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A Leap into the Dark – Singing Without a Microphone

It’s strange how a microphone – or the lack of one – can actually change the game. Not only soundwise. At first, I kept the distance you would keep if you were standing on a stage, equidistantly to everyone. But I felt how my voice faded away in the wind and people couldn’t hear a thing. Then I gathered my courage and walked up to one table. One of them gave me a funny look and I apologised for disturbing their conversation. But I was there to play music for them, so then what’s the point if no one can actually hear me?

I gave it another go at the next table. I didn’t look at them and just played one of my quietest songs. Half way into the first verse, I felt how the chattering around me stopped. At the end of the chorus, I looked up and saw how everyone had their eyes on me. This does happen at other gigs, but there is still this fourth wall that’s somewhere behind the microphone or the edge of the stage. Here, our separate spaces were blending into each other. There was no me and them, there was us. Maybe they were just being polite and felt obligated to listen to me now that I (quite literally) took the step to play right in front of them and for them only. It was scary, but also very rewarding as they complimented each song individually which never happens at other gigs when you have a whole performance. Now, the whole thing got fragmented and challenged me to be more spontaneous and interact with listeners who were not so quiet anymore. And once again, I realised how culturally coded clapping is. Usually, I ask people to participate and clap along if they want to, but in this situation, it would have been strange to interrupt their conversations with a request like that. So I just played the song and at some point, I stopped playing guitar and did the clapping myself, so it was more like a change of instrumentalisation than anything else, but still, when people heard me clapping, they looked up and immediately joined in as if they were trained to do so. And they stopped when I stopped. A strange irritating moment, but also interesting and a bit funny. Sometimes it can be very valuable to take a leap into the dark. Or rather into the white?

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