Sing! Sing! Sing!

11 01 2009

I got sucked  into the speakers yesterday.

I don’t remember the song (something about heartbreak) and was surprised when Jonathan Schwartz credited Betty Buckley as the singer (it didn’t sound like her). But I was caught by all that she gave to the song—that’s what caught me. Yes, she has a lovely voice, but it was the. . . I don’t know, that sense that she scraped away herself and in so doing scraped away the skin of that sad and pretty melody to lay bare nerve and bone.

How could she do that? Where does that come from? When I was (way) younger I wanted nothing more than to sing, to be a singer. That didn’t happen. I have a competent voice—a ‘chorus’ voice—but my lack comes less from technical faults than the inability to inhabit the song with my voice. Oh, I might feel moved, but that feeling doesn’t come through. It’s posing.

Was Buckley posing? I’ll never know, but man, it doesn’t sound like it. Does Patti Smith sound like she’s posing? I remember when I first listened, really listened to Patti Smith—it wasn’t until grad school. Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?! Of course, I had Janis Joplin back then, but Janis was already dead, and Patti was, is, blazingly alive.

Neither Janis nor Patti has classically trained ‘great’ voices, but man, can they sing! Dive into that song and pull off all their clothes and dare us to dive in with them. This is it, they’re telling us. this is all a song can be. Can you follow? Are you brave enough to care?

In my responses to Ainadamar I noted my marvel at Dawn Upshaw and Kelley O’Connor’s passion. Did I mention it was almost as hard to witness as it was wondrous? I was embarrassed, fearful for them. Oh no, I thought, what are you doing? You’re so naked on that stage; you’ll be caught out, alone and exposed!

What could compel them to take such risks?

Perhaps it is because I ask such questions that I get in my own way. Do they see what they do as risky? Perhaps the danger is in not singing, in not throwing oneself into the music; perhaps it is only the embrace of the music which carries them. Perhaps the question is How could they not?

I don’t have it in me—the singing, I mean. Perhaps had I had the Voice (be it Joplin’s or Upshaw’s), I would have lain all other concerns aside to tend to that gift.

Or not. What do I do now with my modest talents? Tend to them, fitfully. Take them seriously, kind of; treat them warily. I protect them. I do not risk them. I do not risk              anything.


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3 responses

12 01 2009
lucretia

I think you nailed it when you said “Perhaps it is because I ask such questions that I get in my own way.” I think people who open themselves up like this, can’t help it. And sometimes (often?) it destroys them. Whether, and why, it’s worth it is something I might write about soon.

Do you risk in your fiction? Is that a choice?

12 01 2009
absurdbeats

Maybe, and maybe.

I have finally decided to take my writing seriously, which is a choice, but the urge to write was and is always there. I think it’s better for my sense of self to write, but I could and did live without writing. Could I have a good life without writing? Hmmm. Probably not.

But while I have opened myself to words, I haven’t taken it as far as I could. I don’t send my short stories out, and I keep finding other things to do besides trying to hook an agent. I claim to want readers, but what do I do to find them?

So much safer to say ‘at some point’. . . and never have to deal with the reaction to my writing.

13 01 2009
lucretia

Well, you do have a blog now… I’m not convinced that going the traditional route is the best thing, anyway. And I also don’t know why someone isn’t “serious” about writing because they’re not trying to get published. What is the goal of writing? Publication? Readership? Do I sound solipsistic? I’ve just known too many people who wanted to be writers waaay more than they wanted to write.

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