What Moving Day Can Teach You About the Art of Singing Acting

Moving DayThe boxes are piling up in my house, and every time I look at them, I feel a bit of dread in the pit of my stomach.

Yes, it’s moving day, and the anxious, worried feelings I’ve been experiencing are familiar to many of you, I’m sure.

When you’re settled in, everything is comfortable. You know where to look to find things (usually), your routines are well established, and the belongings you’ve accumulated contribute to a sense of stability and well-being.

But no matter how good you think things are, the time will come when you have to move.

And there are also plenty of times when you know that a move would be the best solution to those feelings of dissatisfaction, but you’re afraid or daunted by the prospect.

Moving day will be here any minute for me, and it’s got me thinking (inevitably) about singing-acting, and the way that the typical singing-actor approaches a song.

Beginning to work on a song, everything is new and unfamiliar, like that day when you arrive at a new house or apartment for the first time. Where should I put the TV? Where should I hang the pictures? What color should I paint this room? What’s the best route to take when I commute to work? The number of choices is overwhelming, and to make some quick headway, we make some quick choices, reassuring ourselves, well, I can always go back and change this later.

In the case of a song, this usually means settling on a mood, a tempo, a point of view. We start to paint the world of our song, using a roller and a big bucket of paint to get through the job quickly. We unpack behaviors that we’ve used in the past, and set them up to decorate this new song.

And very quickly, we settle in. After all, it’s easier not to have to think about those choices. If a certain choice works well for the first phrase, then why not use it for the next one? And the next, and the next? And the baggage of past experience, the belongings you bring with you when you “move in” to a new song, means that you often begin your new song with a set of old choices,

And this is, to be quite honest, regrettable, at least when it comes to the singing of songs. When you settle in to a song, when you start to become a creature of habit about your performance, then the life starts to go out of it.

A song, after all, is a journey, and singing a song requires you to go on that journey as if you were taking it for the first time. Sure, many of the landmarks will be familiar, but for a performance to have authenticity, it must create the impression that you’re experiencing these insights and feeling these feelings for the very first time.

And taking a journey is all about moving, not keeping still. If you’re encumbered by accumulated belongings, if you’re constrained by fear and anxiety that the the place you’re going couldn’t possibly be as good as the place you are now, your ability to move through the journey of a song, or the journey of a life, is compromised.

So here’s a couple suggestions that you can implement to bring greater specificity and authenticity to your work, insights I’ve gleaned from my recent preparations for moving day:

1. Travel light.

Don’t let yourself get weighed down by belongings, or by excess baggage. Wisdom comes with experience, but don’t let the past become a burden. Purging accumulated beliefs, notions and behaviors will leave you feeling buoyant and liberated.

2. Don’t get stuck in one place.

This is especially true when you’re in the middle of a song, and it’s time to make a change at the beginning of a new phrase or section. When the ding comes, treat it as a welcome opportunity to get un-stuck.

3. Don’t fear the change.

This is hard to remember when you’re in the middle of a phrase that’s working well. You feel good, you sound good, and you think to yourself, there’s no way that I could sound and feel this good if I do something different. Such fears are groundless, and there’s inevitably some new discovery that awaits you just as soon as you make the change.

4. Pay attention to your new surroundings.

When we become creatures of habit, we don’t see the possibilities around us in our environment. Moving day is the ultimate disruption to habit, and we need to learn to be grateful for such opportunities. Explore your new place eagerly, embrace its unfamiliarity and relish the ways that it’s different from where you were before. New songs offer such opportunities, but even more importantly, they’re built into every new phrase. Entering a new phrase is like walking into a new room; look around, check out your surroundings, try out its possibilities.

5. Mix things up.

Try something different just for the sake of the change. Honest, it won’t kill you. Let yourself be ornery and curious and random and find out what’s possible when you deliberately make a change.

Singing-actors, like all artists, run the risk of being overwhelmed by the tyranny of the quotidian. The routine, the repetitive, the everyday – these bring comfort and order to our lives, but there’s no underestimating the value of change. Otherwise, we become prisoners of our habits and the fears that have led us to form those habits. At the grand “macro” level, that can mean pulling up stakes, packing your belongings and moving to a new home or a new town; at the “micro” level, it means being willing to disrupt your routine, try something different, look for a new approach when a new phrase presents you with a new opportunity to make a new choice.

Moving day makes me a little crazy, yes, but it’s worth it. The change is good, and forces me to rethink a lot of choices that I’ve settled into simply for the sake of convenience. Life is a journey, and the SAVI Singing-Actor can learn a lot about the “journey of the song” by paying attention to life’s little lessons – don’t you think?

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  1. Hi, Charlie
    Where are you going? Moving ( the last time) was one of the most traumatic events of my life. We lived in our little pre-Civil War house for twenty years. Raised our kids there. I wrote an essay about it called “House For Sale” (if you Google me, you’ll see in on the first page). As a French friend said to me, “Courage pour le demenagement.”

    1. Hi Claudia, and thanks for your post. We’ve moved to a new place just two blocks away from our former home. The move has been exciting and exhausting, but slowly a sense of order is starting to emerge at the new place. Thanks for your kind words!

      1. Hi, Charlie!
        I just saw this. I’m glad that things went smoothly for you. I think that things would have been easier for us if we had moved around the corner! We only moved a few miles away, but it’s a completely different community. Btw, I love D’Arcy’s Speech Diva posts!

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