At the reading I did the other night in NYC with Terence Winch, friend and fellow poet/prose writer, as well as a well known traditional Irish musician and songwriter, I felt blessed to be in the company of so many creative souls whose work I admire. I won't name them all for fear of leaving someone out, but I can say among the poets and artists and writers and friends who all are creative in some way, each has a distinct voice that is expressed in their lives and work, the telling mark of a true artist for me.
Terence of course first of all. He read from his memoir about life as an Irish musician/songwriter—THAT SPECIAL PLACE—and even sang one of the original lyrics that pepper the book, his song in praise of Baltimore. And in a voice that is inimitable. Others may sing in the same style Terence does, after all it's an Irish music traditional style, but no one with his unique sound and emphasis and personality all wrapped up in a way with a melody that is uniquely his.
His prose was the same, distinct and compelling, drawing you in with wit and perceptiveness. Others there just to listen included artists and poets whose work I've written about on this blog, whose voices are so original I could pick out a poem or work of art or publishing project or art project or peice of prose as easily as you can a song sung by Frank Sinatra, who was the second voice I could recognize as a kid out in the wider world, after Bing Crosby's.
Bing because of what he meant to Irish-Americans of my father's generation and well beyond, all the way down to my older siblings and then me, and Frank because he came from nearby Hoboken and was known simply as "The Voice" during the first wave of his popularity when he left the Dorsey band for his solo act.
One of the challenges for any creative person trying to make something of their own is to find their own voice (in the broadest sense of that term, meaning your way of expressing yourself) in the work. We all generally have our own voice in our regular lives, not too many people sound exactly alike. But channeling that through whatever form your creativity takes is another matter.
I was always mystified by the capacity of human creativity when it came to music, once I realized as a kid studying and playing piano and other instruments, how limited the range of notes (at least in the Western European harmonic scale) and yet how many variations on those few notes continues to be revealed! It's the same in any art form, especially when the limitations are tight, as in say an Irish reel. There's only so many possibilities, and yet new reels are written all the time, Terence has written many himself.
Anyway, not to belabor the point, just to point you to today's New York Times in case you didn't see it and this op-ed article by Bono (another unique voice) who writes about the influence of Frank Sinatra, not so much on singing or music in general (which Sinatra had an impact on greater than most) but on life, and living in this precarious moment in time.
Check it out, I think it's worth a read.