I finally got through two weeks of old newspaper articles I’d wanted to read during a busy stretch of September. In the mix was a eulogy to Luciano Pavarotti, and as I read it, I couldn’t help think there was a lesson here for the writer. If motorcycle maintenance can teach the principles of Zen, then surely I can learn a thing or two from the eulogy of the legendary opera singer.
The writer, John Timpane, obviously a Pavarotti devotee, said there were three things about the singer that distinguished him from everyone else. First, he had the voice. He had that which came from the “province of the Creator.” You either have a divine instrument woven into your vocal chords or you don’t. I feel this way about writing. You can learn to write, you can learn to be a better writer, but the gift of weaving words together so that they are more than just squiggles on paper, well, that comes from a well you did not dig yourself. It was given to you. People who say to me, “I just don’t see how you can write a whole book!” have a different well within them. Writing, for me, is work, but it isn’t a chore. The well has already been dug. I just dip my bucket.
Two, Pavarotti had musicianship. He knew his talent. He was intimate with his craft. He knew his talent needed exercise, discipline, and rest. Timpane wrote this: “You must grow expert in the history of music; the rules, the legacies of thousands of other performers. It’s religion. It’s slavery.” Above that, Timpane said you must move beyond the didactic and somehow touch human emotion. It’s not enough to have taught yourself all that you can, all that is available to you to learn. You must be technician and artist.
Thirdly, the master had the ability to meld what he knew and what he could do into performance. Pavarotti knew how to entertain. He knew how to make the audience love him. He knew what would make them stand up and cheer.
Timpane wrote that few can master all three abilities: unequaled talent, mastery of the craft, and audience connection but Pavarotti nailed them all.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know enough about Pavarotti to know if this is true of him, but I do know that I was challenged as I read this eulogy to throw down a plumbline to see how I measure up to him as an artist. I don’t know that I have exquisite talent, but I certainly can do more to master whatever talent I do have. And as far as improving my audience connection, well, I simply must. Every writer must connect with his or her audience. There is little reason to write a thing if no one is going to read it.
Pavarotti’s voice, mastery and skill was a rare blend, Timpane wrote. But I’m sure that doesn’t mean there’s no point in imagining that I could do with my gifts and passions what Pavarotti did with his. Surely it is not a waste of time to consider that. . .
Have a restful weekend, Edge people.