What are the different names for singing
The reason why an increased risk can be assumed with choir singing is as simple as it is obvious: When fifty people gather for a discussion event, only a few speak, while the majority listens and is silent. A choir rehearsal, on the other hand, would be equivalent to a gathering where those fifty people would speak non-stop - all at the same time. This greatly increased vocal activity is enough to explain an increased viral load. In contrast, whether the aerosol spreads in a different way when singing than when speaking is rather secondary.
In the meantime, the two factors “room size” and “ventilation” have moved into focus in the German-language studies and recommendations. And so a cautious conclusion of the current state of research could be: There is no one hundred percent security - unless you go outside to sing and keep a distance of two, three or more meters between the singers in all directions. The fact that there are no simple answers beyond that and that a lot is currently still in the aerosol fog of uncertainty seems to be part of normality for scientists. For them, polyphony is valuable and an essential part of the discourse.
In choral music, on the other hand, polyphony is only tolerated within clearly defined limits. Why this is so (and what it has to do with singing outdoors) will be one of the subjects of this text.
An absurd alternative?
I love choral music and sometimes I enjoy working outdoors. But from my own experience, I know only too well how frustrating and unpleasant the combination of both can be. Many years ago I once mobilized 200 people to hike singing over the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne as part of a larger project. The organizational effort was considerable - the result more than disappointing. I had expected that the vocals would have a hard time asserting themselves acoustically. What I hadn't taken into account, however, was that along with the sounds, any feeling of community action evaporated.
It is therefore no coincidence that we initially left out the topic of “outdoor choir singing” when we launched our “Music at a distance” initiative at the end of March 2020, shortly after the lockdown. We were able to recognize opportunities for broadening our horizons and for the time “after Corona” in neighborly balcony singing, in “brass music at a distance” or in our commitment to a new musical burial culture. But when it came to the “choir” topic, our approach seemed to fail: to look for leeway on this side of the digital and to understand the crisis as an impetus and an opportunity to rethink music.
Four and a half months later, the situation in this country has eased in many places. Even full concert halls are being considered again). But the choirs are still prevented from returning to the familiar. No normal choir singing until the nationwide availability of a vaccine: This seems to be the most realistic prospect (as of mid-August 2020), with all the polyphony of the reasons. Until then, choir rehearsals and choir concerts in the familiar form will remain associated with an irresponsibly high risk of infection. The choral culture is one of the big losers in this crisis - a tragedy that is reflected in countless bitter individual fates. There is the church musician who, within a few months, crumbles the entire substance of years of loving and continuous development work that covered all ages from the children's choir to the senior choir. There is the professional singer of the opera choir, who is worried about whether she will ever be able to work in the familiar form again: will the subsidies flow again at all when Corona is over at some point? Or will it turn out to be a fatal boomerang if you involuntarily prove for months until then that an opera company can somehow muddle through with a choir on short-time work or in small soloists?
And that's the basis. The German Music Information Center puts the number of active choir singers in Germany at around four million. How many informal groups of friends, how much weekly joie de vivre, aesthetic enjoyment, individual health care and stabilizing social contact are hidden behind this number? And what increase in loneliness does it mean if these four million, instead of meeting to sing, stay at home?
So the suffering is great. But for many choirs it is apparently not big enough to even consider the alternative of “singing outdoors”. It is better to meet up for “zoom rehearsals”. That means: It is better to stay in your own living room and sing to yourself, while a lonely choir director is standing in another living room and performing conducting dry exercises. Making music together could be a valuable resource, especially in times of crisis. If millions of choir singers decide to forego this resource rather than go outside to sing in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, then there must be very valid reasons for doing so. And here at the latest it is tempting to take a closer look behind the seemingly obvious nature of the absurd and the impossible. Is it really so unacceptable to go to the forest or the city park to sing that hundreds of thousands of choir friends prefer to sit alone at home and sing to two kilos of copper, aluminum and plastic instead? Or does the astray of outdoor singing possibly only consist in abandoning the usual path of thought? Some attempts to get to the bottom of the unreasonable demands of singing outdoors.
