Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Musicianship" - How To Train Your DNA

Gregg Goldston has given me a countless number of personal mime assignments since I started training with him 13 years ago.
Moreover, with a friendly smile and also his artistic pressure, he has given me over 100 specific songs to listen to in order to develop my timing and musicality. (And I mean listen to each song for weeks at a time too!)

I now understand that it has been his long-term DNA project for my "Musicianship" development.

What we mean by the term DNA, is a person's natural sense of timing, rhythm, or musicality. We all have a certain timing in our brain based on our upbringing, culture, and/or style of music we listen to.

Gregg realized around 25-years into his career, that by listening to new styles of music "constantly," his rhythm and timing on stage had changed...without him even realizing it! He then tested this discovery on me for several years and once we saw how it had affected my work too, it became one of our most essential teaching methods to transform out students' performances.

Those were probably about a hundred CDs beside hundreds of songs directly copied to my computer. A wide variety with always some least expected, I mean surprising, type of music I had never chosen to listen to before. 

Sometimes, he made me listen to 60's Rock and Roll and told me to memorize every phrase, then Jazz, Blues, a bunch of Bossa Nova, even Japanese songs I didn't know of were handed by him. "Listen to these and stretch your phrasing". 

Back then, I had no idea where I was going. I only trusted his guidance, and intuitively followed those unknown paths. 

Gregg has been always searching for new unfamiliar music to us. And told me to do the same mime play with different kinds of songs. Bobby McFerrin pushed me to move fast and square. Stephane Grappelli lead me to long colorful phrases. Jeff Beck showed me the possibility to change the pitch and intensity between notes... Slowly, I learned to like this new vulnerable feeling, which was mysterious and fascinating for me.

I can tell you clearly that without my I-Pod, which I "now" literary live, walk and sometimes even sleep with, my career would have never seen the future it has now. 

This is how Gregg Goldston trains his students, including myself.

1) Training your own DNA

Listen to certain songs that train and widen the range of your rhythms. The 
GMI provides our students a playlist to listen to. Those songs are somewhat unfamiliar to you, therefore uncomfortable to listen to first, because that stimulates your untouched zone of musicality. 

Most people feel comfortable listening to flat-line tunes. But everyone in your audience gets bored when you flat-line on stage... Consequently, we rarely include slow classical in our list, except for songs we use for lyrical acting training. 

Replace your playlist with The GMI playlist. Listen to them over and over until you start humming the songs unconsciously. You will soon notice your newly developed capacity will create a broader texture of rhythms in your performance that never wants to flat-line again. That becomes a sensor you want to grow and develop into your DNA. And, before you realize it, you also grow to like a broader range of music!

Think and plan ahead of your current DNA. What do you really want to add to your musicality for your career?

Longer phrases to create "Cookie"/"Chaplin" persona?
Floating Bossa Nova fluency?
Banging or uplifting beat to wake up your audience?
Threatening intensity and cool bending "between" notes you find in Jeff Beck?

2) Explore different texture in your movements. If you always move in robotic texture with a jerk, make the edges softer like a pillow, If you are too flat soft and slow, suspend the edges to add stress, or stop sooner with intensity. It is helpful to use different music to do your old play. It helps to break your habitual rhythm and push you to the edge which is unfamiliar to you and unsafe. Find where you feel unsafe. That is where "Musicianship" lives.

3) Do your simple routine exercises with different rhythms. Your inclinations/rotations are always done with uptempo? Do it with sleepy bouncy light-weight music or even with a violin solo. What will happen? You will enjoy it very much and will want to report the effect to others!

Walk in place, run in place, objects, eye exercises, or anything can be ten times more beneficial with different rhythms.

I will write about some simple exercises to mix multiple rhythms in your performance at another time. 

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Musicianship" - Miming In the Groove

Here is my interpretation on "Musicianship" 

"Musicianship" is a type of musicality with performer's specific state of mind and body naturally woven into mime performance. It is a blend of physics and internal singing, which create visual music in the state of "groove". 

In my opinion, "Musicianship" can happen only if your body knows how to Coil and Uncoil "effortlessly", as great musicians can "groove" only through complete control and freedom of their rhythms.

In 2003, Gregg started writing a new play titled "Portrait of a Song" TO a jazz tune called "Spain" by Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea. I recall that he literary memorized every phrase within the 11 minutes tune and acted/moved to the actual phrases. It was an experimental play for him.  He cut the song into several sections, act TO the phrases and rehearsed without mirrors just as musicians never play looking at themselves objectively/self-consciously when they groove.

Gregg wanted to "become" the music, so he focused on the essence of rhythms and melodies. Because of the type of music, the perfection he was searching for became the improvisational playfulness and effortless fluency in the groove. It was a mesmerizing piece which made many people cry including myself. After that discovery of Musicianship, He developed another play "The Argument", like a magic box of "Musicianship".

If you have a pair of ballet shoes with flat sole, please bring them to our class. If not, we strongly recommend you to get one. "Musicianship" is hard to learn barefoot.

Written by Haruka Moriyama,
 with additions by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

How To Play Big and Reach Your Audience

I used to cry often watching my own performance videos. "Why do I look so small and shy on stage?"  "How can I look bigger and more confident? "How do I gain charisma?" "How can I reach my audience?"...

If anything above is a familiar monologue in your head, this post is just for you.

The bigger I tried to move around, the smaller I looked.  I froze my body at the end of actions, peeled my eyelids and stared with my frozen eyeballs at the air above my audience. "Did you see what I did?" "Are you following me?" "Am I clear now?"  Yes, I was clear. I looked like a "clear" crystal doll. My body was not breathing or changing the colors. I was not "coiling."

