Mudcat Café message #907337 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57624   Message #907337
Posted By: Sam L
11-Mar-03 - 10:43 AM
Thread Name: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
Subject: RE: Do you need to *believe* what you sing?
I think it was Martin Luther who said Why should the devil have all the good tunes.

Since I like fiction, and tend to include "true stories" in that category, I don't need to "believe" something to sing it, but I have to identify with it somehow, or I don't want to sing it, or have any idea how to do it. I'm not a fan of monotonous earnestness in folk or anything else, and I think being all swept up with personal passion will usually make a singer less convincing, rather than more. I've written first-person songs that I don't want to be identified with the "I"-- although they also aren't in a spirit of ridicule. I have trouble commiting to some lines in some songs I like, usually because they seem to me to be arch, contrived, or out of the general tone or psychology of how I understand the song.

   In good fiction, you don't identify with the "hero" or what they say or think, by projecting your face into a their face-hole for a childish photo, dressed up as the hero in a story-book. You identify with the creative mind that made it, to the extent you can, because that's what's real in fiction. And ideally there's a sense of shared discovery, rather than some self-appointed sage or saint lecturing at you. It may be illusory sometimes, but I like it.

   So, if the singer discovers something in a song, and can convey it, there you are.

   The stuff about not loving the world is in the new testament, as I read it, and people may understand it different ways. Someone may well take it to mean Sing tunes, but not any bouncy, fun ones. And to judge from some church picnics, it may also seem to mean Eat cookies, but only the most awful, uniformly tasteless ones you can find. I suppose it's a sort of measured, careful, compromise with the world. Okay then, I guess that's one way to do it. But I'd rather get these local chocolate chip cookies... I think you have to go to confession afterwards. And I resist them altogether, when I have the strength.

I think there's a certain intensity of identifying with material that is tied to "star" quality in some performers. Something drives them to find just the right tempo, build dramatic moments, resist overdoing things, or else they're willing to overdo things and can unexpectedly commit afresh to old cliche's, whatever--they find interesting qualities. It seems to me some people are reliably more interesting to listen to, apart from any techniques or any other particular kind of know-how. And others of us can do everything "right" and still make it come out wrong.