The wall. The invisible wall that some people put up between themselves and the rest of the world. That wall. It is protection… and it is distance. It can be both good or bad, depending on the situation. But as a singer you do NOT want to put up that wall between yourself and your audience. Since once you’re in the habit of putting up that wall between yourself and the world, it is a very difficult task and a very slow process of tearing it down again.
The wall is protection… something to hide your emotions behind and help prevent emotions from escaping… and it also prevents people from getting too close and see “the real you”. It’s real handy in some situations… but it is devastatingly bad if you are a singer. As a singer you will need to connect with your audience. You want your audience to see “you”… and the way to do that is NOT to put up an invisible wall between yourself and the audience.
Singing is very personal. It is YOUR voice you’re working with after all… and sometimes it might feel a bit too personal, and then it is very tempting to put up that wall, that safe distance, between yourself and whoever is on the other side. NEVER fall for that temptation, since no good will come of it in the end… I promise.
I am one of those people who put up walls. I don’t want to, but I do. It happens automatically and I have probably been doing it for years without realizing what it is that I am doing. And now, when I have realized that the wall is very real and there, I have begun the arduous task of tearing it down, or at least reduce it. It is very slow going, and extremely frustrating work. Especially considering that my artistic expression is suffering from that wall.
Through the years I have been in the habit of repressing negative emotions. When they appear, I push them as far down as they can go and then I put a lid on them. This is not exactly optimal, since sooner or later that lid is going to blow due to the pressure from all those bottled up emotions… and that will release a storm that I won’t be able to handle.
I wish I was able to react emotionally every time I get angry, scared, happy or frustrated… because that way I could redirect or use those emotions safely. I rarely show true negative emotions in public. I don’t know why, and even if I did know why I wouldn’t know how to change it. A friend of mine has advised me to “just let it out”… and I try, but it is frightening. I feel naked, exposed and very uncomfortable. Which is bad… if I can’t let my emotions out in my everyday life, I won’t be able to let them out on stage either.
But sometimes things spill over… and it usually happens when I have been under a lot of pressure and stress. Today was one of those days.
We’re having a guest teacher visiting us this week, a fantastic woman called Dorothy Irving. We had a master class with her today and we will have another one, and a seminar, again tomorrow.
For this master class each and every one of us had prepared a contemporary Swedish opera aria. These arias have been quite a challenge for most of us… and I have been completely stressed out over mine. I have been practicing and practicing and I still can’t get it right! I really can’t make sense of the music or the lyrics or anything… and as I feared it all went to hell in a hand basket during the master class today.
We were working on the rhythms (since that was my main problem) and I became increasingly frustrated with myself for not getting it, even though I tried and tried. Dorothy was very patient and kind, but I was just so stressed about everything that I broke down completely.
It has happened a few times before that I have been reduced to a puddle of tears during a master class or a singing lesson, and it usually happens because I am stressed and extremely angry and frustrated with myself. This was no different.
I wasn’t able to compose myself enough to continue… I couldn’t put up the wall… there was nowhere for me to hide. I was standing there, in the auditorium, in front of all the other singers, crying… and I survived.
My friend came up to me afterwards, hugged me and said: “Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be sadistic or anything, but it made me happy to see you break down in class today. Do you understand why?”
And I do understand why. I know she was happy because I didn’t hide, I didn’t put up that wall… I “let it out”, just like she had advised me to.
It still hurts, and I still feel raw and on the verge of tears every time I even think about that damned aria… but despite what happened, hopefully some small good came of it as well.
I will have a new chance to wrestle with that cursed piece of music again tomorrow… and I am dreading it. Wish me luck!