Friday, July 2, 2010

Aids to Memory ...

In the past I have attended folk clubs where the use of paper was frowned upon.
The idea was, “If the song is worth singing, then commit it to memory before you perform it!”
I used to share that opinion, but read on ...

At CFC we regularly see enthusiastic participants come along armed with great ring-binders full of musical material that must have taken decades to amass. I am full of admiration.
We have one performer who regularly scrolls through a hand-held computer to find the words. Once we witnessed someone who sang from text saved on a mobile phone. On another occasion a performer even sang while accompanying himself by music reproduced by such an invention of the evil one. That was novel, and amusing!

In youth I would have scorned such activity as being 'unauthentic', but age has tempered that opinion.

Oh, how frail we become; how transient those neurones, ganglia and synapses!
Along with my eligibility for a bus-pass, the persistence of memory has become a myth - nothing more than a surrealist painting, of great value, by some Catalan guy whose name I've already forgotten.

So, if you need paper, by all means bring it. After all, that’s why we provide a music stand. However, the club has no intention of supplying computers and portable communication devices for all to use.

A word of advice here, from my own limited experience ...
If you’re going to perform from memory, shut the book or leave the paper at home.
Just 'go for it'!
If you need to resort to paper, or other aids to recollection, that’s fine. Rely on it, because you know that you transcribed it in a rare interval of sobriety. Concentrate on in throughout your performance.
So often have I come along with a piece of paper that I regard as a 'safety net', then thought, “I know this!”
Such self-confidence is always misplaced. I hit the ‘block’. My cortical neuro-transmitting chemicals fail.
I go back to the paper. (Now where did I put it?)
I search my pockets for my mobile phone, only to discover I've brought the TV remote control instead. (That'll sabotage Jane's viewing of Eastenders!)
Then I realise I’ve left my spectacles at home. (Anyway, where was I in that text?!)

Oh, this folk-singing thing is such a hazardous undertaking!


parkingspaceman said...

I think we need a new 'category': "literary incontinence". What DS&W is saying could be expressed succinctly thus:"We used to 'have' to sing from memory, but not any more. A variety of memory-aid devices is acceptable. My advice: do it from memory, or from the memory-aid medium, but don't try and mix them, it doesn't work."

parkingspaceman said...

Salvador Dalí, but 10 points for remembering that he was Catalan, gràcies (pronounced with the 'c' as an 's', the Catalan way). May your giraffe burn forever, brightly.

Dogsbody, Scrivener and Wretch said...

I concur with your explicit summary, PSM, (or MwP, as you will.)
Isn't 'literary incontinence' the same as 'inconsequential waffle'?
I really don't mind.
Oh, yes, wasn't Salvador Dali the strange chap with a latex wife?

London Apprentice said...

Surely it is far better to use an aide memoire than to break down without delivering the whole song/item. That is just frustrating for performer and listener alike.

Of course it's more convincing if you appear to perform from the heart and memorising would help that "act."

However, stumbling and corpsing tend to ruin the delivery and if there's even a small risk of that then surely the use of a "device" or tool is justified.

What comes easily to one can be out of the reach of another. We need all the performers we can get and anything that gets in the way of that is best avoided. I prefer to consider "genuine endeavour" when it comes to assessing the merits of an item.

Dogsbody, Scrivener and Wretch said...

"Genuine endeavour" - I really like that.
I thank both PSM and London Apprentice, who have summarily encapsulated my meandering thoughts.
Advancing age brings maturity, tolerance, forgiveness, morbidity, wrinkles and failing short-term memory!
I still, however, have to get to grips with the mobile phone - now where did I put it?