Friday, December 04, 2015

The Gentle Art of Persuasion


Here are actual opening phrases found in the subject headings of emails still (and probably forever) unopened, in my Inbox.  It's easy to be annoyed, but it's much more fun to laugh.

From my friends at Sears, who specialize in passive-aggression

  • A special surprise!
  • Psst... Friendly reminder
  • OMG (What?!)
  • Did you forget?  
  • (We're serious!)

From my friends at eBay, who just want to be my buddy, guy.
  • Here's an invite!
  • To: You, From: Us!
  • You're in!

From Gardeners Supply, who attempted a pun, then went for full-on guilt
  • Have a Crate Christmas
  • Come back!

From Best Buy, who wins the Grim Reaper award
  • It's Your Last Day!

From Expedia, who employs a Jekyll & Hyde-type strategy
  • Yay!
  • Oh no!
  • Woo-Hoo!
  • Uh-oh!
  • Calling all travelers!
  • Beware, all travelers!
  • Lucky you!
  • OMG Alert!

From Petco, who is convinced I'm too slow for their liking.
  • Run, Don't Walk!
  • Hurry!
  • You Have Until the Stroke of Midnight!
  • The Clock is Ticking
  • THIS. IS. IT.

But despite all the holiday hustle and bustle, it's clear that E! Online remembers the one true reason for the season.
  • Kylie Jenner shows her butt!

Happy December, y'all!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Thinnest Line

One word
Three lives
separated by the thinnest of margins

One Wants
It is consumed with resentment, jealousy, and rage.
It lashes out,
blind to the damage and loss left in the wake
of the fight for what it doesn't have.
There is no consideration of the terrible cost.
Justifications rain down through the destruction it created.
There is never enough.

One Surrenders
It is overwhelmed by sorrow, disbelief, and anger.
It weeps again and again
tears of betrayal, thought to have been fully spent the last time.
Hearts ache
Words of explanation echo dully while 
Words of consolation are impossible to form.
Was it only yesterday?
This enough is too much.

One Lives
It is satisfied with life on this thin line
that separates the too much with the not enough
It dances lightly and breathes contentedly.
It lives a life marked by love and grace.
It is full and rich.
It is enough.

Tell Pharaoh to stop the wars and set the captives free
There is enough.
Call Elijah from the mountain and comfort him
There is enough.
Stop and look around you.
From the starry heavens to the immense earth, beauty surrounds you.
Look in the eyes of neighbor, friend and stranger and see
that life on the thinnest of lines
is enough.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Love the One You're With

Over the many years I've taught singers, I've been a big advocate for songs.  Not any particular song
(though I have my favorites, to be sure) but just, songs.  All of them.  One my my familiar studio speeches is to have my students love the song for what it is.  That is to say, figure out what the composer wanted to express, and then appreciate the message for what it is, and convey it the best way possible.  But make no mistake -- even if you love the song for what it is, you don't have to love the song at all.  You don't even have to like it.  But what you do have to do is understand it and then convey the thoughts and feelings behind it.  To do this convincingly, one must have a wide set of musical skills.  But beyond that lies a greater challenge: the ability to study, learn, and perform any song with a great sense of empathy.

Empathy.  The understanding and sharing of the emotions and experiences of another person.

This is a concept that has been on the decline for quite some time.  The ability to set your feelings aside and consider those of others.  The ability to articulate and share the emotions of someone else.  The ability to share the experiences of someone else.  It's the polar opposite of selfie and in this increasingly self-promotional, hyper-politicized world, I have to admit that I really miss it.

To have empathy for something or someone doesn't mean putting yourself aside.  It doesn't mean you are less important or weak.  Quite the opposite, I think.  It means you are strong enough to look outside your own orbit and recognize there are other thoughts, other people, and other paths.  It might not be your path, or your thought, and that's OK.  In my studio a song might not be your favorite.  Maybe the problem is the poem.  Or the composer.  Or the music.  Maybe the song is too happy. Or sad. Or silly. Or somber. Or long. Or short.  Or boring.  Or weird.  Or atonal. Or monotonous.  It doesn't really matter what too it is.  There are a million reasons not to like something, and generally one  is more than enough for most people.  But when you approach anything with a sense of empathy, you allow yourself the opportunity to step beyond your orbit of existence.  You allow yourself to experience the the feelings and stories of others.  You allow yourself to hear their songs.  You give yourself the chance to understand.

You don't have to love it.  You don't even have to like it.  But to perform with a sense of empathy makes anyone a better artist.  And to live with a sense of empathy makes the world a much kinder place.

One of my least favorite songs.
But I love Purcell, and I have to imagine that
his composition made someone happy for whatever reason that may be.
And so, if asked, I would sing this song with great joy and imagine
my two most favorite words in the whole wide world are "Nymphs and Shepherds"
because they are repeated 95 bazillion times in 2 minutes.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Unconscious Mutterings

I say :: and you think ...

1.  Your point :: is?
2.  Scarf :: winter
3.  Termite :: wood
4.  Willing :: the spirit is
5.  Silk :: scarf
6.  Center :: of attention
7.  Flash :: never works
8.  Warehouse :: crime scene
9.  Costume :: NO
10. Candy corn :: gross

Been awhile, eh?  And guess what?  This was last week's list.  Maybe, just maybe I'll do two today.