the Author

Social Distancing Journal 07: Thoughts about what I’ve been listening to

Posted in writing.

So, last week I mentioned Dimash Kudaibergen, and linked a couple of clips. The couple of clips were not, of course, all that I listened to — on his offi­cial channel he has, ummm, a lot. Including full concerts.

But I was very curious — as one is — about who did beat him in the Singer 2017 contest.

So… I found the full episodes (there are 13 +1 benefit concert) (someone subti­tled them), each about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. Then I had to go to wikipedia because I didn’t under­stand the contest rules. It’s a contest for profes­sional singers. So you have to be invited to go.

But you get voted off the island every second episode. The judges are 500 audi­ence members, and at the end of all perfor­mances they list their favorite 3 perfor­mances, and all of these are tabu­lated, and results are listed every 2 episodes — the average of your score is taken.

At 22, Dimash was the youngest performer to appear on the show — and the show started with people in their 50s and 60s, as well as younger performers in their 30s.

What I learned was that it wasn’t about the singing but about moving the audi­ence. And actu­ally, all of the performers could do that — so I really enjoyed that part. I hated the vote announce­ment, though — so after the first heart­breaking episode, I… didn’t watch the results. I found out when I watched the next episode because some of the starting performers weren’t there.

In the middle-ish, chal­lengers are brought in. They have it harder because in order to remain on the island they must place in the top 4.

I say all this because I real­ized that I was watching, by the end, as if a long, slow story was unfolding. In partic­ular, I liked to watch the Lions (the only rock band) as they kind of grew into performing for that audi­ence. And I loved that for the last perfor­mance the singer — the front man — asked that they simply be intro­duced as the Lions. He felt that there was some­thing isolating and sepa­rating by having his name – and only his name – called out, because he was part of the Lions; they were all in this together.

And they did improve. They stretched. It was interesting.

(I also had to ask a friend to explain why the names they announced and the names on Wikipedia were totally different, because… I couldn’t follow; I had to go to youtube and list the wikipedia names to see who they were talking about by perfor­mance T_T).

And I ended up watching, oh, all of the full tele­vised compe­ti­tion (with subti­tles) because of that. I felt like I was watching the olympics, with the various inter­views and human interest stories.

The winner was Sandy Lam (that’s not what she’s called anywhere in the show, but that’s her English name and that’s what you find on youtube and wikipedia if you are, well, me).

I think I’m glad I cannot read Russian (there was a Dimash inter­view that was subti­tled in which the announcer said, before Dimash appeared, that Sandy Lam won for thin polit­ical reasons because she’s Chinese and Dimash is not. I wanted to kick him). I wished while looking at youtube comments, that I couldn’t read most English -.-.

I know, I know: don’t read the comments. But, well. You know how you’re some­times bursting with excite­ment and joy and delight and you want to read other people who feel the same way? Yeah, that. And there were some. But… a lot of hate and rage and frothing.

I found Sandy Lam compelling every time she was on the stage. Is her voice Dimash’s? No. But no one’s is. Her voice is nonethe­less unique and there’s a strength to her on the stage – a quiet strength – that draws the eye and the ear; there’s a flex­i­bility to her perfor­mances and an under­stated power; she never drives things over the top, but — I really liked her. And I could see why she could — and did — win.

But there’s a song that’s an ear worm for me and… it’s in Chinese and the title is in Chinese and when I went to the iTunes store, my ability to find it was… zero.

What’s inter­esting to me is that I make — possibly all people make — narra­tives, stitching small moments together. I did not do this while listening to Dimash the first time; nor did I from watching indi­vidual perfor­mances or even his concerts (although I admit the 6 song set he performed in the pouring rain was an excep­tion); but it was almost inevitable for me while watching the actual compe­ti­tion, the competitors.

One of the singers performed his strongest piece – it was hugely emotional – and finished bent over. And stayed that way. And I said — out loud, here, three years later where obvi­ously I can’t be heard — No, no, get up. Stand up.

And then, seconds later, the other performer reac­tion shots: The lead of Lion said, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”

Dimash said (I believe they were in different rooms at the time): “He’s crying.” He was.

This is the reason I some­times don’t like writing in coffee shops. Because some­times — not often, but some­times — I will weep while writing. I’m a touch typist; I don’t need to see the keyboard or the screen. This is… not some­thing that one ever wants to do in public. I don’t do this all the time; there are some things that don’t make me weep, obvi­ously, but are deeply felt. (The last half of Grave was possibly the hardest in terms of tears.)

My husband just walked by and said: Oh, I under­stand that. Some­times I weep while I’m coding. (Yes, he is still alive.)

But — I think, for me, it goes back to the elephant. Even for the singers. You don’t just have to be your­selves on stage, you have to expose things, open windows into vulner­able places that real life has taught you to protect. Or, alter­nately, you have to genuinely be having fun if you want to invoke that in the people who are watching. I think that’s the only way to evoke those emotions in an audi­ence: by being in those moments.

I am, of course, still thinking, but I am also working on the story for Monday, or the proof­reading and format­ting of the story for Monday.