The first hurdle: the free as a disturbance
Anyone who sings outside is disturbed or disturbs others. Much has been written and mocked about the intrusive and potentially annoying character of the music, from Immanuel Kant (“nothing but blaring”) to Kurt Tucholsky (“Gott schenke us Ohrlider”) and Peter Jona Korn (“musical pollution”). It is relatively easy to remedy the harassment of others by relocating the choir rehearsal not in the middle of a residential area, but in a park or on the outskirts. For the fact that this option is rarely considered, the Störsusceptibility music play a bigger role than disturbing others. The less stable the acoustic source, the more this susceptibility increases. It is easier for brass players to make music outdoors than for choirs or strings (with the latter being an additional aggravating factor being the sensitivity of the instruments to moisture and temperature fluctuations). It's never really quiet outside. Outdoor music therefore competes with a variety of natural or man-made ambient noises. The scale of the resulting impairment can range from punctual distraction to permanent drowning out.
But even if it may appear that way at first glance, the susceptibility of music to interference is not an objective variable, but the result of a cultural learning process. From a purely quantitative and historical point of view, by far the greatest part of human music-making was likely to have taken place outdoors. In many musical cultures, singing was and is predominantly outside: in the field or under the village linden tree, at processions and festivals, on rafts and mountain peaks. Large parts of the common choral repertoire (folk and hiking songs, Go down Moses and Bella ciao) originally come from such a music-making practice "outdoors" and were only brought inside afterwards.
If you take a look at European music history, you can see a pattern in it. The history of classical concert culture is at the same time a history of the progressive shielding of music from external disturbances. While the first civic concerts still took place in amusement parks, restaurants and private houses, from the end of the 18th century concert halls with audience seating and increasingly optimized acoustics ensured freedom from interference and a focus on the sound. What was expressed in this architectural development was an enormous appreciation of the music. It moved from the pleasant background noise to the center of collective attention, became the center of a new ritual of collective, devout contemplation.
All of this did not take place in isolation, but was part of that overarching process of bourgeois emancipation, urbanization, mechanization and division of labor, which we today, depending on the perspective, call "Enlightenment" or "beginning industrialization". This process was accompanied by criticism from the start. What was progress for some was perceived by others as alienation and loss. And although music was a very active and expansive part of this development on the level of its own institutionalization and economization, on the level of content it often took a rather progress-skeptical counter-position.
A classic of the romantic yearning for nature is Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's famous Eichendorff setting Farewell to the forest, in which the “beautiful green forest” becomes a place of longing and retreat within an alienated “busy world” full of “gloomy earthly suffering”. The fact that the invention of the concert hall had given his own profession an enormous appreciation did not prevent Mendelssohn from portraying the loss of the outside as part of the process of civilizational alienation within musical culture. By the time he published his popular choral songs in the 1830s, indoor singing had already become so common that he explicitly titled his cycle “to sing in the open”. In a letter to his mother he describes a performance in the Frankfurt city forest "deep in the forest, where tall, thick beeches stand individually" as a romantically transfigured exceptional experience: "How lovely the singing sounded, how the sopranos trilled so brightly into the air, and what smoothness and charm was above the tones, everything so quiet and secret and yet so bright (...) it was so enchanting in the silence of the forest that tears almost came to my eyes. How loud poetry it sounded ”.
Almost two centuries later, our perception of music is shaped by two forms of normality. On the one hand, there is its omnipresence as a subliminal background noise in cafes, subway stations, shops and in all kinds of media - and on the other hand, there is a state of complete freedom from interference, which allows us to focus on music wherever we want to focus seems a matter of course, but has actually only been around for a few decades. Only with the combination of digital production, noise-free preservation and optimized playback technology was music able to conquer its own form of existence that is completely decoupled from the acoustic influences of the rest of the world.
