Janine Ulfane, 25 January 2015

Present: Janine
Matthew, deviser
Guleraana, director and producer Emma, director of musicals
Kitty, maker and improviser David, lyricist and librettist

My name is Janine and my question is : What is the purpose of the song?

I am an actor and producer. I always loved musicals growing up and have decided I want to produce one. In searching for a vehicle and in watching lots and lots of musicals, I realise that I understand less and less the purpose of the song. I know that a song may express an emotion. But why do we need to sing it? And what changes us- when we do? Do we listen differently as an audience member when sung to? What changes in the performer when he moves from speech to song? What alchemy? Is there a molecular change that happens in the body and soul of the performer that is picked up and reflected in the listening audience?

What about the moment of shifting from the spoken word and into the song? What needs to happen in that moment theatrically to encompass the change? Can it be transformative? Can it cause the song to happen?

So how does song shift the telling of the story and how the audience experience it and how does it feel for the performer who is telling his story through song?)

I hope you can help me to unravel the mysteries of the song and why?

Kitty: There is non verbal stuff that happens in the music. It’s a turning point. Time is suspended.

David: It crystallizes the moment.

David also talks about the order of things. He is writing a musical in which he has written the songs first. This is out of the usual order in which the libretto comes first and then the songs. Or the melodies.

In a musical which is spoken and sung, which has more weight; the music and singing, or the spoken word?

Kitty says a song happens when spoken words cannot express adequately what is happening. David adds that dance is what happens when you go beyond the words and the song and your body filters in. I think about Merce Cunningham, and about how his dancers worked against and in opposition to the music. And how dance can bend in on itself and fracture the rhythm. Sound out against the rhythm.

Sondheim, I discovered today, said : Why Musical? And I suppose that is a part of what I am asking.

Emma thinks it is not about the medium but the truth of the performance. Matthew

devises using locomotion. Guleraana likes the spectacle of the musical.

Kitty: Breath.

We talk about using music as a platform or stimulus for improvisation.

Kitty and I are part of Permission Improbable, all women improvisers trying to change the world we live in. And trying to inhabit the world we live in, in an authentic manner. I believe it is all about process. The ritual of slowing down, allowing for the mistakes to happen which are a part of life and performance and having the privilege to reflect and to make changes: Begin again.

Thank you, Improbable and D and D 10 for the privilege

And thank you to those who happened on this discussion by chance, as well as those who sought me out.


Permission Improbable, Sondheim, musical, song, Improvisation, improvisation, Musical, Song