Warming Up

Warming Up

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sing For Your Lives

Last Friday I had the good fortune of attending an excellent day-long program presented by The Philadelphia Music Project: New Frontiers in Singing and Electronic Music.  The morning session speaker panel (singing) featured Bobby McFerrin, Lucy Shelton, and Tanya Tagaq.  The afternoon session (electronic music) featured George Lewis, Morton Subotnick, and Hans Tutschku.  Check out this PDF link for the official brochure which has everyone’s bios and more info on the whole program.  Honestly, I signed up because I wanted to check out McFerrin, Lewis, and Subotnick – I wasn’t previously familiar with the others – but I left that day really impressed with everyone, even if some of their musical pursuits weren’t really my cup of tea.  When artists are passionate about and good at what they do, it shows. 

It was really cool to learn (and listen to examples of) how George Lewis has created a machine that can perform with live musicians (or machines with machines, for that matter).  “It’s easy to do,” he said.  “The hard part is getting the machines to know when to stop.”  Nice.  It was also really neat just to see and hear Morton Subotnick.  His new and interactive music-creating interface looked and sounded awesome.  I unfortunately missed much of what Hans Tutschku presented because I needed to take a phone call (don’t worry – the ringer was off – I’m not a jerk!).  Lucy Shelton sang some Luciano Berio that was just crazy, in a good way.  Tanya Tagaq sang an Inuit song about freezing to death – it was scary and moving.  I actually cried a bit without even realizing it.  Everyone in the room was blown away.  But the thing that really made the day for me was something small that Bobby McFerrin said. 

McFerrin was speaking about how he approaches going out onto the stage: “If the concert starts at 8 I like to get there at 7:59, put on my jacket, acknowledge the Divine Creator for the gifts I’ve been given, and then walk out.”  I like that, although most of my gigs wouldn’t allow that kind of “just made it” arrival etiquette.  Then Bobby said something about us all being lucky to have music in our lives, how important it is, and how we should remember that music is a gift that has been given to us.  Then he said, “Sing for your lives.”  A minute or two later he got up and had to leave for an appointment across town.  Not sure why, but “Sing for your lives” sure meant a lot to me at that moment, enough that I wrote it down immediately.  To me, the statement is literal and figurative.  And the command can be extrapolated to so many other activities besides music.  Singing can just be a metaphor.  Whatever it is that you are passionate about you have to approach and embrace with all the energy you have and then just go for it.  Cooking, writing, figure-skating, stock-trading (a stretch, sure, but someone out there loves it), singing, playing the trumpet.  It’s like the title of that Valerie Wilmer book “As Serious As Your Life”.  That’s how serious this pursuit is/should be.  It’s as serious as it gets.  Acknowledge the gifts you’ve been given then go for it - whatever the “it” is for you.  I like that.  Thanks, Mr. McFerrin.  And thanks for a great day Philadelphia Music Project.        

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