It may have to do with this new normal that outdoor performances have grown in popularity over the past few decades. As a rule, they are optimized by using a microphone or a clever use of acoustic conditions in such a way that interference from external influences is kept within limits. Where such optimization is dispensed with and interference is permitted, this is usually done very deliberately. Sometimes corresponding performances are understood as intervention and interaction in public space, sometimes they are programmatically charged with that longing for nature that Mendelssohn was already familiar with. Occasionally, what could be perceived as a disturbance or distraction is conceptually integrated into an expanded concept of art: ambient noise becomes an accompanying orchestra, the wind becomes a musical actor, the starry sky becomes a score. That aura of the singular, the special and the everyday, which once lured people to enjoy music in closed rooms, now returns when you consciously leave them again. But apart from such dramaturgically justified special cases, the absolute freedom from interference remains a minimum criterion for what we mean today by “musical enjoyment”.
The relationship between music and acoustic shielding has meanwhile fundamentally reversed. The first in series production since 1979 Walkman came onto the market, not only must the music itself exist in a sphere of complete privacy - it also shields people reliably, efficiently and controllably from their acoustic environment at all times. Kurt Tucholsky's prayer has been answered: humanity has finally got eyelids.
Exercise 1: The outdoors as a sound space
Go outside with your choir. Take with you the sheet music of a piece that your choir has mastered very well. For example Mendelssohns Farewell to the forest - Many traditionally oriented choirs have this catchy choral setting so securely in their ears that they can also sing it outdoors and "at a distance" without any problems.
A small intervention in the original sentence enables it to enter into dialogue with the ambient noise. The choir song is "cut apart" in bars or sections and very long general pauses are inserted between the individual sections:
O valleys wide o heights
O beautiful green forest
It sounds even nicer when the choir introduces this pause with an overlong fermata:
O valleys wide, o heights nnnnnnn ...
If you now dare to hold the pauses between the sections at least long enough that singing and not singing are in balance, then the silence begins to liven up in the perception of the singers (and any listeners). The environment interferes as a musical staging element and puts its stamp on the singing. Encourage your choir to keep the musical tension inside during the breaks and to perceive what is happening all around with increased intensity and pricked ears, as if it were part of the composition. It will make a huge difference whether you sing this “Mendelssohn with breaks” in a secluded forest clearing or on the edge of a motorway.
If you want, you can close your eyes during the breaks. A particularly "sporty" exercise of perception and concentration can then consist of using it together again after a long break, despite the distance, ambient noise and closed eyes.
The second hurdle: The free as a loss of control
It sings worse outside than inside. Unamplified choral singing outdoors tends to be imprecise and unclean - especially when there is a large gap between singers. Those who are used to an acoustically optimized “inside” when singing can therefore only perceive the “outside” as a space that is itself inadequate and, moreover, confronts the singers with their own inadequacy. We experience ourselves as deficient beings, whose voices are too quiet and who hear poorly at a distance. Singing outdoors creates a perpetual discrepancy between what is possible (i.e. one idea of music) and what actually sounds (i.e. their imperfect implementation).
As with the subject of the particular susceptibility of music to disturbances, one also has to take a closer look here to see that this apparently objective finding is based on cultural influences and the resulting evaluations. One of these defining assumptions is the ideal of "flawless" music that is as free of errors as possible, originally from the sphere of religion. In the temples and monasteries of many cultures, the need for expression of the specific people making music had to take a back seat to an "idea" of music. In order to do justice to this idea (for example attuning to a higher, God-willed harmony or the annihilation of the individual in the sound), years of, sometimes lifelong, exercises were necessary. When the new concept of secular-bourgeois art music emerged in the second half of the 18th century, this principle of flawlessness was inscribed in it and later also found its way into amateur music from there.
The digital post-processing practice has catapulted the achievable degree of flawlessness into a completely new dimension. When the musicologist Christiane Tewinkel was looking for classical CDs with audible errors on the occasion of a seminar on the “cultural history of musical errors”, she realized: They don't exist.Nobody would put a recording on the market in which a kiekser or misunderstood can be heard. And so the inadequacy of singing outdoors ultimately reflects the general inadequacy any Singing, which is less and less able to achieve the degree of brilliance and musical flawlessness that we increasingly expect due to our media-trained ears.
