1.1 Rationale and formulation of my research question
After six years of intense training at one of the best Dutch conservatories, I am convinced that my process of personal learning with regards to how to become a balanced professional in opera singing is still ongoing. One of the aspects I would like to improve is my credibility as a performer. Throughout the years, I became more and more aware of the power an artist’s physical and vocal expression can have, and how it can affect audiences in both a positive as well as a negative way.
During my studies I have received different comments on my performances from audience members. One of these comments became a repetitive issue: namely, my physical credibility. It has been frequently mentioned that my physical movements do not always contribute to the meaning of the lyrics. With physical movements I mean in particular those I make with my hands and arms, which I will refer to as ‘gestures’ in my research. I have heard people calling them ‘meaningless’ and ‘a disturbing factor for the audience’. Realising that this problem will obstruct my development in becoming a classical singer, with both agreeable vocal capacities and an appealing physical performance, I decided to make it the object of investigation for my Master study in classical singing, with the ultimate goal of finding a solution. Based on my assumption that unwanted meaningless gestures during singing can only be eradicated if I am able to develop a technique for focusing on only contributing gestures during speech and singing, I came to formulate as a research question for my Master Study project in Classical Singing:
How can the embodiment of gestures help me to increase my performance focus with the aim of eradicating meaningless gestures during singing, and is it possible to create a step-by-step study plan that incorporates my findings?
1.2 Outline of the study project
In my second chapter I will give a definition of the term ‘meaningless gestures’ and describe when they occur and what they look like. Several videos will illustrate this. I also will explain the cause of meaningless gestures and under which external circumstances they tend to emerge. Subsequently I elaborate a method by which I can eradicate them. This method is aimed at becoming physically more involved with the text. In the world of singing there are two opinions on how to create a stronger physical connection to the text. I consciously choose the one that allows the arms to move at all times. I argue its effectiveness and in chapter four I give neurobiological evidence to support my arguments.
The method I developed implied that I should rehearse my gestures step-by-step. I was wondering if my gestures had to be forethought (or fixed) or not for my method. To find an answer to this, I studied the history of singing and neurobiological research, all of which is reflected in chapter three. I concluded that the gestures for my method should not be fixed, but ought to have a spontaneous character. Based on my findings I created a study plan and tested its efficacy under the guidance of movement teacher Fajo Jansen. You will find a documentation of the process I went through in chapter five. Chapter six reflects my conclusions regarding the efficacy of my study plan. In addition, I describe what my collaboration with Fajo Jansen has taught me.