Rendered Fat Content


Willem Witsen: Man die aan het wannen is
[Man Winnowing] (c. 1888)

"Winnowing serves as the final embellishment."

Any efficiency expert—probably even any efficiency apprentice—would tell you that this amounts to perhaps the least efficient means to accomplish anything: Over prepare to under deliver, yet this phrase precisely describes the proper method for producing a set of songs. One defers the LifeboatDrill decisions until very nearly the ending, thereby ensuring that more than twice the number of songs actually performed get rehearsed, and not half-assed rehearsed, either. Each must have been considered a genuine contender and even the more difficult ones should have been painstakingly practiced, even unto and beyond great frustration. The list, too, should have properly been re-ordered several times as if the set might last almost ninety minutes, just as if our earnest performer could last a full ninety minutes, which he probably can't.

But performer capability probably sits beside this point.
Now, the performer simply must consider his audience, who will most certainly enter a little anxious. Any audience member should feel some hesitation when first subjecting themselves to anyone's original compositions. By now, this house concert has been prefaced half to death as I've catalogued the journey from BIG idea toward smaller fruition. A little touch of hype might have even inadvertently slipped in. My mother taught me the true purpose of performing, after I'd subjected her to one of my earliest gigs. She confided afterwards that the purpose of every performance must be to leave the audience wanting more. Should the performer saturate their interest, an audience departs disappointed, for they would have much rather left feeling a little jilted but still in ardor instead of unprepared for even another ounce of whatever was served. Satisfaction comes from leaving the table still a little hungry for more rather than from saturation.

So I have decisions to make. Which six or seven songs will I showcase this time? I dare not plan on spending more than at most three quarters of an hour on my little impromptu stage, even better if I can finish in thirty minutes. Audiences fidget when forced to focus too long. Most of my songs run a little longer than the standard Top 40 three minutes, and I'll have to take Patter into account. I will have to introduce and inject editorial comments if only to attempt to keep the audience oriented. They will need context or a song might not make much sense. I will be sharing some fairly intimate details and I dare not serve those sliced cold. I cannot do what many performers attempt, recite their life stories with gravel in their mouths. I remain old school enough to believe that the audience should be able to understand the story and not just hear the rhythm and melody. I will be unamplified, unplugged.

I have mostly practiced while plugged in. After all, why did I even acquire that fancy condenser microphone and guitar pick-up if not to put them to use? They have been useful when preparing, but a growing awareness that they get in the way between me and my audience leaves me concluding that they're better excluded from the actual performance. The house concert venue should be contained enough that nobody will appreciate amplification. I don't really need feedback or echo, however much their presence might feed my ego. I'm Winnowing here, not embellishing. Winnowing serves as the final embellishment.

I remain aware just how rare house concerts have become. In my youth, many homes still prominently featured a piano and, of course, someone capable of playing the damned thing. Families would fairly regularly gather around and sing together rather than spend every entire evening entranced before their television. We'd become an impromptu choir singing hymns and old standards with a few of those crazy newer tunes sprinkled in. I'd buy the sheet music rather than the record of popular songs. Then, it was not considered even a little bit unusual for families to perform together. Each kid had their instrument and each was certainly capable of contributing something if the spirit moved them. Now, we're more repressed, not nearly so anxious to show off our talents or used to witnessing others sharing theirs. Sharing songs seems a surprisingly intimate offering which must be contributed with great economy, so I'm Winnowing down to an essence beforehand.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver