The Perfect Sound
After almost 40 years being surrounded by music, after classical training, of practicing, of going to symphony concerts, rock concerts, bluegrass concerts, chamber concerts, jazz sessions, a capella performances, I've settled on something I believe.
There is no sound as perfect or as beautiful to me as the human voice.
Nothing is as revealing, as intimate, as poignant, as powerful. And I forget this until I lose my own voice, as I did in the last few days to a cold all the while surrounded by some of the most beautiful, belllike, riveting voices performing today. While I can't sing as well as all of them, I can keep up, and when I can't sing a note, my heart sinks with the weight that cries for release. Singing is the way I give up all my pain and joy, and let go.
There were few moments at the IBMA World of Bluegrass Fan Fest that moved me as much as those moments when these leaders in bluegrass set down their instruments and gathered around one mike for a sweet and enchanting quartet. Or, as in one of my favorite moments, when Molly Skaggs was accompanied by her famous father, Ricky, on clawhammer banjo, in rendering one of the saddest and most mournful mountain songs I've yet heard. Molly's young bell-like voice rang true and sad and lovely the way you'd expect the story to come from the young heartbroken girl in the song.
The clip you will hear above is a cut from an old recording by Ricky Skaggs and the extraordinary guitarist Tony Rice (http://www.tonyrice.com/biography.html). Rice had one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass until he lost it in the mid-1990s. Now I watch him on stage with Pete Rowan (http://flickr.com/images/spaceball.gif), just a giant of a fingerstyle artist, virtually the leading virtuoso of his genre. If I look very closely, his lips still move as his fingers glide up and down the neck of his instrument.
Only singing is singing.