The Sound of My Voice

I wonder where it comes from. I wonder where we gather up the strength and energy to sound like ourselves. The air and the vibrations and the originality and the message. We are forever sending out our voice to be heard and I wonder where it all comes from.

—-

The crowd grew tonight as the warm spring evening turned dark. I stood behind my table lined with cds and t-shirts, watching them all and dancing along to the rhythm of it, even letting some of the movement find its way out. This band of five men poured from themselves this sound that drew people together. It rolled and swayed and sped along and they spoke in their own way, through their own hands and mouths and feet, and grabbed everyone that was near.

And they danced. All of the people danced to this sound. Beer in plastic cups rippled at the ends of arms with bent elbows attached to playful shoulders. Grey hair rocked back and forth along to subtle changes in time signature. Legs in lawn chairs bounced. Mothers and daughters held hands and twirled. Children were compelled to jump and run. And the faces smiled. I watched their eyes as they all searched for where this sound was coming from. This thing that these guys were creating spoke and moved people and affected them.

—-

The walls of our house hear sounds, too, the rattle of a thousand voices. These voices come just from the four of us, painting scenes and washing them away as quickly as they seem to form. A little girl cues her big sister with a look or a nudge, egging her on. The younger girl demands the spotlight now. The big sister then colors the walls with the sound of exasperation and reaction. The scene turns to a chorus of two, operatic in its volume and conflict. I tear out page after page of my script and perform my lines with limited talent but with enthusiasm, sometimes probably a little too much. I play the roles that seem necessary for that act and receive mixed reviews. Often I wonder if the audience is even paying attention. The mom sings beautifully, always measured and with great passion. She, too, has her critics among the crowd, though.

And voices also call from our kitchen. Little voices, mostly those of plants, sing together as I conduct. The smell of their songs flow through the house. They are love songs and, while not masterpieces, they sound sweet and whole. Layers are assembled and minor changes become major keys to the effectiveness of the piece. It doesn’t always go right, but that is what rehearsal is for. If a composition is particularly bad, the dog isn’t as artistically discerning and is always willing to help out. When it does come out as I heard it in my head, there are few greater feelings than to play it for my family and watch them devour my creation.

—-

I write for a lot of reasons, I guess. It is a way for me to flesh out thoughts onto a page, to process them and to give them more than the fleeting life they might otherwise have. I write to communicate those ideas in ways a spoken word can’t. Perhaps those ideas could gain permanence and inspire reflection, or even thoughtful contradiction. I do it because I love to play with words. I love to watch them dance with each other and trip and find their way back together. I write because there is something somewhere in me that has to. I write because it is my art.

And I write for me. But I also write for you.

I have always looked at art as having two different faces – one seen by the artist and one seen by the audience. The artist creates from personal inspiration and may or may not intend a specific meaning. The audience, then, interprets the piece from their own perspective. In the end, there may be no connection between the two in how the piece looks, sounds, feels, smells or tastes. This is the nature of art.

Life is art. Everything we do everyday can be our sculpture, living our lives as art. The band can play a song; the child can paint their moment and everything around them with their energy and action; the parent can mold their children with their words; the cook can compose a symphony of flavors. And the writer can write about it all.

Then, once that art is lived it is, at least partially, handed off, forever relinquished to the rest of the world to be judged. But part of it does stay behind. The part that gave the art substance and made it mean something in the first place. The part that made it authentic. The part that made it matter. That is the part with a voice. And that voice must clearly be the artist’s.

And I wonder where it comes from. Where do we look to find our voice, whether it be the voice of a musician or parent or cook or writer? And when do we know when we have found it?

I will continue listening for my voice. I hear it sometimes. I hear it when it hopes my words will be soft or silent and exchanged for a hug. I hear it when it tells me that repetition works and run-on sentences and sentence fragments are equally valuable. Or when it talks about the smell of cumin and cooking onions. I hear it when it sounds funny or somber or poetic. And I hear it when it tells me that it will all be ok, that I shouldn’t take it all so seriously and that semi-colons aren’t the devil’s plaything.

And I hear it whispering “Art is life. Life as art.” And I think I know what it means.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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8 Responses to The Sound of My Voice

  1. Jared Karol says:

    Good stuff, Mitch. I too often wonder where my voice comes from, or more precisely where my varying voices come from, and what inspires – or doesn’t my inspire – my different voices to emerge. I agree that life is art, and art is life. I think I know what that means too. Maybe it means something as simple as looking at the world with that perspective, to allow for the possibility that life can be looked in an artistic way, if we choose to do so.

