There’s nothing like hearing a unique voice in a song that moves you to your very bones.
Music does that, doesn’t it?
A song works its way inside of us, with or without invitation.
It’s not just the melody of a song, but certain voices find a home in our hearts. I won’t be surprised if scientists discover that there are certain songs which ultimately take up residence in our very DNA, just waiting to be brought to the surface by the sound of a voice. I have a gut feeling that somewhere interspersed in my DNA are random song lyrics attached to the voice of Karen Carpenter, my Church Music director, and my father’s humming in his Bing Crosby style from my childhood.
I was at my father’s house last week. He is a young 91-year-old man, who had fallen and broken his shoulder. A song by Nat King Cole came on in the background of an ad on TV. Instantly, he was transported back to the summer before he served in the Korean War. I heard the story of how he worked in a burger shack across the street from the casino where a young guy named “Frank Sinatra” was singing for the summer. He recalled playing cards at the table where Sinatra dealt cards. I had heard bits of those stories, but then my dad told me the story of meeting Nat King Cole one weekend.
“You met Nat King Cole, Dad?! How come you never told me?” I asked, feeling like I scarcely knew the man sitting with me.
“I never thought of it until now”, he replied in his matter of fact melody. “But he had such a voice!”
I suspect that one day scientist may discover that songs find their way into the fibers of our being, We’ve all felt it on occasion, all it takes is a few magical notes and the very fibers of our bodies remember where we first encountered the magic of that particular song. The present moment is taken over, and our minds and memories are transported from the current moment to the sights, smells, sensations and feelings that we first felt with that particular melody .
Sometimes the magic backfires. Have you ever had a song that felt like a “brain parasite”? The melody hijacks all conscious thought, rendering you powerless to shake its influence: like when the DJ plays Macarena at a wedding and you end up humming it for the next six weeks?! You’ll be sitting at your desk, working on the balance sheet for last quarter, when all of a sudden, your subconscious shouts “Hey Macarena!”. The decimals end up in the wrong spaces, you multiply when you should subtract, and your bookkeeping is blown. (Incidentally, I hold song lyrics responsible for my difficulty with math).
But other songs, can feel like warm, healing medicine. After my mother passed, my brother sent a link to Ed Sheeran’s “Supermarket Flowers”. Within the first few notes, the tears began to fall. Then came a flood. Then the tsunami hit. For some unknown reason, I hit repeat and let the giant wave wash through me and unleash its full force. Eventually, I felt the catharsis of grief that until that moment, I had heard others describe, but I had never personally experienced.
For the next several weeks, I couldn’t hear ANY Ed Sheeran song without feeling those same fibers in my body reignited. Just the sound of his voice brought the feelings to the surface.
The sounds of certain voices do amazing things, don’t they?
Like the sound of the voice of a friend on the phone. The sound of your own language being spoken in a foreign country. The sound of a loved one’s voice after a long absence carries a power like no other.
There are voices that transport us through time. Voices that awaken a lost romance. Other voices articulate our heritage and culture here and now, while some voices mysteriously connect us to generations past.
We envelop our newborn babes in heartfelt melodies from our fatigued voices. From cradle to grave, from ceremony to celebration, we do what is essential to being human: we USE our voices.
Whether it is spoken or sung, the human voice connects us to others. It may very well be one of the most powerful, most unique things about us.
The power of the voice in songs transcends culture and language, space and time, eludes our conscious memory, and brings us into connection with others.
Voices are powerful things.
One might even say that the human voice is nearly magical.
Your Voice Too!
Don’t ever let a voice teacher train the magic out of you.