To Start

After two terms of coursework, I’m embarking on the actual thesis creation intensive. So now this whisper section now becomes a place to document a process. In the winter term, I took two courses from the theatre department. One was a devised performance based/as research course led my Kim McCleod and the other was a somatic practice course led by Mark Lipton. These two courses were incredibly transformative and I want to integrate the discoveries made there into my thesis production. In this entry, I will try to document some of the fundamentals I picked up in order to consolidate them.

There is a constant overpressure to fit ourselves into boxes. I struggle with being a writer, a singer, a teacher, and now a researcher. But isn’t it these moments where we move between or create connections, or best: synthesis where we really thrive? My old design teacher at Ryerson, Mr. Solovski, used to refer to gestalt as a worthy end goal. The practice-based research course gave me this space where those jobs come together. I devised a performance where I was able to practice improvisation techniques and dig into some of my fears and barriers around vocal performance and improvisation in particular. This was all in the context of exploring the improvisation of gender as a jazz singer. I’ll post the paper I produced soon in the Speak category of this blog. Maybe the sing…?

The PaR course gave me a wonderful set of production tools -devising tools, I suppose. First is reading and researching as sources for performance. When an academic article really gets you, as Sherri Tucker’s “Bordering on Community: Improvising Women, Improvising Women-in-Jazz” did, I can ask myself “what does this theory look like? What does it sound like?” towards a devised performance. So now there are sources everywhere.

This also tied in with the somatic practice course. So much of my work as a singer is this very intimate relationship it requires of me with my body. I had to acknowledge that I love this part of being a musician even though it also makes me vulnerable to objectification. I’m really committed to acoustic, organic sounds in my music production. I recognized that part of my artistic process is to maintain a positive relationship with my body, as well as my voice, or my ephemeral creative soul. This realization was very grounding.

So I’ve started this deep listening practice based on work from Pauline Oliveros. It begins with the embodied practice of yoga and Qi Gong moves, followed by a mindfulness meditation and then some recording, either on paper or by an audio recorder. This week, I’m moving to different spaces and trying to respond to the environmental input. I’m gathering sketches for future compositions, and I feel like it’s producing some legitimate material. It certainly has pushed me out of my fears and blocks towards making original music again.

I’m also gathering with a group of local musicians who wish to practice circle singing. This group is led by Jane Lewis who is studying Rhiannon’s “All In” technique in facilitation. It is a wonderful practice to stretch outside my own reflective improvisations and practice improvisation where I am accountable to others.

I really hope that soon I feel stable and free enough to be able to put some improvisation into my performances. Stay tuned….

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