I would like to really go out on a limb here and talk about resonance. While I am fascinated with the study of vocal acoustics and the relationship of physics to the sounds we make as singers, that is not exactly where I am going on this post. I’m going to explore a more spiritual and emotional aspect of resonance
"Resonance: the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object." Merriam Webster Dictionary
"Intensification and enriching of a musical tone by supplementary vibrations"- from Scott McCoy's Your Voice: An Inside View
"The spontaneous amplification, reinforcement, or prolongation of vibration when another vibration of the same frequency is applied to it" – Clifton Ware from Basics of Vocal Pedagogy
I had a profound realization several years ago regarding resonance as it relates to our performances and our interaction with our audiences. But it goes beyond that. In fact, it relates to every aspect of our lives as we live in the world and interact with everything around us.
My original questions/musings were:
What “creates” an expressive performance?
How do performers “move” their audience?
What makes a moving and expressive artist?
Can we teach students to “move” their audiences?
Full disclosure: This is something that I struggle with. I sing beautifully. However, I often get so tied up in my head about singing beautifully, and the items I am juggling (not literal items…I’m not about to juggle bowling pins onstage while singing - thank you very much!) that I cut myself off from my audience. I once had a teacher tell me I was “too smart” to be a good singer. It wasn’t a very constructive thing to say. Teachers - I don’t recommend using this approach. What I think he meant was that I was too analytical. I lacked the presence in the moment to connect to my audience.
My realization was that this connection is actually resonance. I don’t mean formant tuning. I am talking about “stirring the hearts,” “plucking/pulling the heart strings,” or moving the audience. I do think that the turn of phrase regarding the heart having strings is actually very apt. When we are fully present in our performance our heart and brain coherence create fields of energy (spontaneous amplification, reinforcement and prolongation of vibration) that interact with the audience members who are open to this resonance (another vibration of the same frequency). Our beings are actually vibrating with the frequencies of others. This is resonating with others. This could be what we feel when we are MOVED in a performance.
Personally, I approach every performance with a sense of gratitude. The last several concerts I performed before the pandemic (Handel’s Messiah with Santa Fe Symphony, Winter Season concerts with Santa Fe Desert Chorale, a Bach cantata in Albuquerque, and song recitals of Mahler, Rorem, and others in Portland and Santa Fe) I approached as if they were the last concerts I would ever sing. Each time I sat on stage or in the wings I contemplated “What if this is the last performance I sing?” (Little did I know how our world would be shattered due to Covid-19.) Before and during these performances I visualized my field of energy directly impacting the fields of others. I have to say, while none of these were technically flawless performances, they were true highlights of my career. In the song recitals in particular I felt present, joyful, and totally in-sync with my collaborators (Ingela Onstad, Chuck Dillard, Deb Ayers, etc.)
How does this apply to you young singer? How does this apply to you voice teacher?
Singers - visualize your sound, your heart, your energy, your field, your soul vibrating in harmony with others.
Teachers - en-“courage” courage and openness in your students. Create an open and supportive environment in your studio. Allow your students the space to be present, and be present with them. Resonate with your students.
Some folks might find this blog post to be a little new age-y. To that I say - “Well, I am just gonna take my crystals and go home!” ;-)