But there is also something else: a common breath, common arcs of tension can only be created to a very limited extent outdoors. Conductors who normally have their choir under control experience singing outside as a loss of control and feel how the action slips away from them. Anyone who sings outdoors without amplification must therefore at least partially abandon the concept of deliberate design. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the singers and their singing. Singing together outdoors means (at least if you stick to the concept of metrically bound music) to surrender control of the music to the music itself and to surrender to its connecting and synchronizing power. Singing scout groups and hiking groups as well as the spontaneous giant choirs in the football stadium prove how easy and low-threshold this would be. But it is precisely from this that choral culture distinguishes itself decisively. For her, it's not about "shouting along" (or, to put it more nicely, about socially "joining in"), but rather about the collective shaping of the music. You could also say: It's about appreciating the music to the maximum and showing it.
Under the conditions of the corona crisis, the normatively binding character of this appreciation becomes fully apparent. Although the risk of infection should not be lower with any other form of singing together (with the exception of virtual), singing outside is perceived by many choirs as unreasonable - and not primarily for the sake of the singers, but for the sake of the music. Their right to maximum quality is felt to be so essential that it becomes worthless outside of a shielded protective space that is free from interference and can be designed. More important than at all Singing together is to protect your own singing from imperfections.
In interreligious dialogue I learned: There is no room for lazy compromises in normative value systems. If the self-image and the joy of singing in the choral culture are necessarily linked to a certain quality standard, then the solution cannot be to betray these quality standards for the sake of singing. Singing outside should therefore not be understood as a makeshift substitute for choirs, but as something completely new and different. In order to be able to open up to the unfamiliar and unexplored potential of the changed situation at all, an important first step can therefore be to test yourself temporarily from the goal of the Concert and the attitude of the Interpreting to say goodbye and to be clear: unlike usual, this is not about the adequate performance of choral literature in front of a listening audience, but about a fundamentally new one Quality of experience of singing together. The unfamiliar environment will profoundly change the relationship between the singers, their self-perception and their location in the room. To perceive these changes, to get to know their limits and scope and to be stimulated in this way to new forms and a new understanding of quality, harbors enormous learning potential. Entering into this potential does not mean wanting to do away with the familiar. However, it can definitely mean using a time of painful limitation to experience small aesthetic adventures together and to widen one's own horizons.
Exercise 2: The outdoors as a field of experimentation
Go outside with your choir. This time, leave the sheet music at home. Try to take advantage of the changed situation by using it for some improvisation and interaction exercises.
Standing in the forest or park at different intervals and improvising to sing your own names to each other can be child's play: "Chriii-stii-aan!" - "Marieee-Luiiiseee!". But it can also be extremely demanding and challenging when you start to design this question-and-answer game with the same attention to detail that you normally work with on a four-part choral setting. How do different distances and locations affect the dynamics? What harmonies are created when the sung names are sung on different pitches and allowed to overlap each other? Which metric forms result from reacting at different speeds or slow?
The nice thing about this type of exercise is that it almost inevitably creates a new relationship between the actors. The loss of control that outdoor singing brings with it becomes the starting point for a new, team-oriented way of working. The “ensemble choir” becomes a collective of responsible soloists who can contribute their own ideas. This does not make the conductor any less important - on the contrary: nothing is more detrimental to such exercises than arbitrariness. Asking the instructor to “sing something” or “produce a soundscape” strengthens the feeling that this is an unassuming and irrelevant second-class singing.
Instead, a demanding mix of precision and flexibility is required in the choir management: clearly formulated tasks. Listening carefully to what the choir makes of these assignments. Feedback that is as precise as possible, identifying qualities and weaknesses and deriving a new, differentiating and in-depth task from this. All in all, a dialogical and open-ended form of choral conducting that is not based on a given score, but on the ideas of the choir members - but takes them just as seriously as the musical text.
If one accepts such a changed way of working as a group and regards it as training for one's own further development, then the gain in new competencies and skills - also with a view to a future “normal” rehearsal work - can be considerable. Of course, you don't have to stop singing your own names. Try to sing the names of the plants and animals around you instead of your own names. The titles of your favorite films. Or the names of people who were close to you and who have passed away. You will hear: With every textual variation, the character of the song will fundamentally change and the wealth of ideas will expand.
