This Is Voice

10_6_15Santa Fe had a mass ascension of our own this morning, as the fog lifted out of the valley. Just gorgeous.

I had a very interesting experience recently regarding voice that I thought you all might be interested in.

Writers talk a lot about voice. There’s all kinds of debates and classes about it, thoughts and rules. Inevitably every convention – for readers or writers – will have a panel or workshop on the topic. Clearly it’s not an easy concept to define. Or rather, we all kind of know what it IS – just not how to explain it to someone else.

In general, voice is what readers will love about an author’s work, regardless of genre. We recognize it when we settle into a new release by a favorite writer, or into one of our comfort reads from her. We sink into that world and voice with a sense of delight and kinship. It’s kind of like love – we sense it, but can’t force or constrain it.

So, I’ve been watching old Taylor Swift documentaries and concerts. There are REASONS for this. She only came onto my radar with last year’s album 1989. Which I love, love, love. Before that I thought of her as a teeny-bopper Country & Western star and had never paid attention. Also, I’m not much for C&W music. I almost never hear it. David is even more definitive about it than I am. He hates the twang and, as soon as it comes on the radio, he switches stations.

Then Taylor crossed over into pop, produced this tremendous album – that I only listened to because so many of my writer/agent/editor friends loved it – and I fell in love, too. Imagine my surprise, then, when I recognized one of Taylor’s early C&W songs. It was one I’d improbably heard a few times and really enjoyed. It stuck with me, though I had no idea who sang – or wrote – the song. (That older song of hers was Our Song, for those interested.) But the lyrics, the cadence, the sensibility behind it, had all grabbed me – in the exact same way her songs in a different musical genre did years later.

This is voice.

Within the same couple of weeks, something else similar happened. I’ve mentioned more than once on this blog my mad love for Amanda Palmer. I think she’s a brilliant singer and songwriter also. And if you’re out there shaking your head about me liking both Taylor Swift and Amanda Palmer, then you’re not paying attention.

So, one day I wanted to send a friend a snippet of the lyrics to The Ship Song. As you do. She’d quoted Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing and that song was covered by Concrete Blonde on their Still in Hollywood album, back in 1994, along with The Ship Song. They have a similar feel, making them forever connected in my mind and that one of my favorite albums of all time. So I looked up the lyrics to The Ship Song, to be sure to get them right. Guess what? Amanda Palmer wrote that song. I never knew it and didn’t discover Amanda Palmer until she connected with favorite writer Neil Gaiman in 2009. I loved her work before I knew who she was, just like Taylor. And I love Neil Gaiman’s writing – and Neil and Amanda connected first as artists, then as lovers and spouses.

This is voice.

This is what makes us who we are, as human beings. The questions we ask, what we seek to answer, the stories we tell – these all come out of our deepest selves. More, I think we’re attracted on some profound level to those others who are in the same place, asking and answering about the same things. We connect with each other, as readers, as listeners, as writers and musicians.

This is voice.