More on Mouthing Words (and why not to)

silent_mouthThe subject of why directors so often feel the urge to mouth the words as they conduct, and why it is a good idea to overcome this urge is a subject I have visited before. And I don’t need to say very much more than I did last time, so this will be a rather short post. But there was a communal penny-drop moment at the LABBS Directors Weekend back in July on this topic which I thought it worth sharing with you.

It was in one of the coaching sessions - three directors, half a chorus and a coach working together for 45 mins on helping the directors develop more effective technique. Often the directors wanted to work on how to become more expressive and communicative in their gestures, and often the answer was to do less at a full-body level so that the nuances of finger and facial expression weren’t constantly competing with other body parts for attention.

Learning with Lemov: Without Apology

In my early years as a lecturer, I was teaching a class on music analysis one day, when a student asked, ‘And why are we learning this?’ It’s the kind of question that can come over as quite confrontational, especially when you are feeling new to the game. But it’s also a good question to ask every so often. So I talked for a short while about why I thought the method we were looking at was useful to musicians (I suspect it was Schenker, but can’t actually remember for sure). The student accepted my answer, and we went on with the class, all of us feeling some relief that we weren’t wasting our time together.

This incident came back to me as I read Doug Lemov’s principle of teaching Without Apology. If we implicitly (or indeed explicitly) apologise for the content we deliver or the people we deliver to it, we lower expectations about both the achievements that are possible or the rewards that come from achieving it. If we don’t believe in what and who we teach/conduct, who will?

So that’s a principle that’s easy to agree with in the abstract, but let’s look at some of the ways it can play out in a choral context.

Confidence, Competence and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

If you've not seen this movie, I'd recommend it for all kinds of reasons, including its illustration of the Dunning-Kruger EffectIf you've not seen this movie, I'd recommend it for all kinds of reasons, including its illustration of the Dunning-Kruger EffectI wrote some time ago about the relationship between confidence and competence, and how when prioritising learning needs the former can often act as a reasonable proxy for the latter. There was, however, some interesting psychological research towards the back end of the last century that identified circumstances in which this correlation not only breaks down but becomes positively misleading.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect refers to the way that people who are grossly incompetent at a skill will cheerfully think they are quite good at it, as below a certain skill threshold you lack the knowledge and awareness to recognise how truly bad at something you are. Conversely, experts routinely underestimate how much better they are then the merely competent because one of the hallmarks of expertise is being able to do something fluently and without struggle.

This means that if you meet someone who describes an activity as ‘ not that hard’, they are likely to be either very very good at it or very very bad.

Creating a Charismatic Encounter: LABBS Directors Weekend, Part 5

Final Thoughts

Well, not final thoughts ever about this event. In fact, I have several stacks of notes on things I learned or observed or discovered during the course of the weekend that I have yet to get around to writing about. It was after all intended to be the kind of event that would affect its participants for months if not years into the future. But I think I’m nearly done processing my thoughts about it as a charismatic encounter.

Okay, that’s weird. I stopped to have a think after writing that first paragraph, then after a few minutes looking back to the start of the event, remembering what it felt like as people arrived, I realised my pulse was faster and my adrenaline levels back up again. Even while I was remembering how pleasantly surprised I had been to find myself feeling calmer and less nervous than I had expected.

Syndicate content