The Most Naked of the Arts

By Cyberquill 04/23/20142 Comments

The Large Bathers

Which is harder, singing or acting?

The actor will insist acting is harder, for while the singer enjoys the luxury of the music to set the proper mood, the actor lacks this powerful emotional stimulant, and, thus bereft of the external crutch that is always there for the singer to lean and to draw on, must generate the requisite state of mind and emotions solely from the inside out.

The singer will counter by pointing to music’s relentless timing, which compels her to be ready on the count of one, come Hades or high H2O, whereas the actor can always take a few extra seconds and insert a pregnant pause for the purpose of collecting himself and conjuring whatever internal imagery he requires to propel him into the spirit of the situation to be enacted—or for remembering his lines.

Obviously, music tends to be rather unforgiving when it comes to even the briefest of blackouts, leaving the singer nary an extra nanosecond for retrieving the next line of the song from her memory bank. If the words aren’t there on the beat, there’s really no way to deliver them a few shakes of a lamb’s tail later without the audience going “oops!”, a latitude generally available to the actor.

Which is harder, singing or dancing?

I once overheard this conversation between a voice teacher and a dance teacher:

The voice teacher claimed that everything showed in a person’s voice. Everything. If you had a bad night’sleep, if you were improperly nourished, or if you’d just had a fight with your boyfriend, the state of your voice would invariably give it away right off, whereas in dancing, she added as if stating a fact no more controversial than that earth orbits the sun, one could camouflage a lot of things that the voice would reveal in a flash.

Predictably, upon hearing this, the dance teacher went ballistic and tossed her leotard into the ring with a fanfare, explaining that the human body, via the way it moves, was utterly incapable of concealing anything. In fact, she could tell everything about a person’s life just by the way they walked into the room, long before they even uttered a sound.

Ergo, she put forth, dancing was the hardest, in the sense of being the least amenable to faking it, and hence the most truthful, of the performing arts.

Now, of course, a mime could come along and assert that while dancers and singers have the music to aid them in expressing that which they wish to convey to their respective audiences, and singers and actors have words, the mime has neither. His entire toolbox consists of his body language and his facial expressions. That’s it.

Likewise, the writer, the instrumental musician, the painter, the sculptor, and the photographer may join into the debate and present their case as to why—although, as each will cede, all forms of art have their place and are to be respected—their respective field happens to leave the artist just a little more vulnerable and exposed by affording just a little less opportunity for hiding behind gimmickry, thereby cutting just a little closer to the essence of the human experience than do all the others.

So let’s not expect the debate over the most naked of the arts to be settled anytime soon.

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  • Cheri

    The writer’s voice is not the same as the singer’s.
    The writer is more like the actor.
    The writer may become who she or he wishes to be, under imaginative auspices.
    You cannot tell, necessarily, when the writer is having a very bad day, can you?

    • Cyberquill

      A given reader may not be able to tell consciously, but many writers, I’m sure, will argue that word choice, rhythm, and sentence structure lay bare the writer’s inner state at the time of composition more mercilessly than does any other form of artistic expression.

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