Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Dancing and singing
My supervisor took issue today with my placing dance under the sub-heading of "Extra-musical features." The thing is, whether or not it is extraneous to music is dependant on the situation. Some music feels wrong without dance, and other music doesn't feel like it can be danced to. In some situations, the first type feels more 'right', and in others, the second fits better. I am busy teaching two 'African' songs to my choir, and I never even entertained the possibility of notmoving to them. For some of the choristers, however, the possibility of having to move and sing simultaneously is terrifying, and a physical struggle. One issue is, of course, that that choir are used to holding their music in front of them as they sing, and that makes moving difficult, if not impossible. I have always had difficulty holding music while I sing. I develop a sore back, and battle for control of my voice when I have music in front of me. When I was in Argentina with the Wits choir, I realised for the first time just how much I do move. Even when I am austensibly standing still, I tap my foot, move my head, sway from side to side, and even bend my knees and back in time to, or in sympathy with, the music. But last night, at the UJ rehearsal, the choir were very still. And my own choir stand very still. The Drakensberg Boys' Choir, on the other hand, move constantly. they sway and bob constantly, and even music that isn't choreographed (as much of their music of all styles is), is hardly still. Singing is such a physical thing. Music is such a physical thing. One of the flute students in this music department moves constantly as she plays, and thinking about it, so do most of the solo musicians I know. And yet, for some people, movement and singing are worlds apart, and difficult to link together. Is dance extraneous to the musical performance? Why do we put such an emphasis on standing and sititng in rehearsals? why do I start every rehearsal with stretching and moving exercises? Why have western choirs traditionally moved so little? Is the text I am working with sound or the whole performance? That last question was really answered for me by choristers bringing what I have hitherto referred to as "extra-musical" features into their discussions of choirs. I some contexts, the issue is the sound, and in others, it is the whole performance. But the fact that the whole performance can influence the sound makes it relevant.