Monday, December 06, 2021

Discovering “the space between” when singing

This week Mary Denn writes a guest post which introduces the Japanese concept of “the space between.”

photo by chris_j_wood

Since singing is a universal form of expression, other cultures can offer different insights into how we approach it.

singing as a universal means of expression

Singing, music and movement have been with us for tens of thousands of years. They have played an important role in human evolution across every culture. Group bonding, communication, healing rituals, collective natural expression of emotion … are all universal.

To help us explore natural expressiveness, energy, imagery, playfulness, embodiment and connection, we can look at other music and performance practices around the world.

the Japanese concept of ma

One of the most inspirational forms I have studied is Butoh, an expressive Japanese dance-theatre. This practice explores the concept of ma which means “the space between” — to pause, to feel, to breathe, to be present.

Perhaps this space is the pause between your breaths; the space between phrases in a song; the space between your head and the ceiling. Or perhaps this space is a mindset — one where we are not looking to the future, or dwelling in the past, but allowing ourselves to be in the moment, by connecting to the song.

Japanese Noh theatre has been described as Senu tokoro ga omoshiroki which means “what the actor does not do is interesting.” This is perhaps the supreme artistic expression of ma.

In singing, it is what the singer does in “the spaces in between” which is perhaps the most interesting.

singing as an intuitive process

Songs are emotional, melodic storytelling and rhythm is everywhere — even our hearts have beats. Our heartbeats connect us, our breath connects us, and our voices connect us.

Because our voices come from inside us, and form a big part of who we are, we can often feel vulnerable when singing. We are willingly opening our voices (and ourselves) up to explore — which is why we must meet ourselves here without judgement.

When we sing, we are fully present - connected to our breath, body, voice and the music. When we tune into this, without judgement, we come back into ourselves. We can connect to ourselves and connect to our natural expression, meeting ourselves with curiosity and honouring the process of discovering (or re-discovering) our natural voice.

Whether or not you identify as a singer, you can sometimes feel you have lost your connection with your voice, or that you never had it in the first place. By allowing yourself to drop into song intuitively, as a totally personal exploration, you can find a beautiful connection to yourself, others, and human nature.

I truly believe that everyone has a voice and has a right to express it. Singing is your own intuitive process and personal exploration. It’s about releasing, letting go, and fostering a beautiful connection to yourself.


Mary Denn
website: Tune In With Mary
Instagram: @tuneinwithmary



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Chris Rowbury




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