the greeting 5:43 – 6:01 min
followed by the song Die Sennin [The Maiden] by Robert Schumann
“Good evening, we’re so excited to be here, but I’m gonna talk later, sing first.
(mathias is having trouble with his stage light, I’m working on my mic stand. Hans is waving to the stage lights for the pianist)
You don’t see it? Ah okay now he sees - oh that’s good for me, that’s good for all of us, I hope!”
I’m making small jokes, releasing tension. I’m nervous, excited and I’m trying to read the room for first reactions while at the same wanting to make a good first impression.
After playing our first song of the set by Robert Schumann Die Sennin [The Maiden]. I start off with hvala – thank you in Slovenian. In general, when seeing myself talking on stage I always feel a bit too eager to connect, too eager to get everything under control and get the atmosphere in the room where I feel everybody is pleased. These needs bring me to the studies of the psychotherapist and psychotherapeutic researcher Klaus Grawe. He formulates four main needs that influence and determine human behavior. These needs (Grundbedürfnisse)*, according to him, lay the foundation for our behaviour and our actions. The needs (Grundbedürfnisse) are co-equal and do not appear hierarchical.
Bindungsbedürfnis = the need to build connections and relationships, establishing relationships
Bedürfnis nach Orientierung und Kontrolle = the need for orientation and control
As in a need to understand the world, the direction of where we as a whole but also as individuals are going to, the need to feel able to decide on direction and goals.
Bedürfnis nach Lustgewinn und Unlustvermeidung = the need for positive stimuli and the need to avoid unpleasant, difficult experiences. With this need Grawe describes the tendency to increase positive, pleasant feelings, experiences through avoiding umcomfortable perveived conditions.
Bedürfnis nach Selbstwerterhöhung – the need for building self-esteem and protection of our core calues and structures.
We circle around protection of our self and self-esteem, we tend to protect what we feel is valuable to us and what we feel gives a value
As I watched myself talking on stage – I could, for example, observe my need to establish and build a connection by making small jokes in the beginning. By doing so, I want so seem approachable, I want to build a relationship with the audience. Through it I’m gaining control because it helps me to read the room and to predict or understand reactions, which again attends to the need of building my self-esteem in order to feel comfortable and so on.
Each of us deals with different streams of thoughts, inner monologues and doubts that appear in one’s mind on stage connected to their own insecurities. I see myself compensating my insecurities and the pressure of silence by trying to make everybody comfortable.If I’m keeping Grawe’s needs in mind I might say that it has to do with my need to gain some sort of control in a situation where I feel vulnerable and responsible. It is the feeling of being responsible that pushes the trigger for my need to gain control because if I’m responsible it means that I can be held accountable of how the evening, how the reactions of the audience turn out. This is making me feel insecure, which brings me to a gesture that I perform almost every time during a concert.
a singer’s shoes - 10:27-11:33 min
followed by the song Die Nebensonnen [Phantom Suns] by Franz Schubert
(I’m trying to change the position of the mic stand, fidgeting around, then taking off my shoes instead)
“Hvala! Sorry, no, I’m gonna lose the shoes then I don’t have to…” (I choose to take my heels off instead of changing the position of the microphone).
“Good evening, ah we’re, as I said, we’re really excited… yeah it’s smarter than to work you know… to be here… …this was a song by Robert Schumann, mathias arranged the songs. We’ve been working on this like I don’t know, we talked about it today, we’ve been working together for like at least for 8 or 9 years - this whole journey through these Kunstlieder into songs. And because it’s so good to play in times like these, where you never know how often you get to play again that I will just gonna continue singing and we get to know each other better during singing, while singing, and I share stories in between, I promise! But I just wanna keep on playing now, if it’s okay.
Let’s go with a song by Schubert from the Winterreise, Winter’s Journey. I’m sure some of you know it, some of you might even love it...ahm... It’s called the Phantom suns it’s about an optical illusion and you have the feeling that there are three suns on the horizon.”
