Communicating Your Artistic Vision
When I'm telling stories about the work I am asked to do all the funniest stories are about the strange descriptions I am given. "Could you just hum for a few seconds under the narration..." or "can you sing like an scared mouse", or "can you produce a sound that could be mistaken for melancholy but is actually a sign of life".
One of the hardest things we do as directors or theatre-makers is explain to other creative people what we want. We use words that we think are descriptive, like melancholy, and assume that they have the same meaning or feeling to other people. We can ramble for ages trying to get our point across, and then we are presented with something that is nothing like what we wanted. But the fault is not with the person who created it, it's with us and our failure to get across our vision.
Let's take the example of asking a singer to "hum something under the narration". What does this actually mean? Humming is a specific term used in vocal exercises. To a singer it's going to imply a certain tongue position and mouth position and a sound that buzzes slightly as it's often used as a resonance exercise. When someone asks me to hum, do they really mean hum or do they mean sing something that doesn't use words? Is it OK to vocalize on other vowel sounds like an "oo" or an "ah"?
What exactly am I meant to hum? Do I hold one long continuous note, am I humming a tune I already know, do I need to make up a new tune? What sort of feeling should this tune invoke? Should I be using high or low notes? Is it meant to match the narration or is it a contrast? Why am I humming, what is the reason we are using a human voice and not an instrument? I am representing a character that the narrator is talking about, or am I the narrator? Or is it all something completely different that I am not understanding? Maybe I'm a bee...
There are so.many questions around something that on the face of it sounds really simple. Lots of the work I'm doing at the minute is by myself at home. I have found that when I'm asked to do something like this that it is best for me to create something quickly and fire it off and ask - is this going in the right direction? I do this before I spend loads of time working on something to discover that it's nothing like what the director wanted. But all this would have been so much simpler if I had been given a better brief to begin with.