Choirs that are too unfamiliar with completely free improvisation can alternatively take a warm-up exercise, a canon or a well-known line of songs as their starting material. For example the old folk song “A cuckoo sat on a tree”, which is particularly suitable for Corona-related singing outdoors in several ways. His seemingly trivial text suggests the struggle for freedom, the will to survive and the hope for better times. The simple triad melody makes the song particularly suitable for variations, echo effects and overlays of all kinds. The formal form of the song with its "unfinished" first line and the subsequent, magical onomatopoeic "Simsalabim" cat song invites you to playfully and signals, that this song doesn't take itself too seriously. And if you are looking for depth, you can take up the motif of the shot cuckoo to commemorate an endangered animal species that - unlike in the 19th century - will no longer reliably “be back” in the following year.
Divide your choir into mixed small groups, each of which is given the task of creating a stanza of the song independently. After 10-15 minutes of group work out of earshot, the groups return and perform their mini-cuckoo compositions for each other. You will get to know your choir - and the choir itself - in a completely new way.
The third hurdle: the free as isolation
A particularly unpleasant quality of outdoor singing is that the common singing loses its cohesion and, so to speak, breaks down into its individual components. The singers no longer hear each other, the wind blows away what is sung. The choral sound suffers considerably as a result. Instead of becoming focused and transparent through optimized acoustics or merging into a unifying overall sound through a long reverberation, the singing sounds a little different from each location. The individual hears his or her own voice with all its insecurities and inadequacies abundantly, while the voices of the others are acoustically moved into the spatial distance in which they are actually located. The “ensemble” of the choir becomes an inhomogeneous collection of individuals that are difficult to synchronize.
Here, too, the sound result violates a deep-seated, culturally shaped agreement. Our understanding of beautiful choral music is based on the ideal of a specific form of “togetherness”, which only appears to be redeemed when the voices of the singers merge into an overall choral sound - which, however, they do not do when singing outdoors. It may appear to us as “natural” and “normal” that we perceive voices that fit together homogeneously as “beautiful” and deviations from this norm as “not beautiful”. But beauty concepts are not given by nature - and even if they were, the preference for tonal homogeneity could not be explained by the “nature” of our perception. On the contrary: the fact that our species is able to differentiate spatially when hearing and to distinguish the voices of other people from one another, instead of hearing them as a unit, should have been an evolutionary advantage for survival.
Concepts of beauty are traditional and learned. In other words: They are a reflection of a certain time with its social values, norms and power relations. This also applies to the ideal of beauty in classical European choral music, which has its roots in Christianity. In choral aesthetics, a certain ideal of "community" is expressed, which aims at togetherness and at the same time knows its clear boundaries. The common choir singing gives the singers the opportunity to articulate a desired, longed-for or required togetherness in an ideal-typical way and to confess it to the outside world. Often times, the text reinforces and concretises this intention by naming what connects them and in this way makes it clear that those singing like are also like-minded and like-minded people who share a common conviction, a religion or another group membership. In terms of content, choral singing is therefore common either community-building as well as deliberately exclusive because, in order to illustrate the intended togetherness, he has to distinguish between believers and unbelievers, wanderers and city dwellers, the fatherland and the rest of the world.
In the secular concertante choir culture, this confession and proclamation character of singing together has become a mere game. The unifying belief has been replaced by the cultural agreement of a singer role distance: Whether you believe what you sing is usually completely irrelevant for the audience and the performers. In order to still be able to fulfill its group-building function, the recognizable togetherness must be completely shifted to the musical-aesthetic level. Choral aesthetics as we know them are therefore designed for maximum sonic homogeneity. Choral rehearsals aim to sing “cleanly” together, to “be together” rhythmically and metrically, to make vocal individuality disappear and to tune into the common text in an easily understandable way - in short: heterogeneity on all levels of music to avoid.
