Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The aged, broken voice

There's something rather bizarre that I've realized about myself, more specifically my taste in vocal performances. ...And here it is: I love listening to old guys sing.

Vocal chords all old and leathery, voice sounding like sandpaper, and a diaphragm too old to support hitting the range of notes it used to be able to... It's pretty much the opposite of what you could call "good" singing. But I don't care. I love it.

Take, for example, Johnny Cash in his later years. This song, when sung by Cash, sounds way more awesome to me than the original performers. And one of my favorite songs ever is this Bob Dylan original called Not Dark Yet. And this guy performs covers of songs that blow the originals out of the water! Okay, that last one was just for fun. ...But you can't deny there's something fascinating about that old man...

...And maybe that's just it. It's not the hitting of notes, it's the character in the voice, it's the tangible feeling of history that is so engaging.

A lot of people say they can't stand Bob Dylan's voice. But I feel that the gravelly, raspy utterances work perfectly with the beautiful, sonorous music backing him up. He refuses to sing along with the notes, instead filling out the spaces in between with a lilting counter-rhythm. ...And the fact that you can get a sense that he's seen just about everything on the face of the earth makes it so that I cannot tear my eyes away. Or my ears.

As a writer, I love the sound of unique voices, unique ways of saying things, mannerisms, idioms, and dialects, and it's something that I wish to capture in my stories. If a character has a voice, a tangible voice that leaps off the page and engages the reader, then it is a success.

Anyways. Just some musings. When I grow old, I just want to be as awesome as this guy.

1 comment:

Derek said...

I love Johnny Cash's performance of "Hurt" as well. It's a perfect fit, and it just feels like a performance loaded with memories and regrets.