Karaoke? Kara-okay!

In a previous blog post, I promised to talk about karaoke. So here we are.

My first encounter with karaoke occurred in a bar in Japantown, Seattle. I was visiting friends, and they thought it might be fun to go there. No one in our party sang because we would have been embarrassed to do so. Those who were singing, in Japanese, sounded like professionals.

My next brush with karaoke was years later, judging a karaoke contest on my campus. I downgraded performers for bad singing, which I didn’t realize at the time was not a valid criticism for this type of performance. I did better in my next position, again as a judge, though I did deduct points for poor staging—also not really a criticism of karaoke. I should only have evaluated their enthusiasm, not their talent or lack thereof.

Recently I have gone to a local venue that hosts karaoke evenings. There are people who clearly have some training and sing to display that. But I’m always impressed by the regular people who do it just because they want to sing. And this desire is alien to me.

My hesitation to sing in public goes back to the 4th grade in Catholic school when the nun had us sing solos. The entire sordid and embarrassing story can be found in my memoir, Immaculate Misconceptions. Since that time I have been heard doing a little public vocalizing (usually with different lyrics to a familiar song that fits a moment), but I still don’t really sing in front of other people.

Maybe I would, if I found the right song. I have considered “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” since it’s short, or something by Adam Ant since his songs had a limited range of notes. Or maybe something country, since I can sometimes do a passable country vocal. I could do “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” if I first apologized for the sexist nature of the song.

And for my steampunk take on that song, watch here.

And before I posted this I just remembered: years ago I had in mind a project called Karaoke. I began working on the structure with someone on the fledgling internet on the listserv I had created, COLLAB-L. We talked about the project (inspired by a Berkeley street musician who played along with a boombox): a street musician plays, then summons a geisha, who dances, then turns into a demon—who also dances. Eventually I came back to the project decades later (a theme with me for several years now), created the music in GarageBand, and actually filmed it on my land in Second Life with the help of a friend, JenRid, who played the geisha/demon. You can watch Karaoke here.

Published by stephenschrum

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; interested in virtual worlds, playwrighting, and filmmaking. Now creating a podcast called "Audio Chimera."

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