Charlotte Moroz is an actress, musician and playwrite and the co-creator of The Society for Misfit Puppets, a year-long puppet-musical-producing team. She has been a Music that Makes Community Presenter since 2014.
Friends, I want to talk about surprise and singing today. Since leading and singing paperless music more intentionally these past years, I've noticed that the degree of surprise that I feel has increased mightily. To contextualize, I am a bit of a song-seeking missile, working in theatrical and music-making fields and attending a church where group paperless singing is the norm. And yet, I still think "hot dang, this is the coolest!" and "Wow! That was so cool/weird/awesome/unexpected!" every time I get to sing with you all. That's a 1 to 1 ratio of my surprised delight to singing with a group.
A friend and mentor of mine and an amazing musician and teacher, Jake Slichter, introduced me to the importance of surprise in making music and spurred my contemplating the delightful and motivating play of uncertainty in this kind of music-making. In this spirit, I offer 5 ways to think about singing paperless music via knowns and unknowns:
1. Without paper in front of us, our focus has the chance to shift to the group. The things we don't know become things we have in common, so we get out of our own heads and into the mind of the group as we learn together. With focus shifted, we're kids out for recess: we can't help but be game to play.2. There is such a rebellious, bold, "we are the boss of our lives" deliciousness of making something new, no matter how small or brief, with a group. There are so many knowns in our adult lives (bills, schedules, pant size) and so many scary unknowns (seriously, what IS going to happen to that trash island that's growing steadily in the Atlantic? And what will I be doing in 5 years, let alone 1 year?), that it's a relief to play with safe(r) unknowns, like the kinds you find when singing together.3. Sharing what we know can make us feel safe enough to sing out and make space for others and try something new, and there's a give and take of knowing that creates connections between people. As a song leader I may think I know a song, but sometimes the group surprises me and I learn something new about it. Important listenings can happen here, too, about power dynamics and privilege within groups and reflections of outside systems that purposefully inhibit singing out and making space for each human individual.4. There is such a delight in getting to enact something that we have learned together. Once we've learned the song, celebrating our learning brings us together. There's a reason we drive each other crazy in the car singing along to whatever comes out of the radio... isn't it the joy of knowns?
And, finally: 5. All of this creates the chance for us to tune and harmonize, which is what humans love, I think, deep down, like dogs love to be petted and cats love to taunt us from under warm covers on early work mornings. When the relationship between what we know and don't know is more fluid, less weighed down by fear, we are stronger and freer as individuals and as a group.So, in summary, I think the surprised exuberance I feel in paperless singing is just a cranked-up version of joy for the chance to feel both the comforting knowns and adventurous unknowns that are so important to us humans. No surprise there!