Musings on Mansplaining

If you’re female, you’ve probably experienced this far too many times, going back to before there was a word for it. I seem to have encountered quite a spate of it recently (both as recipient and witness), and it’s got me thinking about what exactly is going on.

The first thing I’ve been mulling over is a question a male friend asked me over a year ago: how does mansplaining differ from the kind of dominance displays men enact on each other by showing off their knowledge on a subject? The key dynamic of mansplaining, I articulated to him at the time, is not merely the lecturing of one person by another, but that the woman being lectured to is in fact an expert in the subject the man is telling her about, but he isn’t. (If you don’t know the story that inspired the coining of the term, you need to go read it.) I don’t know why blokes do this, by the way, since it makes them look stupid, but it’s well documented that they do.

Happy New Year!

So it’s time to get back in the saddle and start paying attention to the outside world again. I hope you have all had a restful break over the holiday season, with the balance of fellowship and quiet time that best suits your personality. For myself, I can’t remember the last time I spent quite so many days in a row at home without working, which is a bit of an achievement. I love what I do for a living, but I had some times during 2018 when I struggled to remember what I do when I’m not doing that.

The Christmas Post

The title is in the spirit of ‘The Christmas Song’. Other blog posts about Christmas are available, but a gratuitous definite article always makes things look more purposeful when you’ve not yet thought of a better title. (I’m not – necessarily – saying this was the songwriter’s rationale, just sharing my own process.)

Anyway, just a quick note to say that as usual I’m not planning to post over the seasonal break. I shall be aiming to get myself some more time away from screens over the holiday, and am helping you do likewise by not posting anything you might want to read. If it turns out that you actually like a little escapism from all the people and excessive good cheer, you can always indulge in a little nostalgic browsing of the archives.

The Christmas Song Paradox

My title today refers to a paradox relating to Christmas repertoire in general, rather than to the specific song of that title. But now I’ve mentioned it, I am going to be self-indulgent and get a few things off my chest.

  1. Why the definite article? Other Christmas songs are available
  2. Nobody dresses up like Eskimos for Christmas. For sure there are all kinds of wintry clichés associated with the festival that have little or nothing to do either with its pagan origins or its appropriation to celebrate a Palestinian-born Messiah. (For example, I don’t recall the gospels mentioning penguins along with the ox and the ass). But the Eskimos line is clearly there for no other purpose than to rhyme with ‘Jack Frost nipping at your nose’.

    And you wouldn’t think it should be too hard to find something else, less absurd, that would fit. Chose, crows, doze, froze, goes, hellos, joes, lows, pose, prose, rose, sews, shows, suppose, toes, those, woes…all those possibilities…

    Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
    And played through speakers made by Bose

    Okay, so this doesn’t pass the ‘less absurd’ test, but it is likely to be more factually accurate.

  3. Everybody knows that candles and some fairy lights help to keep the season bright. Turkeys and mistletoe have their seasonal uses, but not typically as lighting solutions.

Clarity of Concept, Clarity of Gesture

I recently had some correspondence with a director who asked me for feedback on her technique after I’d been working with her chorus, and it took us into territory that feels like other directors might also be interested in. So, I’m doing the further thinking about it I promised to do publicly here.

It started with an observation I made about how she came over in action:

I observe that when your musical concept is clearer, your gestures are more neat and precise and it takes less effort to communicate. So it may be that when you are finding the physical coordination more difficult, that is a signal that you need to clarify your musical concepts more. That is a working hypothesis rather than an absolute, but one which there is no downside to exploring.

She replied that she found this plausible, and that in fact it was sometimes developing the musical concept itself that presented the challenge:

Sopebocks: On thuh Spelling Uv Kawdz

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I rooteenlee trie anned tawk them owt uv thiss on thuh baysiss that it maycks thuh myoozick mutch hahda two reed four thohz hoo undastanned hahmunny. Ewe haff two stop anned puzzul owt wot awl thee individyoual nohtz ah anned tranzlayt that ennhahmonickly intwo uh kawd rahtha than chust reeding thuh myoozick. At bessed it sloes ewe up, at wurst it chaynjezz thuh meeningz.

A Weekend with the Barberlights

Barberlights
Unless something unexpected happens very soon, last weekend was my last coaching trip to Germany for 2018. This time I was with the Barberlights in Remseck, near Stuttgart, and we had a full schedule together, starting Friday evening and continuing all day Saturday and most of Sunday too. To say this allowed us to get a lot done together would be an understatement.

It wasn’t just the sheer number of hours we spent together, I’d add, it was the chance to sleep on our experiences together and revisit the next day. In this sense, the session on Friday, though only an hour and a half long, really punched above its weight. Not only did we start Saturday having done some groundwork together, we’d also given our brains the chance to process, sort and embed the work.

Happy Birthday to Helping You Harmonise!

Floddy helping at a coaching sessionFloddy helping at a coaching sessionTen years ago I was wondering what to write in my inaugural blog post, and realising it didn’t really matter at that point as nobody at that stage knew I was writing it. This post, marking the occasion of Helping You Harmonise’s 10th birthday, makes me feel under both more and less pressure than that first one.

More, because I’m reasonably sure this one will be seen and read – it raises the stakes if what you’re doing is witnessed. Less, because I’ve learned that my policy of writing about what I find interesting and trusting that somebody else may find it interesting too usually works. Indeed, not only has blogging brought me into all kinds of interesting conversations over the years with people who share my interests, it has rewarded me with friendships with people from all over the world.

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