I have always been interested in drawing and fine art and so often my trips to art exhibitions have produced interesting reflections on my singing and teaching. Visual perception is so complex and our colour awareness is such a valuable skill which we can relate to vocal timbre. I have just started a drawing class and although my attempts are rather feeble I have been learning a lot about the relationships between the visual features of a face or a body. I know that my visual perception can be rather skewed. I just cannot see that the space between the nose and the ear might be different to the space between the shoulder and the ear etc. etc.
So that got me thinking about aural perception and the relationship between notes, intervals etc. and how often I can get those wrong when I am sight singing. I have been trying to work with my little village choir on interval awareness, using some of the ideas from Aalborg and so often it is just a question of pointing out (as my drawing teacher does with me) that it is a step note or a third or part of a triad. It’s the relationships between patterns that is important.
I have always been an ‘interactionist’ and the older I get the more I can see that the relationships hold the key. So now when I am teaching someone singing out of tune I will think about my own drawing skills and try and help them to see the relationships between the notes rather than talk about tuning which can so often make people feel inadequate and they usually sing worse!
Next week I am off to sing in Santiago de Compostela so I will be talking about that I’m sure. One of the things when I sing in different places that I am always struck by is how the acoustic and feel of a space seems to affect not only my aural perception but my physical sensations as I sing. The connection between space and song is underestimated and yet I know from my own research that the very best singers always talk about singing in terms of space and movement. It is all to do with flow that magical quality that we know when we get it but which is so intangible. Csikszentmihalyi was the great psychologist with the amazing name that did all the research on ‘flow’ – the trouble is that I can never spell his name or pronounce it!