Monday, June 3rd 2013
Today I introduced a new song to the group. I thought that we needed something haunting and possibly sad to balance out the boisterous quality of the Sea Shanty that we wrote. I also wanted to choose some material that the group would be interested in singing together. For the moment the group is all-women, and they seem to like ancient stories, particularly those of the Celtic variety. I have been learning a Child Ballad called, ‘The House Carpenter’ – a tragic and haunting love song – and we spent the first part of the session learning this.
I ran into some challenges when I realized that I didn’t know the melody that well. In the recording, I sound like I know what I am singing, but I found that it was incredibly hard to teach when I felt uncertain. This is an interesting facilitation note – even though the melody sounds clear, and should be easy to copy, somehow it got muddy between my mouth and the participants’ ears. I ended up trying out a different melody, with similarly mediocre success.
The other challenge is words – do I teach the entire song, and then return to smaller sections for refinement, or do we painstakingly work to perfect tiny sections? This problem comes up in my individual work, as well. My tendency is to painstakingly work out the details while forgetting about the bigger picture. My work has nuance, but I have a hard time finishing things and I work very slowly. I am beginning to think that it is better to begin with a wide-reaching ‘sketch’, and then hone in on the details. This may result in more work being completed, and the nuance arising as an organic part of the process of producing a high volume of material. It is sort of like writing an essay – it is hard to improve at writing essays when you never finish them.
For the rest of the workshop, we continued to refine our sea shanty. I brought in my trombone and played along: