Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tom Carter’s “Choral Charisma”

I really do read other blogs besides the inestimable Dr. Garnett.  But she blogs often, and about things I’m interested in…

Like her comments on this book by Tom Carter, Choral Charisma: Singing with Expression.

I definitely need to get hold of it.

Even before getting the book, I can read the website, which is full of information–and some of it, once I go through it, seems to answer (for me, at least) Dr. G’s primary question: can a choir, a group, really display “charisma,” or are they just expressing/reflecting a conductor’s charisma?

Carter’s site says:

The bottom line is this: IF the singers are actively engaged in trying to affect their Other, and have fleshed out the text in a meaning-filled way, the director can relax their emphasis on the facial and physical cues. When a choir of unified expressive artists joins forces with their conductor, there’s so much more potential for transcendent music-making (as compared to the the traditional “I LEAD/you follow” directing paradigm).”…

I’d say, yes, that kind of charisma is exactly what he is advocating and working on.  And it’s exactly what I’ve been trying for years to address with my groups, not really knowing how or having the right tools in my box. And I have this feeling (having read the site and not the book) that he’s not even talking about the ensemble developing a single group-charisma as he is each individual using his or her own personal charisma at the same time and toward the same end.

I do get a little hung up on his frequent talk about “emotion” as the goal/vehicle. Emotion is one of those dicey words; we use it a lot, everyone thinks they know what it is, but I’m not convinced we all have the same definitions.  I personally think it’s ultimately less about emotion than about connection, although emotion is a tool we can use, perhaps, to get there. I love the “safe space” and trust-building priorities he holds up, although I’d be unlikely to use a set of tools as talky-oriented as his seem to be; God, the amount of time it’d take, and most singers I know would feel deeply dis-respected to have so much of their singing time taken up by non-singing activities.  For myself, I’d probably head more in the direction of ritual identity building and liminality and such, cloaking the trust-building work under the guise of “useful” rehearsal prep…but it’s an important aspect of building an ensemble and so few of us take the time to do it.

(Maybe it’s just that I have problems expressing emotion. :-)) (No, that’s not it…I just don’t think they are the be all end all that some think they are.)

Anyway, this is definitetly a book–and a pedagog–I’m going to need to learn more about.

Rejections don’t have to be warm and fuzzy, but…

Joy #1: the publishing house holds onto the manuscript so bloody long that by the time they send the letter 6 months later telling you whether they are interested or not, you’ve forgotten you even sent anything. You think it may be a happy letter about something unrelated.  Or a check. Yeah, a check would be nice…

Joy #2: it’s a form letter.  They are, in prose, very polite about “thank you for submitting your piece of music for our consideration” and “unfortunately, we are not able to accept your submission at this time” and “We wish you all the best” and all the typical form letter B.S. one comes to expect, if not for its sincerity, then for its courtesy and ritual qualities.

Joy #3: so you read down to the bottom, where it has in bold type: “Piece Rejected: Some Pretty Choral Thing About Jesus?”

Why bother writing a polite and courteous form rejection letter if you’re then going to put at the bottom, in bold type, Rejected! We reject you! We do not simply decline to publish, we outright REJECT! REJECT REJECT REJECT!

Or maybe I’m being oversensitive.



Here I sit at the library…again…

…and again I can’t quite bring myself to buckle down and write this damn manuscript.

Slow going.

Is it that I’m inherently lazy? Or that I need a vacation, the kind of actual shut-down-the-brain-don’t-have-to-concentrate-on-anything-substantive-for-at-least-a-week thing I almost never get? Vacations themselves are exhausting.  “Days off” are exhausting. This past weekend, spent almost wholly with family and kids, was tremendous fun but draining beyond belief.  I wish my husband “got” it; I’m a person who just sort of needs some calm quiet solitude time to recharge, and these weekends spent at the school picnic Friday night and the Heifer fair Saturday morning and the birthday pool party Saturday afternoon and the Naper Settlement Sunday afternoon and the Riverwalk after that, followed by Family Charades after dinner (which I cooked), is absolutely knackering.  (Charades? Really? Did we have to do charades? After a weekend like that, would an hour in front of the TV have been so bad?)

I’m just so damn tired. I want to sit down on the couch and watch 7 or 8 hours of some crappy syndicated TV show until my brain turns to a puddle. But I have this manuscript staring down my back, with deadline rapidly approaching.


There isn’t enough coffee in the world.  Coffee doesn’t do it at all. Anyone know where I could rent a sensory deprivation chamber for the week?

The Day Draws Near…

I am officially two weeks from being Gainfully Unemployed.

And 4 weeks after that, school starts.

Last time I was a grad student I was single, living in a tiny apartment with crappy furniture, eating ramen noodles and peanut butter (sometimes off a spoon, near the end of the month when I was waiting for the TA stipend check and didn’t have money for bread), and blowing off way more than I should have of the work I was doing.

Now I’m married, live in the burbs in a reasonable-sized house with less crappy furniture and a husband and two kids and two dogs. I don’t eat ramen, and my kids don’t like peanut butter. I have a partner who brings home a fairly decent paycheck, so we should be able to make this work.

Best piece of advice I got from someone else who did grownup-go-to-school thing: he said, treat it as your full time 9-5 job regardless of what your class schedule is.  Go in the morning, stay all day, work all day, and then go home. Do your reading, studying, practicing, preparation, etc. during the hours you’re not in class. Go to your 8:15 class, and then at 9:00 when it’s done, go study in the library till your 10:30 class. Get your reading done over your sandwich, and go to the 1:30 rehearsal. And so on. Then you can have a semblance of a family life when you’re not actually on campus. I’m hoping this will work, because that makes perfect sense to me.

I’m a mom.  Within 8 months of giving birth I realized that I somehow had magically gained the skill of doing in 20 minutes what used to take an hour, and in 30 minutes what used to take 2 hours. Even with the crazy two-ensembles-5-hours-each-per-week-for-only-half-a-credit idiocy with which every music student has been plagued since the beginning of time, I should be able to do this.