Tag Archives: Character

Emotion and Subtext

In everyday conversation, a huge percentage of the message someone receives from you is not in your words, but in your facial expression, posture, voice inflection, speed of delivery and an infinite number of other unidentifiable factors. Anything that makes up your personality or that expresses emotion could be included. If your words were written down and read by a third person, he or she would have only a fraction of the clues to your
personality. (The transcript of most everyday conversations would be very dry and uninteresting, even though the participants may be fun people.) Behind those elements of personality is your particular way of seeing things and the thought patterns that are unique to you.When you sing a song, the audience wants to see and hear a three-dimensional character with personality, emotions, concerns and goals. If you the performer do not explore the character’s thoughts, your rendition will be no more interesting than if the audience read the text. (Perhaps less interesting, since they have turned off their imaginations in order to see what you will do with the song.)An excellent way to build your character’s personality is to write subtext in your music, along with the translation, if necessary. Subtext is what’s going on in his mind – his train of thought. If someone says, “I don’t want to,” there are many things he could be thinking, such as “No way! Not with you,” or “I’m really tired,” or “She’s trying to get her way
again, just like always.” By writing phrases like these underneath the song text and keeping them in mind as you sing, you will be helping flesh out the character.Note that there usually is no “right” subtext. There are generally several choices available. One person may see the character as spiteful, while another would rather play hurt. If it fits the text and story and works well for you, then it’s right – for now. You may decide to
change you mind later. There’s nothing wrong with that.

If acting is still new and uncomfortable to you, keep each song rather uncomplicated. Limit the subtext to things associated with only one mood, or progress from one to a second during the song. Later you can add a lot of depth to the character by employing subtext that includes thoughts and emotions unlike the surface meaning of the lyric, or even opposed to it, as in sarcasm.

Changes are also very exciting dramatically. Use changes in subtext during interludes and wherever the music seems to change. Put the new subtext before the new phrase so the audience sees the thought in your eyes first, just as people think or feel things before speaking.

Always choose an active or dynamic feeling. “I’m sad,” is hardly ever a good choice, but despair, as in, “I will kill myself since she rejected me,” is much more interesting. Rage, madness, hatred and ecstasy are emotions that will make an impression. You will probably need to use something stronger than the effect you want, at least until your acting skills develop.