The Extremes of Knowledge

The further you delve into something the more you understand it broadly and in detail. It’s as if everything has a counterpart to the universe which runs (as far as we now know) from sub-atomic particles to multi-verses of billions of galaxies. It is truly so that the very tiny and the very vast can be reflections of each other.

When you sing with blissful ignorance, thinking of nothing at all except the song, there is a kind of sweet innocence to it that is, in itself, complete and perfect. It asks nothing and needs nothing more than to be what it is. When you listen to a great vocalist who has developed artistry over decades of study and work, and you hear in that singing enormous detail, uniqueness and expression, then you must acknowledge that this, too, is complete and perfect, but in an entirely different manner.

It is easy enough to pit one thing against another. Humanity does that across the board every day. It takes some vision to see opposites as being connected on a continuum, running from one scale to another. Ultra-violet isn’t in opposition to infra-red, it’s just on the other end of the spectrum. Opera isn’t in opposition to rock and roll, commercial music isn’t in opposition to art song, folk music isn’t in opposition to jazz. Each kind of singing has its own dignity, its own parameters, it defining world.

The philosophical discussions about what is good and what isn’t can be useful if they are  used to illuminate rather than denigrate. Maybe I like Madame High Notes more than Madame Loud Voice, but I can still appreciate that both of them are fine artists with something to say. Maybe I would rather listen to Mr. Foggy Throat more than Mr. Squeezy Sound, but I can understand that they are both interesting vocalists with their own unique style.

If we were capable of this kind of discernment, it would be easier to discuss function without blowing a gasket. We can actually agree that something is functional or it isn’t, since we (should) understand how human beings make sound. If, however, we confuse what the voice is doing with what it is, and what the artist is expressing with what the voice is expressing, as if all of it was one big gloppy thing, we are bound not only to be confused in our philosophical discussions, we are also bound to circular arguments that go nowhere useful.

It is absolutely necessary to separate out the ingredients of singing into objective elements, as we would with items in a recipe. A cake isn’t a bunch of ingredients when we eat it, but if we didn’t have the ingredients in good proportion before we starting making the cake, it might never turn out to be edible, let alone delicious. A fully developed vocal artist is a whole bunch of things that ultimately combine to make something yummy. Sometimes those things are deliberately cultivated as skills and choices and sometimes they are blessedly “just there” because they are.

Wisdom is knowledge correctly applied. Knowing something can be useful or not, depending. Making use of that knowledge in a way that makes it better, more available, more abundant, more itself, is always useful.

Let us all strive to be wise in what we discuss and how we discuss it so that everyone can share in the communication. I can still like what I like that’s different than what you like, but I can appreciate that your liking it is just fine.

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