Welcome to the Songtaneous Blog

ProfileSongtaneous is where spontaneous singing happens. Once a month, singers (and other creative people) gather to share their voices and their selves while making beautiful, complex and fleeting music. I always learn something about singing and myself when I facilitate Songtaneous. In this blog, I'll share what I learn and experience while traveling in the intuitive, joyful, beautiful, expressive, challenging, abstract world of vocal improvisation.

Questions about Songtaneous and me? Here's "more info".

Hopelessly Devoted

Posted by on Nov 25 2014 | Songtaneous

There’s always a lot to do when you captain your own ship. (An entrepreneurship, that is.) And it can be easy to wander down side roads or to lose focus. So about a year and a half ago, I took this online class centered on business planning. The format of the course talked about dividing your projects into areas of devotion.

Picking areas to which to devote my time and energy made a world of sense to me. It also felt more fluid and forgiving than the action plans and S.M.A.R.T goals of my past. I liked the idea of areas since I like to focus on one thing at a time, but I also liked the idea of being devoted to the projects on which I worked. As I continue my performing/teaching/improvising career, the language seems more and more apt.

Seven years ago, I worked a 9 to 5 6 job that I liked well enough and was pretty good at. My music life and my work life, however, were very separate from each other, too. And consequently the people in my lives were also pretty separate from each other. Now there’s a lot more crossover among the people and areas of my life – students come to shows and audience members show up at community sings. Collaborators become students and instructors become collaborators. The word co-worker has a whole new meaning. (As my friend A says, I get paid to play with other adults. *smile*)

An outsider might look at my current career and see nothing but chaos, but it makes an improvised kind of sense to me. I move through cycles of productivity and work during “windows of momentum.” Start-ups and cool-downs are part of how it all works. I grow and have breakthroughs. And I get to watch other people grow and have them, too. *smile*

I am devoted to singing and singing, in turn, has showered me with more blessings than I can count. I am thankful for all the singers, players and people that my music-making has brought into my life (including you!).

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Being Songtaneous

Posted by on Oct 19 2014 | Songtaneous

This year, I returned to the 33rd annual Women & Spirituality Conference to lead two Songtaneous sessions. Due to my Between project (and life in general) I had been away from the conference for a couple of years. So while I was feeling excited to get into a room full of singers, I was feeling some nerves about facilitating and “making things work” for participants.

Sometimes it’s not about you. *smile*

The two sessions I hosted were completely wonderful and entirely different from each other. Each one was so satisfying and while I think that I facilitated the sessions well, in the end the what happened during the sessions had less to do with me than it had to do with the intention and energy of the singers who showed up.

And, I mean showed up. With their nerves and their shyness about singing in front of others or their lack of experience or their singing trauma. They came in the room willing to sing and supported each other with such ease and joy. I have been taking a class in which we are discussing the power of intention and I could see it here. These women intended to share and connect and build community and we did.

My Saturday singers were energetic and a bit boisterous. In this group of 12-13 singers, we explored harmonizing and holding the rhythmic groove. Friends delighted and flat-out astonished each other with their inventions and ideas, especially when we worked with personal language. We invented music and I shared some of the songs from my Between shows this past winter and some newer songs with the group and they sang beautifully. We sang and laughed til tears came to our eyes and our time together flew by.

Sunday morning was a more intimate group – I sang with four other singers. With this smaller group I got to share more about my own journey with spontaneous singing and the life lessons it helps me discover. I talked about how we make up rules that don’t exist and construct narratives that aren’t necessarily true. How these rules and stories can make us feel stuck and incapable. During one exercises, one of the singers got stuck. We finished the round and then stopped to discuss briefly. When singing spontaneously, I always strive to talk through stuck before it becomes “failure.”

I used the analogy of a closed door and talked about how we all have doors. Sometimes we know about the door, sometimes we see it looming in the distance and other times doors just … appear. I have learned through improvising that there are many workable and wonderful ways to approach a closed door. (And that the goal isn’t always getting through the door. Sometimes it’s what we learn about ourselves as we encounter a door.)

With both groups, I got to talk about how singing together is a model for community making. When we sing in a group, we have to hold our individual parts (identity) while blending with all the others in the ensemble (community).

I was moved when one of the women shared that, in singing with us, she learned why she came to the conference and to my Songtaneous workshop in particular. She shared how the song I had taught them inspired an idea for how she could work with her own poetry using melody, repetition and space. I again felt strongly the force that singing is for me and the wonder and wonders it continues to bring into my life.

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Thinking Up a Plan

Posted by on Sep 28 2014 | Songtaneous

I was talking with my friend C last week and she shared the idea of creating a “thoughtful plan.”

With the workshops that I have been planning, this idea of a thoughtful plan really resonated for me. It took time (and a couple of starts) for me to sort through what workshops to offer and when and how to tell folks about them.

I thought it was because I wanted to work out all the logistics so the singers who participated would have fulfilling and instructive experiences. (It may have also been the teensiest bit perfectionism and stuck, too.)

Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I go to my improvising experience.

Why?

Because I don’t experience stuck the same way when I am singing. It’s not that it never happens, it just doesn’t seem to last as long (or feel the same).

When I improvise, I am creating, but I am not “planning.” I am willing — and able — to release an idea that’s not working or head in a new direction if what is going on around me leads me there.

When I improvise, I plan (ha ha) on being flexible, adaptive and responsive. On interacting. Focusing on that keeps me open and creative.

When I start a new project, I rarely feel flexible, adaptive or responsive. (I’m working on this.)

(As I have shared,) starting can jam me up. I get focused on being efficient and making sure there are no unnecessary steps. (The irony that I can’ t actually know which steps are necessary is not totally lost on me.)

Still, I try to be thoughtful. I want to be efficient. I want to move from step to step, sequentially without any side trips or distractions.

In other words, I get in my head and I can get stuck there. I think (and think and think and think) and it can keep me from acting.

So, while very attractive, the idea of thoughtful planning is a bit of trap for me. It caters to the part of me that would rather keep perfecting an idea than undertake it.

Sure, it’s good and important to plan some things.

And spending time thinking through a plan to see if it can work more smoothly or efficiently or get better results is valuable.

The problem is that my mostly Type A self hears thoughtful plan and thinks “precision” or “perfection.” Thoughtful plans must be neat and orderly, definitely sequential and, most important, completed on time. A thoughtful plan should be efficient and save time.

Thoughtful plans do not contain learning steps or flights of fancy. And there are certainly no do-overs.

Of course, none of that is true.

A plan that is well thought out should allow time for thinking and research and – I hate to say it – mistakes.

A thoughtful plan should be thorough and adaptable, flexible and comprehensive.

Most important, the time you spend thinking during your planning, should help you to ACT.

P.S. I am offering a series of workshops for singers. *smile* You can learn more about them here.

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