When I was in high school, I took French. In French, the standard curriculum involved the reading of a book – in French, of course – and essays or discussions (also in French) about said book.
But our French teacher, Bob, decided to go an entirely different route. He brought in a record (yes, record — no CDs existed at that time, and no MP3s – it was a 33 RPM record), and printout of the back cover sleeve, which contained all the lyrics.
The record was for a rock musical, Starmania. We studied specific songs – but of course, we all listened to the entire thing. It is… a younger person’s musical. Also: the French aren’t post-modern in their musicals. There are things that work in French that just do not work in English – like Notre Dame de Paris, for which the English version attempted to translate the song lyrics. They did not do a bad job, imho, but: a) translation and b) post modern audience.
One of these days I will stop with the digressions.
Starmania was therefore my first musical. We did go to Quebec to see it. I did not love what they’d changed — because of course every staging changes something, but they cut one of my favorite songs: S.O.S. de un Terrien en détresse. However, it’s been sung by different people over the years.
I wanted to listen to Lune, a song from Notre Dame de Paris, sung in this instance by Bruno Pelletier. (There is an incredible Korean version — sung in Korean — by, I believe, Mike Lee.)
In the youtube “if you liked this” up next sidebar, Bruno Pelletier, whose Lune I was listening to, was singing S.O.S. in concert in Russia (he’s from Montreal, but — Russians also like musicals, and Notre Dame de Paris). Which: exciting! So I clicked on that video.
And it was lovely — much more powerful than the version on the CD of Starmania. But on that sidebar was a young man singing S.O.S. And since my favorite version of Lune is sung in Korean by a Korean, I clicked the link to that. I believe it’s a performance in one of the Russian euro-style contests — but it’s 2 years after he won, so he’s the special guest.
And Oh. My. God. OH MY GOD. Dimash Kudaibergen. He has a youtube feed, and has posted the version I listened to first (not surprisingly, there’s more than one on youtube — for instance his performance in the Chinese I am a Singer singing contest type show.
I then had to listen to Ogni Pietra, a song I have no sentimental or emotional attachment to, to get a full idea of his singing range. Did I say Oh My God?
When I’m listening to pop, folk, or modern music, most of my emotional reaction is to the lyrics. But when I listen to musicals, I… don’t actually care all that much. There’s something about the singer, the projection — and also: I like to see them (thus youtube). I sometimes feel to hit certain emotional notes, singers are reaching for the same kind of chaotic tangle that resides at the heart of all creative endeavors.
That’s not a great explanation, so let me try again.
You’re familiar with the folk tale about the blind men and the elephant? The one in which they grab different parts of the elephant, and then argue about what it is that they’ve gripped? That’s process, to me. Except for the argument part.
From my perspective, each man has touched the elephant, which is actually the important part: in their own way, with their own interpretations, they’ve reached the creative well. Describing it often doesn’t work well, because they’re not reaching it the same way.
For my purposes, it’s the elephant that’s important, or reaching it at all. So my process discussions are about how I personally reach the elephant; I’m aware that someone describing the ear flap while I’m trying to describe the nostrils of a trunk are going to sound completely different. It’s also why process can differ hugely from book to book — because last time, you grabbed that ear, and today, you’ve got a tail.
Also: I don’t want to somehow call this talent, a word that is often used to denigrate one’s own attempts. It takes practice to play an instrument (as Peter said); it takes practice to write a book. The tools you have to express what you’ve found have to be good tools; it’s not just a grab the elephant inspiration and you’re done. The elephant is … what it is. Your ability to use the elephant is what you’ve built, with time and practice and work. You are creating a container for what you’ve reached.
I reach the elephant to find story, words are my instrument in conveying that to readers. My sons, however, are similar: they struggle in similar ways writers do, but with music instead, but their tools are entirely different, as are their approaches. As they’ve had to listen to me in the middle-of-the-book, they have some sense that supreme, constant confidence is not the provide of the creative — and that it’s normal to go through periods of severe self-loathing at one’s own incompetence <wry g>
Or, as my older son said in his Canadian Writers in Person class, “My mom is a novelist, so I don’t think I have any illusions about writing.” Which caused the professor to break out laughing. I have normalized feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure >.<.
So: the elephant. I think, for me, musicals — which have the underpinning structure for emotional expression — require some singers to reach for … the elephant. There’s something about the voice that seems — again, to me, and listening because I can’t sing and don’t play instruments — almost a pure expression of that elephant, as if, for minutes, they’re channeling something raw and pure.
And you know what? No one else has to feel this way. No one else has to respond to it the way I respond to it. For the last two days I think I’ve made my entire family very, very tired of Dimash >.>. My long suffering husband says my reaction to song and singing is…not his. He doesn’t hear it the way I hear it, and doesn’t respond the way I respond. (For some reason, good children’s choirs make me cry, as an example. It’s the harmonies and the youth of the voices; it just instantly moves something in me. Even in a church and even in latin.)