Monthly Archives: May 2014

#TIL: The One-Headphone Secret

Here’s an Instagrammed up picture of our at-home studio set-up (yes, I finally got on Instagram, at maureenchesus) that we used to record some music for my singing reel:

Recording

I feel the need to impart some wisdom from recording today: Mariah and Christina and all those other folks you see wailing away with the headphones half off and their right hand diva gesticulations– they are NOT just being divas and trying to show you how into the song they are. Well, actually I can’t speak for the gesticulating. I don’t know what that’s about. But what I DO know is…

As someone coming from a musical theatre background rather than a recording background, I’m used to hearing myself sing live. In musical theatre, you’re taught to sing for the space; to fill the whole room. You’re using your voice to give love and emotion to the entire theatre, all the way to the back row. When you’re recording, it’s all getting funneled pointedly into the microphone. The mic doesn’t care how full and luscious the sound is as it reverberates throughout the room. It can sound much thinner and weaker. Alex kept telling me that that’s why there are producers who take the recording and work their magic to make it sound full and luscious again. However, the psychological damage this can do while you’re recording is not to be underestimated!!! If you’re used to hearing that fullness, listening to your own playback can be really disorienting and, potentially, very disappointing, which then messes with your head and can screw up your focus on your performance. I tried taking one headphone off to see if it would help to hear my actual voice in the room rather than what the recording was picking up and voila! I was able to hear myself sounding normal again. For the rest of the session I felt way more confident and stopped doubting my abilities.

So, don’t judge when you see photos of people in the studio like that! They’re just trying to help themselves do a good job! Oh, and don’t burp into the microphone, because if you do, your boyfriend will keep it and hold it as blackmail.

 

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The Suit and Peter Brook

I can’t remember when I first learned of director Peter Brook and his work. Maybe it was reading The Empty Space in college, maybe it was before then, but after coming back from my year abroad in London (where is name was certainly thrown around frequently), I dug into his history of work, reading Conference of the Birds, scouring the internet for images and details of his past productions, all because I had become obsessed with ways to combine multiculturalism and theatre. To this day, I have a hard time finding a way to combine the two in a new way, but that’s another story. I always thought it would be sooooooo incredible to work with Peter Brook on these daring productions and admired him for being so incredibly prolific. As you can imagine, I was thrilled by the opportunity to see The Suit while it was here visiting UCLA on it’s world tour, directed by Peter Brook himself.

The Suit, From the Afridiziak Theatre News website

The Suit, From the Afridiziak Theatre News website

As was expected, the story was beautifully put together. Scenes weaved in and out very organically, the use of the fourth wall was very appropriate to the type of show/story, and the performances were extremely focused and strategically nuanced. The three actors, Jordan Barbour, Ivanno Jeremiah, and Nonhlanhla Kheswa, gave masterful and captivating performances. The music was a absolutely a fourth character, playing almost constantly. The musicians (a guitarist, a trumpeter, and a guy switching between an accordion and a piano) deserve just as much praise as the actors.

I would go on and on about what made it so fantastic, but I’m not trying to write a review, AND they’ve moved on to a different city and I don’t want to tease you. What I wanted to explain about the impact of this show is that as I move more fully into the film/tv realm (never letting go of theatre, though!), The Suit was a great reminder of powerful it can be to experience a show that’s best and only possible incarnation is live performance. To film this piece would strip it of all that makes it so lovely– the amazing flow of energy in and out of scenes, the feeling that you get hearing these instruments played live as if just for you, the palpable connection between audience and storytellers, the way that subtle emotions make you lean in to read the feelings on an actor’s face… It just felt special. And that, my friends, is what I love about theatre. No matter what caliber of venue, company, or production you are partaking in, a well-executed piece of theatre will feel like you have experienced something unique and personal– like that performance was made solely to feed the souls of the folks who came that particular evening.

Thank you, Mr. Brook, for reminding me of this, for directing another show at 89 years old, and for creating such a wonderful celebration of my favorite art form.

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