Monday, July 12, 2010

Writing about Voices

"The first time I heard John Lennon or Donald Fagan sing, I thought the voices unimaginably strange. I didn't want to like them. Something kept me going back to listen, though."

Daniel J. Levitin from This is Your Brain on Music

I've read This is Your Brain on Music a handful of times, and I keep going back to that quote. I've never found Lennon's or Fagan's voices odd, and recently it hit me that by the time I'd heard The Beatles or Steely Dan, their influence had already filtered through the music I'd grown up with. Of course their voices wouldn't sound strange to me. But then, I listen to a lot of voices deemed strange or odd or "uncommercial," and none necessarily needed a warm-up period either:

A couple years ago, I wrote a much longer post about favorites -- why you like the music you life (inspired by an NPR post), and I came up a bit disappointed that it can't be pinned down to a formula. I mean, of course it can't, but I really wanted it to. It sure would take the pressure off, when in the company of rock snobs, if there were a bona fide, organic reason why you didn't like, say, Bob Dylan. Or the Beatles.

Most of the reasons given for liking a particular band or artist were pretty vague: "It moves me," or "It just is..." But there has to be more to that, right? I'm going with the reasoning in the book -- that you're instantly drawn to what's familiar. I heard a lot of soul, R&B and country before I ever heard rock, so I tend to gravitate to singers whose voices are expressive, "soulful" The flat drone of a lot of indie rock singers has never been my cup of tea (which makes music blogging about primarily "indie" artists a weird hobby), but if the songwriting is good, I can ignore it. And sometimes learn to love it.

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