Writing, words and written work

It’s a mystery

It’s a mystery, not a murder mystery, but a mystery just the same.  It all began a few months ago when I was listening to the car radio on my way to an appointment. Nothing much on my usual station so I was flicking through the channels. That’s when I heard a voice, such a voice. I was so captivated that I knew I had to find out the name of the singer. The song was still in progress when I arrived at the place of my appointment, but I stayed in the car with the radio on waiting for the announcer to tell me who owned that voice. The song turned out to be a lengthy one, but there was no way I was going to turn the radio off until it was over and I found out the name of the singer. I had fallen helplessly, hopelessly, overwhelmingly in love with his voice.

The mystery is how that came about. You see, he was singing opera. I DO NOT like opera. Not one bit. For someone like me who loves simplicity, opera is an anathema. It’s an extravagant spectacle of emotional torture and opulent costumes. It’s over-the-top. Every moment is milked for drama.  The performers use so many words when a few would do.  And on top of all that the opera is not sung in English so I cannot follow the narrative (or I have to follow it ‘second hand’ through subtitles). So how is it that I could be profoundly affected by an opera singer’s voice?

And what’s more, this was not the first time. Many years ago I fell in love with the voice of another opera singer when I went to see a French movie called Diva. The voice of Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez bewitched me and I have never forgotten the moment in the movie when I first heard her sing. Perhaps that early ‘infatuation’ paved the way for the emotional impact of the voice I heard on the car radio.

When the ‘song’ (apparently opera does not use that term) on the radio concluded I wasn’t able to hear the name of the singer. Unfortunately, the reception was not clear, perhaps because it was a community radio station. When the singer’s name was announced, all I could pick up through the static was a first name that might have been Fergus and a surname which sounded like Hoffman.

It took quite a lot of searching later that evening on the internet to finally work out that the name of the singer whose voice had entrapped me was Jonas Kaufmann.

Strangely enough, although I complain of not being able to understand the words of an opera, it does not matter at all that I don’t understand the words sung by Wilhelmenia Fernandez or Jonas Kaufmann. Perhaps it is something about the quality of their voices that enchants me. Does the solution to the mystery have to do with sound?

I was brought up on the sounds of the Australian bush. Since there are no buildings, sound is free to travel in the bush. This meant that the sounds of nature enveloped us day and night. As I comment in Mother of Ten: ‘Our natural amphitheatre was vast and yet the crisp, clear sounds wrapped us in a sweet intimacy.’  Those sounds are a long way from the voices of opera and yet perhaps there is a link.

Is there anyone out there who can help me solve the mystery of why I can make an instant spiritual connection with an opera voice while still feeling repulsed by opera?  I cannot ponder it any longer as I need to get back to writing a murder mystery which I hope to have finished for release later this year.

Until next time…JB

14.3.2014: Thanks to my friend Elizabeth who reminded me that hearing is the first human sense to develop and the last to leave us when we die. I think that is significant.  If we come into the world on sound and leave it on sound, it makes sense that sound has a deep connection in our psyche.

15.04.2014: In March this year I heard that Jonas Kaufmann was coming to Melbourne for one concert on August 14. The price of a ticket was way out of my modest budget. How could I possibly pay $300 for a ‘one night stand’?!

It was due to the combination of encouragement from my niece Sally and the happy coincidence of a cheque in the mail from an insurance company who gave me a refund of $230 to compensate an overcharge that I took the plunge and bought a ticket.

The big day arrived yesterday and I was one of the entranced audience members at Hamer Hall who luxuriated in an evening of aural ambrosia. It was definitely the best one night stand I have ever experienced.

Comments on: "It’s a mystery" (4)

  1. Yes sometimes a particular sound just hits some resonance. I too share a disdain for most opera, the story is minimised so much, but sometimes a voice and a flow of sound grabs you. Pavaroti has done it to me. I remember one day years back walking down Queen Street in Brisbane and a music store was playing the first Pan Flutes commercial release over their loud speakers. Grabbed me. Had to walk in and ask what it was. They were selling like hot cakes that morning. The sound and movement of music and newness was grabbing lots of people. Other times it’s the particular call of a Butcher Bird as it plays around and improvises in that fluid clear voice.

    • There you go. I am gratified to know you have had a similar experience., Darryl. Yes, I too have felt the allure of the pan flute.

      Perhaps these ‘calls to sound’ are similar (though not as sinister) as the sirens were to Odysseus.

  2. I understand what you are saying and I think it is sound.Sound seems to fascinate with me,too.It brings out forgotten memories,I think.Things like that stick in my mind for days.Good luck on your writing.Envy you having a childhood in such an enchanting place!

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