Choral singing therefore requires a special mixture of ability, practice and willingness to withdraw. If some of the singers do not have certain skills or only have limited skills, the singing sounds less beautiful. A single singer who has not practiced and does not know the dynamic arrangements can significantly reduce the quality of a large choir. A single singer who has no control over her voice or who sings “too solo” can completely destroy the result. “Right” and “wrong”, mastery and amateurism, team spirit and individual ego trips can be immediately aesthetically experienced and differentiated. Correspondingly, the homogeneity of their singing is central to the self-image of many choirs.
This makes choral singing itself a highly exclusive affair. There is nothing to be criticized or bad about this exclusivity. It has proven itself culturally and has many advantages. From the Middle Ages to the modern age, it enabled a tremendous flowering of the most varied forms of musical expression and design.
But social values can change. For example, it is historically relatively "young" value that the meeting of people of different cultural origins and backgrounds is something beautiful and desirable. It is a “young” value that participation in culture is a human right that people with mental or vocal impairments are also entitled to. And it is also a “young” value that actively brought about intergenerational encounters are important because they counteract old age loneliness - and that they have to be created artificially because the traditional model of the multi-generational household hardly exists any more. With this last-mentioned topic at the latest, it should be obvious that it also and especially affects our choirs.
Of course, the choral culture also reacts to these new values. But it does not integrate, rather it strengthens the segregation by adhering to the aesthetic requirement of homogeneity and differentiating itself (be it through targeted offers or through "invisible barriers"): children's choirs, youth choirs, senior choirs, choirs for beginners and advanced students, for migrants and long-time residents, for singers with and without mental disabilities. If one were to make the new social values the sole yardstick, one could describe our choral aesthetics, sharply pointed, as "anti-inclusion". Our beauty concept makes it difficult for young and old voices, European and oriental timbre to come together in one and the same piece of music. It hides characteristic vocal differences and in this way prevents the audience from having the opportunity to sensually experience the beauty of vocal diversity. And in this way it contributes to mentally impaired people in the literal sense of the word Handicapped become.
But such radical escalations do not lead any further. Because, of course, one can just as easily and justifiably argue that excessive claims to participation would restrict artistic freedom and mean the death of any artistic quality. Both statements are justified, both are value-based and there is ultimately no clear “right” or “wrong” at this point. Our choral music isn't “bad” just because it's exclusive. The goal of cultural participation is not "wrong" just because many singers with Down syndrome cannot sing cleanly.
In real musical practice, however, there can be no question of the equality of both values. Here, aesthetically justified exclusivity clearly has the upper hand. How little the value of inclusion plays a role in choral music is shown in the widespread absence of mentally or vocally impaired musicians in our choirs. It's so much the rule that they don't appear there that you don't even notice.
What aesthetic enrichment it can be to make heterogeneity audible in choirs, I was able to experience several times in the context of various intergenerational, intercultural and inclusive project choirs: In the Northeim Generational Choir, in which we the singers (who ranged from six to 92 years of age) not divided according to vocal ranges, but according to age-specific timbre registers. In numerous interreligious projects Trimum-Chores in which the striking differences between oriental and European singing technique are used in a targeted manner in order to clarify boundaries and bridges between the religions. Or in the Ludwigsburg Diversity choir, in which our ambition is to develop a choral aesthetic that is as heterogeneous as possible without becoming arbitrary.
If you consistently implement this changed aesthetic paradigm, a fascinating wealth of new challenges and design options will open up. With the usual craftsmanship of a strictly synchronizing choir conducting or the choral voice leading we are familiar with, you will quickly reach your limits. Instead, there are different forms of collective teamwork - and, in addition to many other possible forms, an age-old organizational form of collective singing, which is called "heterophony" in musicological terminology. A free and at the same time related "non-simultaneous togetherness", which leaves much more room for vocal variety than the familiar forms of the metrically synchronized homophonic or polyphonic movement.
And this is exactly where the circle comes full circle. In practical implementation, experience shows that heterophonic forms work much better when the singers stand at large distances from one another. Heterophonic singing is not only inclusive - it is also infection-proof.
