Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Professional Perspectives

I am married to a singer. Not just a wannabe, shower-singing, little-ditty-humming singer, but a degreed, qualified, professional singer. A voice teacher. The kind of singer whom people (like me) want to hear again and again.

She is a trained musician, and that gives her a perspective that I don't have. Oh, I am a "singer" too, if you count community theatre roles and a lifelong church choir habit, but I am not in her league. I have never had a voice lesson, and nobody is going to mistake me for a real soloist. Gena, on the other hand, gets asked to sing the national anthem at major civic events. She is a real musician.

And that can be a curse to her.

This last Sunday night was our annual singing of Handel's Messiah at our church. For me, it was all good. It was inspiring, uplifting, and transcendant. For Gena, it was enjoyable, but... you see, Gena knows things that I don't know. She sees things in a vocal score that are invisible, or at least indecipherable, to me. And that means that she knows when a soloist is less than perfect.

I don't mean to suggest that Gena is overly critical or that she did not enjoy Messiah, because neither of those things would be true. I only mean that her perspective is so different from mine that we experience concerts very differently.

I suppose it is not all that different from how we watch "Law and Order" together. She follows the story; I am astounded by what I consider to be outlandishly poor courtroom antics. I still enjoy the show, but I see it through an entirely different lens.

I think there is a lesson here. It may be our professions that determine the lens through which we look, but often there are other factors. It could be simple experience, socioeconomic background, age, deeply ingrained "truths" learned long ago that we cannot now even consider to be "wrong," or any of a number of other things. I suppose even race and gender shape our lenses (as much as I do not want to admit it), at least on some things.

There are two points from this lesson:
1. Recognize your perspective. No matter how incomprehensible someone else's view of the same facts you see may be to you, the differences do not necessarily make either of you wrong. If I learned nothing else from competitive debate, I learned this: there are often more than two sides to every question, and reasonable people can see the same thing quite differently.
2. Don't forget to enjoy the show. Even when your perspective alters, clouds, or defines your view, remember that most of those in the audience (who have never had a voice lesson or tried a case) are content. That is not because they are ignorant; it is because the music is beautiful.


Chris O'Rear said...

Nice reflections. The training in preaching affects the way I hear a sermon and the training in counseling affects the way I hear people's struggles. My training as a chaplain just makes me wonder why hospital shows never have one. But then I realize that I am also a middle class, white, southern, Christian, male. I had better know how that affects my perspective. Thanks for the thoughts.

Aunt Lydia said...

I have the same problem. I can experience a worship service and walk away feeling inspired and uplifted. Patrick analyzes it on the way home. I could enjoy a symphony concert at TPAC just fine, but Patrick was always complaining about the acoustics. On the plus side, I have much more insight into what comprises a quality worship service or what makes someone a good musician. The other day we were driving down the road listening to a song from the movie Enchanted, and Patrick explained why it worked from a music theory perspective. I just thought it was a fun song.

Of course, I can't watch a newscast without picking it apart. Patrick now knows what mistakes drive me insane on a newscast. It's kind of like working at a sausage factory or a church. It's hard to enjoy it when you know so much about it.