with Conor Ritchie-Dunham, singer songwriter, composer, and lead guitar and vocals in The Contradictions
Many of you who follow this blog lead groups of people taking on deeper levels of collaboration, working through the challenges of experiencing a deeper harmonic while embracing ever-more challenging issues. We know that this harmonic reflects the behavior of a group, and who we are being as leaders. While we talk a lot about this harmonic in our community, I realized that I have direct access to a couple of people who know a lot about generating a harmonic, in music. Having the fortune to experience great amounts of music in my home, created most often by my daughter and son, I was talking with my son Conor this past week about the art and science of generating a harmonic in one’s own music, and what it takes to generate the enlivening experience of a harmonic in music with any audience. Conor shares his experience in inviting the co-hosting of a harmonic in the rest of this blogpost.
In preparation for a performance, it is the artist’s responsibility to generate a space for the harmonic. We cannot create a harmonic, just as we cannot make someone love us. But we can create the conditions in which that harmonic has ample opportunity to arise. In hosting a dinner party, for example, we cannot simply tell our guests to have a good time. We must learn from our past positive dinner-party experiences, replicate those conditions, pay close attention to how the experience goes, and learn from there. In seeking a good experience for our guests, we hope to generate an environment where they have ample opportunity to feel comfortable, satisfied, entertained and included in a sense of companionship.
As musicians we seek many of the same factors in preparing for a performance. We wish for our audience to be comfortable: In a comfortable venue that is suitable for the type of performance at hand, and which promotes the experience we wish the performance to give. (A large stadium for awe and wonder, or an intimate poetry café for trance-like introspection.)
We wish for our audience to be satisfied: Having a performance of appropriate length so that it is long enough that they feel the event was worth their money, yet short enough so as not to bore. Ordering the songs so that there is enough dynamic and emotional variance throughout the performance to keep it interesting. Proper attention paid to the sound equipment and acoustics of the space so that sound quality complements the performance.
We wish for our audience to be entertained: That the music itself is of quality, the performances are impressive, authentic, passionate and tell a story, and that any other factors of the performance such as light show, scenery or choreography do their part to aide the emotional effect of the performances.
We also wish for our audience to feel included in a sense of companionship. Concerts of certain styles are often self selecting in the type of person they attract, but it is the co-host and artist’s job to make them feel welcome. Personal, authentic interaction with the audience, which shows leadership and command, yet gratitude and humbleness is a must.
With experience, the performer, like the co-host, can learn to consistently generate and maintain an environment where a powerful harmonic can thrive, and where it can continue to live in the hearts of those who experienced it long after the final dish is served and the final note is played.
In order to co-host a harmonic, I have learned that I must first authentically feel that harmonic within myself. As a performer, I find it helpful to solidify a pre-show routine that will reliably foster that harmonic in me. After a full-body stretch and a vocal warm-up, I go to a dark corner, close my eyes, and meditate, focusing on releasing nervous energy and connecting to my emotional core. I know the performance begins the moment I step on stage. So these preparations allow me to set the atmosphere of the performance before I even begin the first song. When performing with others, I will extend this pre-show routine to include them. After I have fostered the harmonic in myself, I will bring it to them, perhaps by holding hands and saying a blessing, cheer, or singing a song. When we are connected and ready, we can step on stage and bring that harmonic to the audience.