    • Thank you, my friend. Tracing the ideas back to their origin and then figuring out how they end up sounding as they do almost feels like a journey that might rob some of the magic from the process. I don’t know if I even want to know the answer if I was able to find it. Maybe these could be topics for future letters? 🙂

  2. Jan Page says:

    Mitchell – Maybe your best piece yet. Very insightful and beautifully written/spoken/voiced. Keep at it, I look forward to each new post. Will be seeing your folks in a couple of weeks and can’t wait for the visit. Jan

    • Thank you so much, Jan. I don’t know about best, but I did enjoy the process of this one very much. As always, I appreciate very much that you are reading them. And I’m jealous you get to see my folks. Fun bunch, those two. I hope you all enjoy your trip.

  3. Robyn Tucker says:

    Wonderful & thought provoking as always 🙂 I wonder… When do you find the time to write? I know we can always find the time for whats important to us. I have enjoyed writing in the past & miss it at times. I love that you can so eloquently get out what you’re thinking! It’s such a beautiful thing to have SOMETHING (a vision, a thought, an itch, etc, etc) in your mind, and be able to get that out… and be happy with the result. As a photographer, it can be intensely frustrating not being able to capture how my eye/mind sees things. Hmm… think I’m wandering away from the subject.. sorry. 🙂

    “Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
    (I just love this quote. Read it in Stephen King’s book Misery. 🙂

    • Thank you, Robyn. It is so nice to see you back around here again (and not just because you say such nice things to me, though I ain’t mad at ya for it). I have resigned over the last few years to the fact that I sacrifice sleep for writing, and reading for that matter. I can usually manage on just a few hours of sleep, but it catches up to me sometimes. It is funny that you say “and be happy with the results” because lately I haven’t been happy at all with what is coming out, whether it be something I write for this blog or anything else I might be playing with. I have been suffering badly from not being able to capture what I see in my head. When I re-read the last few posts on here I wonder what in the hell I am even talking about. It’s all part of the process, though, right? Struggle, find the hang ups, fix ’em or at least try and move on. This post and my thoughts on voice were born of a feeling that I am not writing like me lately and I’m trying to figure out why I am trying so hard. I feel like I’m forcing it and it reads like I’m forcing it. Thanks for wandering away from the subject – I enjoyed following you and rambling on with it (as I am wont to do lately).

      • Robyn Tucker says:

        I’ve missed reading your posts, so I made it a point to search you out on facebook 🙂 It’s always nice to be around like minded individuals.

        I hear ya on the sacrificing sleep deal. I have a hard time justifying going to sleep early (which, to me would be anytime before 11 pm), when the house is FINALLY quiet! And then when I finally do crawl into bed, I always love to read just a bit of whatever my current novel is… even if sometimes I can’t make it past 2 pages. 🙂

        Aren’t we are biggest critic?? Why do we have to be so hard on ourselves… in all aspects of our lives? Your work is wonderful. I mean it when I say you write very eloquently, and it’s just so heartening to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. You make me feel not so alone (thank you for that). I can completely understand where you’re coming from though. The artist’s mind! Never quite happy with the results… accepting of them (if we’re lucky) and gracious to a compliment (when really you want to say, “Are you blind/deaf/daft? This sucks & is totally not how I meant for this to come out!”….. ahhhhh!). ::Sigh::

        I was just having a park play date yesterday with another SAHM and we were curious as to what we are feeling, is just because we are at the age we are. I have no idea how old you are, but I’m 33, almost 34 and I am struck by the craziness (really, any adjective will work here) that is my life. HOW in the hell did I get here? Four kids later? Hell, I didn’t even ever dream of having any. And I feel like I don’t have to footnote here with you, that of course I love my kids, of course I’m grateful/thankful for the life I have, etc etc, but being the age that I’m at… I didn’t anticipate all the feelings that I would have now… I thought maybe I’d know myself a bit better (if this makes any sense at all). Hmm… Makes me extremely curious as to how elderly people feel. Are their minds/thoughts/dreams/outlook relatively the same? Of course, we grow up and as we experience more of life, we learn & sometimes our outlooks change… hmm.

        But also… we agree most of the pressures we put on ourselves are FROM US, internally, all of our own doing… but where did it all originate from? Where indeed did our voice come from??

        ::sigh:: ! I’m wandering again… I can do this very easily, but I will stop for now. I’m glad you don’t mind. It’s a shame we don’t live closer to eachother, it’d be fun to go on a park play date & discuss life 🙂

      • You are a machine. I’ll be responding to this one by email soon, my friend.

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