So it doesn't have to be quite as absurd as it may appear at first glance to add a second, complementary ideal to the familiar European ideal of homogeneity. The nice thing about it is: This “different singing together” doesn't even have to be reinvented. It has existed for millennia - and it developed in the unlimited space in which most of social life took place throughout human history: outdoors.
Exercise 3: The outdoors as a meeting place
Instead of going to a choir concert, invite them to a festival “at a distance” in the open air. Address your invitation specifically to people who also like to sing, but whose musical culture or the way they sing is alien to your own choir.
Prepare a few musical program items that invite you to sing along and also work outdoors. Choose these pieces so that it is not primarily about your choir presenting itself (which might not be possible outdoors in the usual quality and sophistication anyway), but instead place your ambition in the goal of one maximum musical hospitality and connectivity, which makes singing along for your guests as beautiful and pleasant as possible.
Deliberately leave part of the program unprepared and unplanned. Instead, ask your guests for a musical gift in the form of their own song. Make it clear that you would like to learn the songs you brought with you. This will not always be fully successful - especially if your choir does not master the musical or textual language of these songs. In such a case, try to learn at least the first line or the chorus.
The more foreign a song is to you, the more you should try to be a guest in the musical culture of your guests and also to act like a guest. This can mean, for example, temporarily releasing the line. To signal friendly curiosity. Not being able to, knowing and understanding everything immediately. Possibly embarking on the unfamiliar adventure of learning songs by ear because they are not available in sheet music.
The free as a broadening of the horizon
Choral singing is not just made up of notes. Choral music also conveys content. It tells of things that are important to people and that deserve to be elevated to a musical form.
Corona has brought us a breathtakingly rapid and profound cultural change process that nobody foresaw or wanted in this form. The cultural and musical life has been reorganized within a very short time - and something of this reorganization will remain. Even beyond the current crisis, the practices of planning, producing and receiving music will change - and this in turn will have a long-term impact on collective consciousness.
Our scientific advisor Michael Wallach described the pandemic as a “global wake up call”. For the sociologist Hartmut Rosa, the rapid spread of the virus is related to our urge to permanently expand our own "global reach". And the writer Michael Wildenhain writes that the coronavirus “could infect us because humans are mammals. This circumstance is neither a social nor any other kind of construct, but the reality that conditions us. ”All three statements have in common that they do not interpret the corona crisis as an external force majeure that is breaking in, but rather it involves fundamental questions about our self-image and connect our relationship with nature and teach us to see the world anew.
As a cultural worker, having to and being able to experience and shape such a process of upheaval is a historically unique task. Our industry likes to and often claims to be open-minded, flexible and willing to change. Now that all of this is in great demand, the insult that it is not systemically important sometimes seems to outweigh the unique opportunity to be able to participate in a societal transformation process in real time.
Digital elements can play a helpful role in this: Coordinating planning via a zoom conference instead of getting into cars or planes for them is a gain for the environment and your own calendar. But a music world that prefers zoom rehearsals and virtual choirs to direct human-to-human resonance and infection-proof singing outdoors during the pandemic should pause for a moment and wonder what it is actually doing. Is that what we want Does the power of shaping our own current actions really point in the direction we want? Or shouldn't we invest our energy in completely different things? How up-to-date, future-proof and crisis-proof is actually an aesthetic that the nature surrounding and conditioning us inevitably considers Disorder and Annoyance appears? An aesthetic through which the analog world is increasingly becoming a place of inadequacy that is no longer able to satisfy our digitally trained senses and expectations? Or an aesthetic that combines the diversity of human expression into one Flaw transformed to hide?
“Singing outdoors” - that can mean: reinventing music, at least in parts, in a free space of the future that can be shaped. A future that is, for a short period of time, much less limited by conventions, certainties, calendar constraints and everyday routines than is otherwise always the case. Not to steer this future music in an even more digital, shielded, flawless and controllable direction, but to make it as polyphonic and inviting as possible, could be a nice bridging task for the time of the pandemic.
See also parts 1 and 2
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