I was watching “The Voice” the other day with my wife. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a reality/game show where a panel of four celebrity judges selects teams of would-be pop stars to coach and help compete for the title of The Voice. Before we began watching, however, my wife and I had a familiar debate. I told her how much I hated artistic competition shows because art isn’t a competition. She countered that win or lose the show provided the singers with a fantastic opportunity, both for exposure and professional guidance. Back and forth we went until I said, “Fine. We’ll just watch the thing.” This was the episode where the judges selected their teams. The judges sit in tall chairs with their backs to the stage as the performer begins to sing. If a judge likes what he or she hears, they hit a large red button and swivel around to see whom they’ve selected. But more than one judge can hit the button, in which case each judge begins pleading his or her case as to why they are the best coach for that singer. Sometimes, none of the judges hit their button. Usually, one or two like what they hear.
On this evening, a young man stepped on stage and began his song. Right away, I noticed something unusual about his voice. All the performers could sing. Like all the performers, he could hit the right notes, and sustain his vibrato, and vary his pitch. Yet this wasn’t what I heard. Nor did I hear an outrageously clear voice, or an unusually powerful voice. I did not hear him hit a crazy high note, or a luscious low note. And yet I heard something. So did the judges. Within a few measures – Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! – each had hit their button.
The writer in me took notice. A writer’s voice is his most important tool for it is present in every word just a singer’s is present in every note. So what was I hearing? As the singer finished his song, I understood that all I was hearing was a perspective. The quality of his voice I enjoyed was the depth of his agreement with his own unique perspective. He found agreement with himself, and like magic, the judges were in agreement as well.
My wife and I had seen enough for that night, and began to get ready for bed. I was glad to have heard this young man sing, but I still didn’t like these competition shows. For a moment, I felt a familiar impulse to sway my wife to my view of things. I thought of that singer, however, and that impulse quickly passed. I would not find the agreement I was seeking in her, but in that stage within myself where judgment does not exist.
"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com