Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Question #11: Who is your inner musician?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 11: I’m going to pirate an excellent question from my friend JS for this one…

“Who is your ‘inner musician’ and why?

“(It was asked in the context of choosing a famous musician you wished to emulate.)

“I already know my answer but have been considering how best to realize it.”

This question was asked at a gathering of friends awhile ago. I thought about it a lot. In fact, as a professional musician, I thought I should have an answer at the ready and began to feel a little silly for taking so long. I considered and rejected my beloved famous cellists and favorite songwriters because I couldn’t think of a reason to choose one over the other. The question, to me, was not so much about loving someone’s music or their life story (many, alas, being rife with drugs and discontent) and I was unable to articulate to myself what it was I was seeking. It was not until much later in the evening after the conversation had long since wandered off that I finally thought of someone who fit my heart’s aspirations like a well-worn much-loved shoe:

Neil Young.

My dad played his music a lot when I was growing up and I went from liking Neil Young somewhat as a younger child to disliking him as a late elementary/early middle schooler to absolutely loving him as a teenager and beyond.

I had never experienced this kind of fluctuating opinion of a musician before (or possibly since) and it all came down to his voice.

His voice. I mean, on the one hand, what a startling lack of raw material or vocal training. Warbling whispy nasal quavering unheard of in a successful singer. Bob Dylan couldn’t (didn’t want to?) carry a tune, but his timbre was gruff and rich and warm.

And yet it is precisely his voice that compels. And until my friend asked the question, I never considered why.

I am guilty of letting not-good-enough hold me back many times. Especially in the mainstream classical world with its endless auditions and competitions. Especially in an era of auto-tune and of laborious recording studio hours logged to create a flawless track no human could produce in one take.

Neil Young is the epitome of making the very most of what you have, even when what you have is in modest supply.

As a bonus, he never felt limited to one genre, something I relish in my work as well.

Yup. Neil’s mine. Who is yours?

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