To Grannia on Presence & Aloha

Jed O'Connor joconnor at mailer.fsu.edu
Fri Sep 22 16:52:51 PDT 1995


Dear Grannia,

     Thank you for your well wishes. Presence and where it comes from are 
interesting topics indeed. I think at receptivity's core is a designation of 
value to the performer by the audience as a whole in reaction to one of 
several things:

1) the approval of the Crown or other respected noble or trusted friend of 
the listener (this works one or two times whether the performer's work is 
good or not)

2) the proven quality of the performer's work in the mind of the listener. 
(this starts slow but peaks long)
. 
3) the thirst for novelty in the mind of the listener. (some performers are 
expected to provide novelty on a continual basis; my puppeteer apprentice, 
Logan MacDonnell, does well along these lines with his wacky though 
not-so-very-period Punchinello-type shows. Though he rarely displays  
gravity in his demeanor, yet his performances are popular and people will 
eagerly assemble to enjoy them, often shouting so loudly during the 
performance that little or none of it is audible. I call this successful 
presence nonetheless, at least in relation to the audience assembled.

4) the listener's interest about the performer for reasons unrelated to 
knowledge of the performer's ability or lack thereof (examples: #1) a 
wannabe fighter admires a singing knight regardless of the quality of the 
song or its rendition; it is the quality of knighthood or of that knight's 
charisma that holds his or her attention. #2) a listener finds a particular 
performer visually or sexually appealing and therefore assigns high value to 
the performance regardless of more relevant factors.)

5) the match or dissonance between the mood/desire of the listener and the 
tone/content of the performer and work performed. (If the match is generally 
on the mark, over time this will add to a performer's presence as both 
versatile and  usually enjoyable; if not, then not. This is at the heart of 
my "wait for it" game.

6) calculated explotation of the physical and psychological properties of 
the performer (if you got it, flaunt it) 

Unusual height and a far-reaching baritone voice combined with an 
egotistical persona work very well for my poet friend Thomas the Wordsmith 
of SouthDowns in Meridies. While on one level it seems overdone, on the 
other hand it focuses attention on his person, and reception to his work 
follows.  He also knows how to pause meaningfully and often throughout his 
work, which heightens the impact of the piece when the silence contrasts 
with his booming sonorous delivery. 

I, on the other hand, rely on the clear purity and range of my Irish tenor 
voice along with the polish of my lyrics (euphony is the word I assign to 
the way I have developed for crafting verse--maybe we'll talk about it 
sometime); I favor sad songs because my voice is well suited to plaintive 
mode. I favor small audiences because the sensitivity of my renditions fails 
when I have to pump up the volume too much, and I am naturally soft-spoken 
anyway.  With the Trimarian Calypsos, I just belt them out at a moderate 
volume (the most I can sustain), and inflect as much humor and energy into 
them as I can. 

Since my earliest days in the Society I have worn white robes to distinguish 
myself from the crowd and look more like the archtypal celtodruidic bard 
which I fully realize was cooked up by Victorian imaginations during the 
celtic revival period a century ago but which works for me anyway. White 
also has the advantage of being a rare color by day and highly visible by 
night, my favorite time to sing; it gleams in firelight and increases the 
mood I wish to create. I changed my name from the Arabic Jed al Shethara 
(which no one could pronounce, anyway), to its anglicized form Jed 
Silverstar, which is easier for most people to associate with my trademark 
robes.

There's my two cents for now. Aloha to all for two weeks.

--Jed 



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