Marcel Marceau called this "Suspension." And If you are unaware of what I am speaking about in this blog, go look at photos of him in performance and see how his body is so "larger than life" and how his projection goes out so far into the theater.

Many mimes, including Gregg, had a difficult time learning this very physical technique, since Mr. Marceau would show it, but never broke down the method to attain it.

Gregg and an associate named Rick Wamer spent some two years diagramming it, and even longer to develop a method of teaching it. We now teach this during our program and it has an amazing effect not only on the projection of our students, but also improves their acting and "musicianship".

Below I will explain many of our methods we use while teaching it.

"Coil" is a squeezed and elongated muscle texture, like when you knead bread, created "between" rotated and/or inclined body parts. 

Imagine a metal spring. You have taken both hands and pushed the spring together so that it is tighter, then see how the spring is pushing from the middle outward in both directions.

This is how we coil. When you are standing, your hips are the center of the spring, and from the hips we push upwards to your head, and downwards to your feet at the same time. This kind of springs (coils) can exist throughout your body, while you rotate and/or incline body parts.

There are two primary purposes of coiling.

First: reaching your audience with its energy flows from the angles of body parts you create by coiling.

Second: creating "off-the-clock" musicality in your movement and acting quality by tightening and releasing them in different rhythms.

Here is a simple example of coiling process:

1. Sit on the floor with straight legs forward, facing your audience, then walk with your hips backward while you stay sitting as tall as possible and keep your chest facing front and slightly pushed forward.

2. Notice that you naturally rotate your pelvis by doing it. And most likely you are forced to coil your waist area between your pelvis and chest. 

That is one long coil you can create instantly. 

If your pelvis is rotating right, your waist is coiling (elongated and squeezed) between your chest (facing front) and pelvis (facing right).

Make sure that your waist area looks longer than how it looked before.

3. Then, rotate your head to the direction of your pelvis (right), so your neck area is now coiling (elongated and squeezed) between head (facing right) and chest (facing front). 

4. Try to elongate your neck as much as possible and push it slightly toward your audience as if you are saying "Kiss my neck" to them. 

5. Now here, you have two different coils, one in your neck area and the other in your waist area. Notice how much closer you got to your audience while your pelvis and head are no longer directly facing your audience. It is done by making coils effectively.

6. Now, stand up and make a mime 4th position (balance point is on your back leg) and try to search for other rotations and inclinations around your waist, chest, neck, head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, heels, ball of feet, toes, ... they are all available parts to train for effective coiling. 

**Please be extra careful not to rotate your knees. I will write about specific exercise on heels, feet, toes and pelvis in order to avoid knee injury at another time. In short for now, pelvis rotation must be securely connected with your knee direction so that knee does not independently rotate, never. 

There is no need to enter scientific precision in coiling study. That is a black hole if you do.  The purpose of coiling is still our lovable audience to stay with, and we do not want to ignore or lose our audience by enjoying the coils too much like scientists in their laboratory.

"Coils" are used and adjusted "undecipherablly" to reach your audience.

If your body looks like a piece of artwork in a spot light isolated from the house, you are not properly coiling, you are simply rotating and/or inclining your body parts and there is your audience left behind in cold air.

In other words, do not curl up and stay in a place, where you cannot see, listen to or feel your audience closely. If you have to turn your back to the audience due to a specific scene, use your maximum coils throughout your body to reach your audience with energy flows beaming from your pelvis, fingers, elbows, heels, ball of feet, toes, whatever available that moment. Light them up and touch your audience with those beams.

By training to coil your body parts in different textures of rhythms such as slow burning speed, floating light-weight sleepy bouncy movements or fast cubic "square" movements, etc., you can generate the rich musicality called "musicianship" by just doing that coiling and uncoiling, i.e., releasing the coil.

Acting rhythm, which could be sung with your face and eye expressions, with gestures of hands, arms, etc. must super-cede the body coils. For example, acting rhythm may sound like a violin melody playing on top of other instruments in a symphony. 

Some common transformation turns are done by coiling pelvis. You can tighten and loosen the coils on irregular rhythms. That creates a breathing expanding quality of your whole body.  The beauty of coiling is that, after certain amount of practice, your trained body will do the effective work on stage "effortlessly" following its own intuition, instead of your brain controlling it consciously. You will be free, and only living your emotions on stage.

Ideally, you want to be thinking only about your thoughts and your "Universal Audience" on stage. And you keep internally singing its emotional rhythms/ melodies, and continuously sending the volcanic vibrations of emotions from your eyes to your "Universal Audience". I will write about this "internally singing" part, which is also called "musicianship" at another time. 

Written by Haruka Moriyama

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Greetings from New York City

Hello mime lovers,

In case I have not met you in person, my name is Haruka Moriyama. I am a faculty member of The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime. I am originally from Japan and currently live in New York City, where I teach, create, practice, and perform. I have studied under Gregg Goldston for over a decade, whom I trust as my mentor, teacher and the closest friend on earth.

Mime is such a magical art form with depth of an ocean. Most essential parts that create its mesmerizing texture of movements and stunning effects of acting are hidden and hard to describe to others. Here I am, always impressed by new findings in this art form, thought it was important for someone like me to at least write about this accumulated knowledge I learned from and witnessed with Gregg.

It is best if we could meet you in person sometime in the future. But for now, I sincerely hope that my effort and passion to write this information will help you pursue your career, protect and grow richer this unique and beautiful art form, and bond our international mime community closer than ever.

Haruka Moriyama