With the first announcement I swiftly introduce what it is that we’re playing, who wrote the music, who arranged it, how long we’ve been working on it and how I feel about playing it right here, right now, mentioning the current situation (of lockdowns due to Covid 19), saying that we’ll get to know each other better trough the music “during singing, while singing”.
I chose to take off my shoes because in my experience, whenever I took off my heels, the audience usually strongly reacts to that. Sometimes the audience would even clap when I did it and I usually “save” that moment for later in the set, in case I want or need to bring this gesture to evoke its reaction. I’m aiming for a reaction. I have the impression, that the audience is amused by it, finds it somewhat nonchalant, somewhat approachable and in a weird way I always have the feeling it gets me closer to the audience. Which now already makes me ponder about why I want that, since some performers would prefer the opposite. By taking off my shoes, I want to establish trust because to me it represents a gesture of being down-to earth, quite literally, my feet are visibly touching the ground. I want to build trust by de-constructing the barrier of the possible prejudice I’m facing being a dressed up, arrogant singer. Through showing something so private, something I usually do in the realm of my home, on stage, I want to create a moment of intimacy and with that build connection. At the time I started doing it, I was not aware of why I would do it, and why I would keep repeating this action at certain moments in the set. But what I now realize is that it also transforms my status. The stage itself and walking out onto the stage, dressed in high heels, being introduced before walking out, all suggests a high status which makes me uncomfortable in a way, vulnerable. It was an impulse, that I followed and that I now reflect upon, which makes me realize how much of my persona on stage is led by the tendency to build trust, establish connections and relationships with the audience, but also how much the audience is also influencing what stories I choose to tell. My core-audience is between 35 – 80 and I wonder if I would have used the same gesture, if my core audience would have been 16 – 35? I’m pretty sure my whole performance and my way of performing would be different. I’m pretty sure that the “shoe”-moment would not work as well or would land completely differently in front of teenagers. Every action we perform, every thing we say is attached to the context, is being dependet on the context to be able to gain meaning and to be able to function. If for example I would take off my shoes in front of children between 5 and 10 they might not know the context I’m refering to and what it means for me take off my shoes. They might be used to taking off their shoes when they go to kindergarden or seeing their teacher in socks when they sing songs in a circle.In short for this gesture to work, I have to display it within an understanding of what the gesture represents. As I described in Between the signs our horizon of understanding is constantly changing. So to be able for an audience to decipher my intentions of meaning when I take off my shoes, I’m assuming that “we” the audience and I share the same interpretations of the meaning of the “shoe” gesture.
In the past months it started to bother me. Mainly for two reasons: the first is, that shoes in general have been a topic that appear in comments after a concert. I often get asked why I wear heels and if it is difficult to sing in heels or if they hurt my toes. I feel it shifts the focus to what I wear, why I wear what I wear and invites judgement about my appearance. Through “using” this gesture I’m leading the attention again to the shoes and by that reinforcing questions I want to escape .
two roles – one performance 14:42 – 15:46
followed by the song Erstes Grün [First Green] by Robert Schumann
“I’ve never been to Ljubljana…I already start talking…it’s so beautiful. We were talking about that we’re really looking forward to Slovenian beer after the concert – is that allowed to say?...cause I think it’s really good, it’s supposed to be really good and as Austrians we really like the beer…talking again too much…more about Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Let’s stick to Schumann, this song is about friendship, it’s called “My friend, my shade, my guard”…oh no we’re gonna play “First Green” first. It’s a song about when you’re feeling lost, heartbroken, alone but sometimes when you walk into nature and even though you are alone within nature, surrounded by nature you don’t feel lonely anymore and you start to feel hopeful because there is so much green surrounding you.”
