By definition, being unconscious means you are not conscious. Conscious means aware of one’s existence, feelings and thoughts and in a waking, not comatose, state, and aware.

If you are not dead or in a coma, you are conscious. The question then is, are you aware? And if so, of what are you aware and in what way? And how much? And for how long? And under what circumstances?

What you pay attention to gets more important. If you notice something it magnifies through attention. If you notice the gorgeous sunset, the song of the birds, the blue in your lover’s eye, those things become significant, and more meaningful. If you notice that the light is fading as the sun sets and then notice that you feel peaceful while it does, you add another facet to your awareness and deepen the experience. If you also notice that when the light fades and you feel peaceful and you felt that way when you were 10 years old watching the sunset at night with your beloved grandfather, then you have broadened the experience even further.

Awareness can be very finite and very expansive. It resides in the present moment but it can recall the past. It is deliberate but happens spontaneously all day long. It is not, however, about the words that run through your mind while you are noticing. They are a separate phenomenon. What you say to yourself as thoughts is a kind of “voice over” in your head. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we are talking to ourselves that way, and rarely do we stop this inner conversation except, perhaps, when we are asleep. Inner or outer “words” can be part of your awareness or not.

If the arts are a way for human beings to be creative, to reflect what life is doing in a way that is deliberate rather than random, and if artists are called to see the world and all that is in it in a unique way, then they must be conscious of the human condition and the relationship they have to it. Artists are called upon by society to be catalysts, provocateurs, “cage shakers”, bearers of light and laughter, insight and upset. Art that is merely “nice” isn’t much in the way of art.

Yet, there have always been and will always be those who do not understand art at all yet call themselves artists. They have no awareness, no depth of insight, no unique point of view and do not challenge themselves to face their own limitations. Such individuals may do no harm, but they certainly do not impress or transport those who must encounter what they do. They are pseudo artists.

So much singing is like that. It is neither conscious nor interesting. It is not transformative nor dynamic. It is not inspired nor does it inspire. It exists because it can.

I have had many students pass through this studio who wanted “to sing”. Some of them had plenty of money and time to pursue this goal. They had lots of desire and lots of help getting to a specific destination, which wasn’t particularly difficult. They can hire someone to teach them to sing, to write a song, to get the song arranged, to teach them how to perform the song. They can hire great musicians to play for them, and go to a high tech recording studio to make a great CD with a fabulous engineer and they can hire the top PR people to pitch the album when it is done. They can hire a manager and get great headshots and send out press releases and have some success. None of this, however, will make them artists or make their singing artistic in a memorable way. I’ve seen it over and over.

Of course, the reverse is true. You can find someone with a great voice, a great gift for singing, for music, for expression, for poetry and a great desire to share with others what they sing only to struggle and get nowhere. The artistry is of the highest order but it doesn’t help in finding success.

Some people are devastated by this, others could care less. The saddest thing, for me at least, is that the unconscious person may never realize he is not an artist and have no clue how truly boring he is. He may never face his own limitations because he isn’t conscious enough to know that he HAS limitations (since the money lets him run around the things that could stop others less fortunate).

Audiences, too, are unconscious and don’t know the difference. Without music education in public school, they have no basis for being musically conscious or awakened. A rude, self-reinforcing cycle of blissful ignorance……

Being conscious is being alive and aware, present to all of the fullness of life’s experience. It is what makes life matter.

Really wonderful singing wakes you up and makes you more conscious (both to do and to hear). It makes you feel. It causes you to expand, to be more alive, to know more about the human condition. Singing that doesn’t do that is unconscious and people who don’t know the difference are themselves, unconscious. And if I had my way, none of those unconscious people would ever become singing teachers, but it’s not anything I can control. (Darn!)

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2 thoughts on “Unconsciousness”

  1. I believe this awareness, this consciousness of what’s happening, what’s moving outside and inside of you at the same time is a very important skill that every artist should pursue.
    We musicians should actively pursue this instead of leaving it to chance! During my formation as a musician subjects such as these were very rarely mentioned by teachers or fellow students.
    Your posts are always very inspiring!!

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