A Drop of Change - by Aria Scarlett
This written piece was commissioned by Midsumma in April 2020 as a response to the mass loss of the Melbourne queer arts industry (due to COVID-19). This blog is part of a series of works from our LGBTQIA+ arts and culture community that gives Midsumma audiences an insight into the practice of the queer arts and helps to make queer arts and cultures more accessible to diverse audiences in this time of social distancing and uncertainty.
An impactful, colour filled performer defying genre definitions in her combination of opera and dance music, in short, Aria Scarlett is everything classical music ‘shouldn’t’ be.
~ by Aria Scarlett
"I often wonder about the connection between being confined by genre and being confined by social constructs of gender and sexuality. I’d say there’s no coincidence people who have had personal constraints, find it easier to smash artistic ones.
I don’t normally bother telling people I’m pansexual and to be honest, that’s probably part of the problem. Part of me doesn’t think its anyone’s business, (which of course, it isn’t) another part of me hates the idea of having to ‘come out’ to every new person I meet. Any conversation about arts or creativity is derailed by the standard “Oh I’ve never heard that one before” “wow, they come up with new ones all the time” or my personal ‘favourite’ “I thought you were married?”.
All of which, could be solved by a quick google during their next toilet break but instead, are tossed at me like some sort of queer entrance exam (when we all know that the real queer entrance exam, is knowing all Fergie’s rap lyrics during the breakdown of ‘Fergalicious’).
At the end of the day, we are all just trying to survive and besides, that’s not what I’m supposed to be talking about, I’m here to discuss Singing in the Rain (who needs an entrance exam with a topic like that?).
If you don’t know what 'Singing in the Rain' is, I envy you, because now you get to watch the movie for the first time. A lot of people think this is a love story, a triangle between Kathy Selden, Don Lockwood, and Lina Lamont, but that’s just the side plot. On the main stage, we watch an industry try to redefine itself with the changing of the times, as an opera singer, it is what I battle with on the regular and as a human, it is what everyone is doing amidst COVID-19.
In a bid not to be left behind, Monumental Pictures purchases sound equipment, hires vocal coaches and re-writes old silent movie scripts to include dialogue. The 1927 film “The Jazz Singer” was a trailblazer and without some serious work, Don Lockwood would soon be out of the job. The difference is, that classical music is yet to have their ‘ah-ha’ moment the way that Monumental Pictures did.
In my training to become a classical musician, I was often struck by how immovable the genre was. Composers who thrived off racist and misogynistic storylines were praised for their musical genius (yes Mozart, I’m looking at you). A room of majority-white students was told to bluntly “sing blacker” during a study on spirituals… it was 2017 when I graduated so there is NO forgiving this. The biggest moment for me, came when I walked out on stage and had the sudden harsh realisation that if we didn’t do something soon, our audience would quite literally die off.
So perhaps, we don’t need entire genres to have the ‘ah-ha’ moment but just individual artists? When Don and Cosmo approach the studios with their ground-breaking idea to not only create a ‘talkie’ but to ramp it up and create a musical R.F Simpson simply can’t see it (although to be fair, ‘Broadway Melody’ isn’t a great explanation number). I’ve all but left traditional classical spaces, but have taken the music with me when collaborating with burlesque, hip hop or circus artists. It is true of any practice that to stay relevant, we have to be open to change.
In 2020, we are all being asked to re-invent our art again, take live performance behind a screen and still connect with an audience. We have the tools and the means to create something great. In the words of Lina Lamont;
“If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'.”
Change is an alteration to some and for others, it's loss, I can’t say which is true, but I know my favourite art has formed from change."
~ to find out more about Aria Scarlett visit www.ariascarlett.com
This written piece by Aria Scarlett was inspired by Singing in the Rain