment on this computer...?)

      Vienna Teng was actually the person who really got me thinking about the performance aspect of creation. Can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something about how it took her a long time to figure out how to use her voice as a performance instrument, which got me thinking about people's individual interpretations of song, etc. etc. etc.

      As for the essay topics, I will be talking about those in tomorrow's blog post. (Which will be about today's work... Because I'm tired and going to sleep now.)