What comes to mind when I see myself asking questions such as “Is it allowed to say?” is how much I shift into a more private Julia. Through asking if something is allowed to say, I put myself into a position that is somewhat childlike. This position has much more to do with the role I carry within my family than with Julia or Lia, the professional singer. Our percussionist often gives me feedback that when I talk, I should stick to the music we are about to perform. She feels that the way I talk sometimes undermines, undercuts the performance of the music, could she be referring to the difference between Julia the private person and Lia the singer? As I understand it, she feels that the more private I behave on stage the more it takes the feeling of the “professional” concert setting away which is giving our music the platform of being listened to in a way that automatically attaches value to the music. The tradition of Liederabend and the value and seriousness that it carries crashes with my private behavior and with it putting the music in a different context. Frank Sinatra, for example, during his Tea-Break monologue tells personal anecdotes as well but he still keeps a certain distance, he doesn’t get too private, he for sure would not take off his shoes, or his jacket. He never leaves his role as the professional singer and entertainer, he is not suddenly Sinatra, my friend who is also insecure and nervous. I wonder what it would feel like to not take my shoes off.
getting used to talking Julia 19:12-20:16 min
Followed by Ich grolle nicht [I don’t complain] by Robert Schumann
“Another love song by Schumann…he dedicated his Liederbuch to Clara Wieck, to his wife. …it’s just I love those songs and the next one is one of all time favourites it’s called “Ich grolle nicht” – it’s about a broken heart and then you see that the other one is suffering the same, so it doesn’t really matter if you’re the one leaving or the one being left, you are both sad that you couldn’t go somewhere together, You let go, you stop complain, you’re in this together even though you are apart. (hand gesture going from the inside out as if dividing something) – stopping then pointing a finger at mathias.
“mathias thinks that the Beatles knew this song, especially the first few bars and they used it. So they were big Schumann fans, I’m thinking he’s probably right but…you decide.
(reaching for the flute to start the intro)
Why do I say what I say? What am I thinking while I speak. In general, I get the feeling that I’m mainly shifting between two roles and that there is a big difference between the role of Julia, the private person on stage and Julia or Lia the singer on stage. Do I want that or is that something I simply can’t get out of? On what level do I choose my structures, the patterns, that I perform as Julia, the private person or as Lia, the singer and that keep influencing the way I talk and communicate and also show where I come from. For example my accent in English, which I cannot quite choose, it is hard for me to “unlearn” but when I talk in German I feel more safe using the dialect of my hometown also on stage. So I make a choice to speak as private Julia when I share thoughts, tell anecdotes or introduce the next song. I’m sure it would make a big difference if I decided to speak “Hochdeutsch” in German and with it establishing a somewhat professional distance.
shifting roles of my colleague 24:03 – 25:29 min
followed by Widmung [Dedication] by Robert Schumann
“Vielen Dank! Hans Strrrrasser! And also, Hans is playing not with his own bass, he has like an army of basses. He is married to all of them, it’s like a harem. It’s not so easy for his wife to be surrounded by so many other ladies but when he meets a new one (pointing at the bass) they always start talking and after a while they just…you know…get along. This is Hans and his bass stories.
So now the Widmung …can we do “Dedication”?... that I promised before already. Maybe I’m just thinking about all these love songs because you can never have enough love songs I guess and this is another one. It’s called dedication…and Schumann (I pause)…it’s the first songs in the whole book of his songs…it’s the first song and above it, it says everything is dedicated to Clara. So it’s…you know…a big big big love song”
I feel a bit embarrassed about this announcement. I wanted to bring the attention to the fact that Hans Strasser, the bass player, is not playing this concert with one of his own instruments but with a borrowed instrument, which can be quite a challenge. So, I wanted to show how well he is dealing with an instrument he barely knows. But now watching and re-watching it, I realize that I use the “shifting into private Julia mode” and put it onto Hans. I now realize by telling this story, mentioning his wife, I shift Hans from Hans Strasser the bass player to private Hans. I never realized that. Hans is someone the audience always reacts strongly to, after his soli he always gets immediate and strong feedback and I often jump on to that feedback to further strengthen it by putting him even more in the spotlight. I want to make sure Hans is approachable to the audience. I usually don’t ask the musicians on stage direct questions, or encourage them to talk, but now that I think about it, I probably should do it more and I would very much want to know what would happen if I do. I only sometimes ask direct questions to mathias, the pianist; as he is the arranger and I want to establish that fact through asking him questions about his arrangements or sharing background stories about his process. He is always to my right on stage, and sometimes he just starts talking pushing me to directly react. Now I see that I usually tend to putting the spotlight onto the musicians when before or after they are also featured with a solo part in the music. I try to build my talking around their “spotlight” moment in the music expanding it to the moments between, before or after the song.
