Taking Things For Granted

It is easy to take some kinds of information for granted. We all assume that “everybody knows that”.

Of course, nowadays, even basic assumptions are often wrong. Things like “all graduates of public high schools in the USA are decently educated” and “those who hold high government office know how the government was formed and how it works” and “anyone who is openly dishonest and convicted of a crime will never be able to live it down” are all blatantly untrue. There is so much general ignorance in the world that being dumb is somehow a badge of honor. Being dishonest is the same. It is often so that if you are a crook but a CELEBRATED crook, the world doesn’t punish you, it offers you a book deal and a reality show.

We have a TV network that calls itself Arts and Entertainment (A&E). Some people who are in the fine arts or in high art (Met Museum, Met Opera) would chafe at being labeled “entertainment”. Some people think that entertainment takes in the likes of “Jersey Shore”, “The Real Housewives of Okefenokee Swamp”, “Lock Up” and “Raw”. We are in a time when enormous amounts of violence is put forth as so-called entertainment on all the visual media every day. All manner of sexually explicit behavior in is now seen on mainstream media and is taken as being very acceptable by a large part of society. Twenty five years ago some of the dance moves on “Glee” would only have been seen in strip shows. Things change.

When it comes to training for singing, we can try to assume that those people who are working with singers know about singing, but that is a risky assumption. Whether it be a record producer or a parent of a kid who sings or a music director or someone who is teaching singing, we really can’t know what any particular person knows. We can’t even know that he doesn’t know he is uninformed. The entire realm of singing is so vaguely defined, poorly understood, and completely disorganized, and without any shred of external measurement or definition, that finding anything at all about singing that is consistent is a miracle. Yet, every day, we have the talent shows. “American Idol” is still doing well. We are about to have the “X Factor”, a new one, and there are all kinds of small competitions throughout the world for singers of various kinds. What gets judged? By what kind of judges? Who decides what is worthy and what is not –the same people who decide what kind of dancing is OK for “Glee” or what songs are acceptable for “American Idol”? Who decides what kinds of skills a judge needs to have? Does the judge sing? Did the judge ever sing? Did the judge ever have a career singing? Did the judge study singing? Did the judge ever learn how anyone makes sound? Think of all the assumptions here and how absolutely unknown they are.

Things are the way they are, often, because someone says so. If the person is someone who has made an effort to be knowledgeable, perhaps what that individual says seems to make sense and, therefore, credible. But not necessarily. There have been some really nutty ideas out there that have garnered millions of followers who do not question. It is more common to find a herd of sheep than a sheep herder. We take for granted that someone who says they know, does.

We take for granted that going to college to learn to sing makes you a better singer. This is a risky assumption. We also take for granted that all those who teach singing in these colleges know how to teach. Same. We take for granted that all good singing has similar parameters. Ditto.

If someone is writing about “vocal pedagogy” (or the study of teaching singing), it would seem fair to assume the writer has conducted a comparative study of various approaches to teaching singing, with plusses and minuses of each digested, weighed and measured and is presenting this information for evaluation. If someone were teaching any kind of “vocal pedagogy” it would seem fair and reasonable to assume that the person teaching had investigated all kinds of teaching of all kinds of musical styles and many different teachers. These, too, would be risky assumptions.

All this leaves you with one thought. Question everything. Do not accept anything anyone says without your own thought process running it through your life. In the end, we are all responsible for what we accept. If we never ask any questions, if we never challenge our assumptions, and just take things for granted, we will surely find that doing so is a good way to fall into a deep, dark hole.

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