A question occurred to me this week that I found interesting. It’s all well and good—necessary, even, I would say—to deepen what we’re capable of expressing through our art. Likewise it’s valuable to raise our technical proficiency, with our instruments and our musical fluency and, possibly, even the technology aspects. With these skills, we can make good-sounding things that are expertly executed and, if our art is deep, that connect meaningfully with our witness’s experiences.
But what brings listeners back, again and again, to something you’ve made? (That’s the question.)
And, is that even a thing to be desired? Is that a value of yours? (We can discuss that on the FB Group if you like.)
A professor named Elizabeth Margulis has some research on this subject which you can read about here and here if you want; the crux of it is repetition. We like to hear things again because we’ve already heard them again, a number of times. But, to go a step further: why repetition? What about it? And, the suggestion goes, it’s because it gives listeners a chance to participate, in a way, by being able to anticipate in their minds the music that they are listening to.
In a sense, they are singing along, whether they do so out-loud or not. And, coming upon that idea, I found it startlingly beautiful. We can get the world singing just by singing to them, if we do it right.
Your Prompt: Sing something repetitive, with the intention that your listener will shortly become familiar enough with it that they will be soon able to sing along with it. Vary it or depart from it according to your aesthetic sensibilities, but return to it at least a couple of times in the course of your improvisation, giving your listener a chance to join in, whether they do so out loud or not. You may use layers/loops or just stick to the solo vocal line; all we’re looking for here is the occasional return to something that’s familiar.
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: The Sing-Along – Sing something overtly designed for listener participation. Do a bit of advance preparation, if you like, in the form of planning a simple set of words that the sing-along part will use. But at the outset of your improvisation, sing it to us clearly in a melody that flows naturally from you, two to four times. Where you go from there is… try not to be too “good,” too “perfect.” We’re not grading or judging. Just find out where it takes you, before you bring us back to your sing-along melody.
Option B: Your Looper, the Listener – Bobby McFerrin is such a treasure-trove, isn’t he? Here’s a one-minute lesson he gave on how he does what he does; it involves repetition and taking advantage of the same phenomenon we’re working with this week, the listener’s memory banks. You want a deeper stretch? Here’s a deeper stretch: do what Bobby describes here. Yowza.
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 repetitive song.
- 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, November 09, 2015.
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-repeating]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-repeating” 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 41: You Can Say That Again.” 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!