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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Losing Your Voice

In Arts and Education, On Writing, Z-A in May on May 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Charisma kleptos, essence embezzlers, voice vandals and personality plunderers unite here! String players: Listen to pianists Argerich, Toradze, Arrau, or Sebok playing Beethoven, then translate on your fiddle, cello, bass or firewood, er, sorry — viola. Pianists: Listen to Heifitz, Rose, Hahn and Oistrakh, then pull up a bench and impersonate each, had they made their careers on ebony and ivory. Writers: Write a chapter of your novel in the style of your favorite author, and please God stop whining about losing your darn voice under a heavy critique.

Where did your artistic personality come from in the first place?

Well, every recording you ever heard and thought, “Dear

Marta Argerich

dear God that was amazing!” or every performance you attended which sent you back into the world with a new lease on life, charged and ready to practice 12 hours a day FOREVER — the only thing these had in common was you, the listener. (Writers: You’ve read a book or two before you tried writing one, right?) These performances inspired, shaped, even corrupted you, but they left an indelible imprint on the heel of your artistry. You stole Richter’s powerful sforzandi, Preucil’s

William Preucil

“eat-my-shorts” slides, and Augerich’s raw animal instinct and repackaged it just like your stand partner did with his/her collection of performers.  If I’ve heard of you then your amalgamation must be pretty freakin’ awesome.  After all, those with the biggest careers also practiced artistic burglary — it’s why oral traditions are also aural.

In my newfound writer-ness I’ve made some online critique buddies — saints who graciously agree to pick through the debris after Hurricane David has been at the word processor, and help me to put things in order. I love getting a critique back because of the opportunity to learn, but recently one of my critique partners told me a story about a friend who always complains about “losing her voice” through even light critiques. The gist of her remark was, “I’m afraid you want me to write like you.”  I’m always dazzled when I find similarities between my former career and my current one.

Musicians: Did you ever have a teacher who wanted you to play like them? Do you remember how that felt?

Janos Starker teaching student.

How long ago was it? In hindsight, did they really want you to play like them, or were you just freakin’ over nuthin’?

Every little thing matters in the infancy of mastery because the early-advanced student has fewer tools to use.  Strip these away and what is left?  (I know, we didn’t think of ourselves as “novice,”  or “early-advanced” — we were “young experts,” right?  We had all the answers already, lessons were just a formality.)

The fear of “losing your voice” is akin to the fear of alien body snatchers running around in your skin:  Maybe it can happen to you; maybe your life looks like an X-files episode.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

What I’m saying is this: Your voice is more than a sentence. It’s more than a fingering.  It’s more than a bowing — and thank God it is.  So, if this blog post is for you: Stop complaining about losing your voice and go use it!

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