Maybe you’re not like the present author—it’s Amado, this week, by the way; Jascha sends his love, as always—in that words come easy for you. Some people have developed their improvisational ability with language such that they can tell a cohesive and compelling story on-demand. Or even freestyle rap, rhymes and flow and everything.
For those of you like me, not so much.
But there’s a crutch, or a gateway, and maybe it will work for you as it has for me. Sure, there’s no “planning” in improvisation, but what if you were to bring some words with you as you sat down to improvise, and used them like we’ve used images before: as a point of departure, a source of inspiration.
Take haiku, for example. Most people think of it as a three-line form of poetry with a proscribed number of syllables (5, 7, 5) in each line, but that’s actually neither the definition nor a requirement of the form. What distinguishes a haiku is that it is a literary work that takes just one breath to utter, and yet is utterly complete on its own. (I find it a stretch to claim that a single word can be a haiku—but some make that claim.) Many haiku achieve their artistry by presenting just two images, somehow surprising the reader with the second one, and revealing deeper meaning by the choice of what two images are juxtaposed.
But we won’t ask you to write one (unless you wanna). Just to sing.
Your Prompt: Find a haiku (here’s a source, and here) that you like, or (to be a bit permissive) a favorite quotation (another source, and another) of similar length. Print it out, or memorize it. Then get to your singing place, and sing! You can incorporate the words of your selected haiku or quotation into what you sing, or just sing freely—with or without words—on the topic that it calls to your mind.
It’s good to have options. Here are ways to perhaps make the prompt a bit easier, or ways to go a bit further with it.
Option A: You Have Words, So Sing Them – For an easier stretch, go the route I have gone this month. Since you’ve gone to the trouble to find some words, let yourself sing the words you found. Let the improvisation be in how you sing them, in your exploration of what rhythm or notes make the words feel most natural and potent in your instrument. Intersperse them with other sounds, personal scat language; return to them, repeat them, play with them. But allow for the words to be a part of what you sing.
Option B: Singer -slash- Author – For a deeper stretch… planning in improv. Try your hand at haiku authorship. Go someplace—bodily, or in your mind’s eye—and observe something in full presence and focus. Write that observation down in one deft utterance. Revisions are permissable. And if it doesn’t take the form of two images juxtaposed in a surprising way, or fit in three lines written short, longer, short, so be it. Get to your singing place, and sing inspired by what you wrote.
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing your song inspired by words.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, May 30, 2016.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about 2 to 5 minutes, or however long you need to sing your song.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece—and how it felt.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-haiku]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-haiku” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “Prompt 70: Haiku.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org. You can join the SSS at https://soundcloud.com/groups/society-for-spontaneous-singing
Thank you, sweet singers!