Saturday, August 8, 2009

"A Diva Makes Them Wait"

These were words spoken by Dr. Julianne Baird during the course I took at Westminster Choir College in ornamenting baroque music

She was using it to elucidate a musical concept/technique, where one might pause just the slightest bit before a fancy cadenza or an impressive high note. She was referring to a musical moment, but I found the statement to be one of those kinds that wakes a person up and penetrates into all areas of life.

And that's what a good musical moment will do. It will reflect so much about our lives in general, and it will find its parallel in other things we do.

I always viewed this idea of a Diva making someone wait as a kind of negative thing. A controlling thing. An assertion of superiority and power. It was something "not nice" and I tried to avoid being like this.

From my earliest days I've been conditioned, as many of us have been, to please others. Not to inconvenience them. To be considerate. I've meditated on how each and every one of us is valuable, and that I am not more, nor less valuable, than anyone else. I strive to avoid playing games and to be sincere and straightforward.

I operated from the standpoint that it was rude to make someone wait:

The delivery man rings the doorbell. His time is valuable. I shouldn't make him wait.

Using the stall in the ladies room. Someone else has to go. I shouldn't make them wait.

The kids are hungry, lonely, anxious, too hot, too tired. I should relieve their discomfort as soon as possible. I shouldn't make them wait to feel better again.

So, the idea of a diva, standing tall above the crowd, set apart, looking down from a throne, and "making them wait" has been unappealing to me (yet strangely fascinating as well, in the way something like that attracts us all). Overall a "diva" has always appeared to me to be downright rude.

However, when the notion was presented that this mode can be applied to musical interpretation and performance of a song, I glimpsed a whole new "reason" for divahood.

"Making them wait" can only increase the way the diva pleases the listener. It is a gift for them.

How many times does the desire for immediate gratification cause us to pass over some really special moments too quickly and too unceremoniously:

I can't wait to give someone a birthday gift that I am excited about, so I insist on giving it to them early and making them open it. Because I can't wait.

I tell my husband some special news when he walks through the front door and before he's put down his things and taken off his coat, instead of preparing a setting and moment to deliver the news. Because I can't wait.

I run downstairs to greet my friend who's come to visit before I've put my makeup on and fixed my hair. Because I can't wait.

As the weeks unfold and more about this concept presents itself to me, I realize there can be a positive spin on it that reflects my own values.

For example, instead of seeing the divaness as something that controls others, a diva could be seen as someone who has eminently mastered self-control. The diva has the strength to hold back. The diva has the ability to save the good parts for last. The diva is full of surprises and doesn't let on until just the right moment. She uses this self-control as a way to give delight and pleasure to her listeners.

Of course there is an art to this. There is timing and skill. It takes a maturity and good judgment and taste. It takes bravery, because Fear is anxious and wants to get it over with, while Self-assured Serenity knows there is time. But, first and foremost, before all this can happen, one has to believe in what one is doing. Taking this positive spin on it might be just the thing to get a girl to believe that she can, and indeed should, make someone wait. That she has something to offer, that she, herself, is a gift worth giving, and that it is not rude, but actually something that can be quite exciting and delicious, that can enhance the experience for all.

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