talking to a friend 29:14 – 30:18 min
followed by the song Sagt mir o schönste Schäfrin mein [O tell me my sweet shepherdess] by Johannes Brahms
Hvala…Thank you. [taking Brahms Liederbuch and putting it in front my notestand] we are… I think we haven’t played a Brahms piece, it’s the first in the setlist and it’s about a shepherdess…the person who works with sheep. Is that the word…shepherd, shepherdess, I think so. And she has this little nice house and then in the night comes the shepherd and he knocks at her door [lift my hand and I make a fist knocking on an invisible door] and he’s like: Can I come in? I won’t do anything, I’m such a good guy, lalalala [I wave my hands, roll my eyes]. And she says “No, no, no, I’ve only had trouble with this!” And it goes on for like six or more verses, I only sing the first three, but it’s like endless the poem and then in the end: She opens door [soft laughter in the room]. This is the song about the shepherdess and the knocking on the door, you hear that resembled [turning to the percussionist] in Ingrid’s cajon solo.
As I watch myself telling the story about the shepherdess, gesturing, rolling my eyes, I feel that I start to enjoy the talking performer Julia for the first time in the set. I still feel that I’m becoming private Julia, but slightly different. It seems to me as if I’m talking to a friend over a cup of coffee or being in a social gathering having a glass of wine, telling stories, hanging out. For this song I feel it is a conscious choice, it didn’t happen because I felt uncomfortable, I chose to share this poem in an ironic and light way to prepare the atmosphere for the mood of the song.
getting to know the audience – the audience getting to know me 33:58 – 34:55 min
Followed by the song Heidenröslein [Little Red Rose by Johannes Brahms]
mathias asking Hans [not audible for the audience]: Did you come in one bar too early? Hans answering, “no, no…I don’t think so” [I laugh and put my flute down, turning to Ingrid and the audience] Ingrid Oberkanins! [mathias and Hans keep discussing in the background; I take a bottle of water and while I open it, I continue talking we really like the word for percussion here, it’s called “Tolkala” no? [waiting for a response] the sound is in the word already of what she does. There are so many words we have to bring back [checking my setlist and coming back to the microphone] we stick with Brahms now and his version of “Heidenröslein”. If you go to school in Austria you have to learn this and study this, say it. Schubert has written a very famous version of it. But Brahms also composed music to it, but it’s not that famous but it’s as beautiful and that’s why we chose the more unknown one [taking a sip of water while the piano intro starts].
On average I talk about 1 minute in between songs and it surprises me because I always have the feeling that I talk much more. But with let’s say between 16-18 songs, this is a total of 16-18 min performing talking. In Frank Sinatra’s live concert from 1966 “At the sands”, he goes about it the other way around. He almost says nothing between the songs and then takes approximately 12 - 16 min midway through his set for his monologue, called Tea Break (as described in the chapter In-Between on stage). He chose to take a certain moment, one long space instead of many short spaces, to perform talking, he makes a distinction between performing music and performing talking and with his monologue he sets these boundaries very clearly. I weave one minute in between each song which in total amount talking-time is about the same but the way it is integrated is very different. I can’t imagine how it would feel to talk for 16 minutes in one piece. It would be something I would be interested to do.
By now I feel more and more comfortable and able to read the room, getting to know the feedback and reactions. I feel more in control of what I want to say before a song and how I want it to be prepared. The shifting into private Julia is still happening but I feel it in a less tense manner. The room feels smaller, I feel we all arrived in the space and gotten to know each other through I would say the act of spending time together. Being with and next to each other in the same space, sharing experiencing music, sometimes sharing laughter, sometimes moments of silence. We spent time together and shared time and space while constantly interpreting what is happening around us. The feeling of getting to know the audience and the situation we are in, is calming me down, making me more and more relaxed. And through that I feel a connection evolving between us as musicians, me, the audience, the room.