Number 5, June 15, 2021
What Is “Authentic Emotion” in Song Performance?
Authentic or “Organic” Emotion
In my theatre days, my fellow students of the acting craft and I placed a lot of importance on what we called “organic emotion.” We kept our eyes and ears peeled for performances that were filled with empty gestures, posturing and histrionics, often referred to in a derogatory way as “chewing the scenery.” You’ve probably seen singers perform and you can tell they don’t really feel the words they’re singing. What’s happening is that they are replacing real feeling with physical indications of an emotion. This process of indicating is very different from allowing yourself to FEEL the pain, the joy, the fear, the sadness, the love. The first is empty, and the second is the profound, might I even say “transcendent?”
We use the word “organic” because it means “real,” not processed. In performance art, the word is used to describe the use of real emotions, connections made with the characters in the song using empathy. We don’t talk enough about empathy in today’s world. Empathy allows us to feel what someone else might be feeling and feeling it for ourselves. Through the use of your empathy, you can actually “take a walk in someone else’s shoes.” Empathy in expressive art comes to the aid of authenticity. You don’t have to “be” the person in the song, but you can feel what they are going through with the use of your empathetic imagination. When you are expressing yourself this way, your work has authentic emotion.
In my singing work, I always keep strictly to the practice of dipping down into the real emotions I feel myself, accessing the imaginative realm where I connect with the characters’ stories, whether tragic or joyful, and let myself feel these things while I sing. As yourself: how is it for them (the song’s characters)? Have I ever felt that way before, from a similar circumstance? You don’t have to be literal with the circumstance, but you do have to be real with the feelings. Your feelings have roots inside your heart and they go deep for you. Dip down into where they are, allow them to be in the room. This is the authenticity you need to put a song across with real truth, real depth.
So: know the story, feel the message, let yourself get into the story, the characters – let the emotion drop in, then open your mouth to sing! Someone once said to me, and it’s so true – “It’s powerful because it’s real.”
See you next time for a discussion about approaching performance anxiety and more!
Thanks for reading!
Blessings and love,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. Susie has taught workshops since 2018 at California music camps RiverTunes and Vocáli Voice Camp. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. Visit Susie’s Website HERE
VOICE NOTES: A FOLK DIVA’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Number 5
A twice-monthly blog on topics of voice production for Folk, Bluegrass and Americana styles.