The Musical Power in Closed Eyes
Rob Schiffmann

Last night at Broadway’s Next Hit Musical rehearsal, we worked methods to create a second line of melody based on your first. Do you repeat with a line of the same length? If you do, then your ear will tell you you should rhyme. For example, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird“. Although the notes change slightly from line 1 to line 2, the phrase ends in the same spot in each phrase: the 3rd beat of every other measure (in case you are a nerd like me). Alternately,  do you have your second line be shorter or longer than your first line? If you do this, then your ear will tell you that the lines should NOT rhyme. A good example of this would be the first line of  Fire and Rain, by James Taylor: “Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone. Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you“. 

Working on this was based on the idea that if you allow your melodic instincts to guide you, they will tell you when you need to rhyme and when you should not. This is just one way that you can follow melody in order to NOT follow your intellect or any instinct to be creative that forces you to live up to some self-imposed level of acceptable output. In other words, you can lean into deep instinct rather than end up judging yourself and your creations. 

However, we did still find that there were ways in which our work was still leaning towards the deliberate and the need to achieve some expectation. As a result, I decided to have the actors close their eyes and then sing a song together. The result was amazing. Their songs became structurally sound and effortless. The music was musical and the output was beautiful.

The reason this eyes-closed technique worked so well is that it allowed the music to become a scene / song partner. Every time we sing, it is truly a duet between us and the music / musician. We effect one another and connect to each other. When we close our eyes, we block out the noise and the non-emotional expectations and we become connected on a deeper level. We don’t have to stare at our scene partners as they set a chorus. We can listen and connect on an emotional level and THAT will allow us to remember it and to truly be a part of it. The trick now is how to keep that eyes closed feel when we HAVE to keep our eyes open.

Wanna see if we can do it?

​Come see Broadway’s Next Hit Musical on 5/17, 24, 31 & 6/7 at The Triad. Tix avail here.