By Karin Abarbanel
“Every single one of us has our own music. It starts very early when we start uttering words. We are the composer, the musician, we are the instrument and so we play ourselves.”
Ronald Douglas Bascombe
Ron Bascombe is a gifted poet, author, and inspired and inspiring performer of his work; he’s also a former Baptist preacher who’s turned his shyness into shining rhythms on the page and in person. In a lively, spirited Write Group workshop called “Playing Your Song,” he shared his innovative and exciting approach for taking written work from the page to the stage.
“Every written work of art reflects the rhythms and music of their author,” noted Ron. “That music is best represented when the author gives voice to those compositions through their properly orchestrated presentation.”
As composers of original work, how do we also become both its musician and instrument? For many of us, this isn’t easy — like Ron, our shyness can get in the way of “performing” our work in front of an audience at an open mike event or staged reading.
According to Ron, the keys to managing shyness and giving voice to our own music with poise and flair — to performing confidently — are preparation and thinking of ourselves as musicians. When we write, we go through “stages of creation,” notes Ron: We develop a draft, review it, test it out, edit it and then repeat the revision process.
In much the same way, when we plan to read our work aloud, we need to go through the stages of “Presentation Prep” to shape our work from words on a page into a “performance” piece that employs the language of music: rhythm, pacing, and intonation to make it sing its song.
Stage 1: Presentation planning — This involves crafting your performance piece: selecting it, reading it aloud, editing it, testing it, and repeating it until the words flow smoothly.
Stage 2: Sound check — This involves using a tape recorder or iPhone so you can listen to your composition from the audience’s perspective. Then edit it again, add musical notation — marking up the draft with notes on pacing and emphasis — and then repeat as needed.
Stage 3: Time check — This involves timing your best recording. If it’s too short, find moments to slow it down; if it’s too long, cut and condense it.
Stage 4: Rehearse and record — Once the piece flows smoothly and it’s the right length, focus on delivery: rehearse your annotated piece and record it again. Then listen to the recording to internalize the work and record again. The goal is not to memorize the piece but to become intimately familiar with it so that you can perform it with confidence and energy.
One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is sharing our work, both on the page and in person. There’s something so exciting about “performing” words aloud — bringing them to life in front of an audience. I’ve been lucky enough to see and hear Ron perform his poetry and I know the artistry and care he brings to his presentations. He puts time and energy into making sure that his work sings and dances — and creates a joyful, satisfying experience for his audience.
So let’s take his approach to heart as we craft our own performances. Bravo, Ron! Sing on!