When I was in high school, I performed in my school’s concert choir. Not coming from a particularly musical family, it was my first entrée into the world of vocal music and choral music. I loved it. I sang second soprano and even took voice lessons. I never had a solo, but I learned a lot, not only about reading music, but about bringing it to emotional life with our voices. I partially credit my sense of versification, especially meter, to those years in Mr. Peterson’s choir room.
I also learned something else during those choir years that has had a positive, lasting impact on my writing. This is it: In preparing a piece for performance, you don’t have to learn it in order. Rather, as I recall, each piece was taught and practiced according to Mr. Peterson’s skilled and strategic plan. Often this meant we started by tackling a particularly difficult passage or a repeated chorus. Every day, bit by bit, we’d explore the piece, but only towards the end would he have us put it all together in sequential order. And to this musical newbie, hearing all those measures learned out of order finally come together was an exciting moment and a signal that we were almost ready to perform.
Writing a story can be a lot like preparing a choral piece. For both, it’s good to have an overall strategy or storyline in mind, but neither needs to be developed in strict sequence from beginning to end. Rather, just as Mr. Peterson did, it’s okay for writers to jump ahead to the end or the middle or to whatever part of the story your muse is ready to tackle. Indeed, this strategy makes good writerly sense because some parts of the story will require more wrestling with than others, and the progress you make in working through each section or “measure” will invariably help shape the other parts of your story until they all fit together with perfect crescendo and decrescendo like a high school choral piece being sublimely performed.
Looking back over my years as a writer, I can’t imagine creating a piece without applying what I learned in concert choir. Thank you, Mr. Peterson! Maybe his approach will inspire you, as well, in your creative endeavors this week. Happy writing!
6 thoughts on “MEASURE BY MEASURE: Thoughts on Singing and Writing”
Thanks for reminding me of this. I am a singer, but had forgotten about out of order learning. It brought back some great memories and it is good advice.
Yes, and when I think about it, it applies to all sorts of settings – not just singing and writing. Have a wonderful week!
oh, my. How I wish I had had singing lessons. Instead, I sing all the time and sing badly 😦
On that note, (pun intended) I also cannot write a story out of sequence. You have many writerly blessings and this is yet another one.
I bet you sing beautifully. Maybe I’m a bit odd in my writerly practices. I wonder…
A great comparison between a concert piece and writing! and don’t we want our writing to sing?
Yes, we do! =) Thank you.