ETA: I think that’s why it’s very hard to compare writers and written works; we have to reach for some­thing in ourselves, and be that, while writing – and we’re not other writers, but ourselves. No one else will write your books. No one else will write mine. All of the books that work have parts of who we are embedded in them.

12 Responses to Social Distancing Journal 07: Thoughts about what I’ve been listening to

  1. Maureen Panzera says:

    Hi Michelle — -Would you have a link to the Singer 2017 contest that you can share. I enjoy all of your books which I have and eagerly await more of the Cast ones; they are without a doubt my very favorites. I also enjoy your musings in these social distancing days. Thank you for sharing so much of your­self. BTW, both your sons are extremely talented, am sure we will hear of them in the future.


  2. michelle says:

    @Maureen: https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​a​E​u​7​-​y​G​7​K​b​w​&​l​i​s​t​=​P​L​h​I​e​r​D​q​d​M​D​g​s​V​N​P​p​_​B​O​s​N​1​z​X​x​c​Z​_​g​Z​WEy

    It’s a link that starts the first episode; the rest are in the side-bar. But: it’s kind of a long stretch. I used them as carrots: if I get the writing done, I can watch one. Because for 3 days both books were trying to kill me.

  3. That last part so reminds me of when SHINee won their only Daesang — Best Artist of the Year award, after their stable­mates and new sensa­tion EXO had basi­cally completely gotten all the other awards of that year.

    They were in their 5th year and had gotten other awards, but this is basi­cally like the Best Picture Oscar, If you see this short fancam you can see no one expected to get it. Onew actu­ally starts clap­ping before the winner is announced because he and the others are SO SURE EXO will win again — EXO had only been active for a year at that time and was the Kpop phenom­enon before BTS, basi­cally. The guys hugging them here are EXO them­selves : https://​youtu​.be/​q​J​B​I​8​-​r​9​Kho

    But the video I want to show you more is their reac­tion to that win on stage (this is engsubbed): https://​youtu​.be/​q​U​j​w​7​K​4​P​hrs

  4. michelle says:

    @Estara: thank you — that — the winning speeches — was truly moving.

  5. Daniel Catudal says:

    Michelle, I am a man, 65 years old and.. I cried reading all 3 books of Grave. I also shed a tear once in a while listening to singers such as Dimash who has such a range of voice that can carry your soul to extreme. Thks for letting me have the chance to shed those tears.

  6. You don’t just have to be your­selves on stage, you have to expose things, open windows into vulner­able places that real life has taught you to protect. Or, alter­nately, you have to genuinely be having fun if you want to invoke that in the people who are watching. I think that’s the only way to evoke those emotions in an audi­ence: by being in those moments.”

    Sounds a little bit like, oh, the Tha’alani maybe? 🤔 I wonder how many of us would be comfort­able in their world…


  7. michelle says:

    @Daniel: Thank you :)

    @Mike: Well, you would’t want to live all of your life in those moments – or at least your family prob­ably wouldn’t want that :)

  8. michelle says:

    another thought, for me: I think it’s why I don’t have a music playlist for a book — I’ve always kind of envied writers who have them. After the fact, I might be able to think of songs that evoke what I’ve written — but I get so caught up in listening and responding to what I hear someone sing that I lose the flow of the book, lose the emotional momentum of story to the frame of mind the music invokes.

  9. Julianne says:

    Hi Michelle, off topic but I wanted to tell you that I read the rivers of London book you recom­mended and it really was a “riot” I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a male protag­o­nist but the library had it so I gave it a shot and glad I did. I think it’s the humor that is just dropped in, peter grant doesn’t take himself or life seri­ously. I also have the first murderbot Tor was giving away free, but wasn’t it the mood I think I’m still flit­ting around a bit and spending too much time on social media. I’ve got the third river of London book on hold and trying to figure out what to do with myself while avoiding house­work appar­ently I’m getting good enough at crochet that I can now think too much but not so good I can make a rectan­gular cat mat. It turned out hour­glass shaped. Thank you for the music recs I may have to check them out I can’t decide if I want some­thing bland and mind­less to do or some­thing with emotional connec­tion to draw in.

  10. michelle says:

    @Julianne: I’m glad you liked the Aaronovitch :D

  11. @Michelle: “Well, you would’t want to live all of your life in those moments – or at least your family prob­ably wouldn’t want that :)”

    I admit I find the idea intriguing. It’s less that there are no secrets, and more that because there are no secrets, there’s no judg­ment. There’s a kind of freedom in that. Most secrets are trou­ble­some because we worry what others would think of us…if they only knew the ‘truth’. There is no truth w/o context. 🙂


  12. michelle says:

    @Mike: Yes, that’s the thought exper­i­ment behind the Tha’alani. If every emotion is normal­ized, if it’s seen and heard, there’s no judge­ment attached to it. There’s no fear of judgement. 

    And you can focus on making certain the chil­dren under­stand the incred­ibly impor­tant different between feeling some­thing and acting on it. Which is some­thing many adults still have prob­lems with.

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