Tami Simon Interviews k.d. lang at Wake Up Festival: A listener’s dissent

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On August 22, 2014 in Estes Park, CO, one of the best interviews of kd lang happened. Tami Simon of Sounds True had kd’s undivided attention. For 30 minutes, kd answered most questions about how she views life, meaning, self and of course, Buddhism.  kd said many things that will stick with me for some time, but there was one thing that has been nagging at me.  kd, for all the respect I have for you, I cannot go along with you on this one.  I am afraid you will have to do better in order to convince me.

During a discussion of the self and managing the ego, kd blurted out something to the effect of “Look, there are so many people out there with a much better voice than mine, but they do not want to do this (be a professional singer)”.

Readers, are you too taking an auditory double take? Exactly.

Because k.d. lang  is for me the penultimate musician for her “genre” (if we must have a name for this), this claim felt like someone had doused my entrails with acid. Yet, to be charitable to  you kd, I have these preliminaries to set forth:

1. You are so astonishingly talented that perhaps you (and few others) are able to see and hear a level of musicianship in others that the rest of us do not. I must assume that when you do “see” this, their ability is merely potential. Perhaps this is what you meant. For if they really sang as well as you do, I think we (the listening world) would know about it.

2. It could be that with such exceptional talent comes the paragon of unbearable albatrosses. For your entire life, all you have heard is the stunned ishkabibbled and garbled reactions of people who have no words to confront the pure beauty  of being that your voice sustains. Because of this, you say such things in an attempt to place yourself in a category somewhere. I think almost none of us would ever trade places with you, and knowing this must entail the deepest isolation and loneliness only a poet trapped in  a decade-long Siberian winter could begin to understand.

In light of of these ideas, it could well be that I am completely off the mark. And if so, touche.

But I argue that you are wrong. It is my contention that you have accepted a challenge of expressing the emotive force of  human existence through near vocal perfection. Because of this, you are Buddha-like. When I say this, I am not saying you are a Buddha, or a Bodhisattva. But I am saying that you have taken the expression, via a female voice, of the human condition to new levels.  Few, not many, are like you. Even if they have the voice, they do not have the connection with their own souls that you do.  They do not have the inner awareness, an awareness I think even you do not always understand, that you do. Your voice is the compilation of someone who is so in-their-body, in the best way, I doubt kd lang has even one musical doppelganger.

And so I disagree with you kd. I do not think there are “so many people with better voices” than you because the odds of such a voice being coupled with the awareness you have are practically zero. In this, you are like the Push-me-Pull-You from Dr. Doolittle; a one of kind, hard to catch and hard to understand creature who lives essentially alone on stage for all the world to see.

Kudos to you for how well you have navigated your way through this living.

2 Comments

  1. Much in synch w/you on whole post, but particularly the last 2 paragraphs. The thought of juggling what k.d. does every day astounds me. That thought has my mind letting out a shriek, throwing up her hands and diving under the nearest rock. I am grateful I was not gifted w/such talent. I would have flamed out immediately. I am in awe of her strength, particularly when it is allied with such tenderness as resides there also. I am also aware that k.d. is human and by definition imperfect,as are we all. That only makes the whole person more astounding. May she be held in the tender embrace of the love we all give her. So mought it be.

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  2. k.d.lang has a wondrous voice and a unique talent. I can fully understand her comment because there are indeed many incredible singers, artists and creators in the world today and coming through. As a performer she has shared a lot more about herself than her music. The desire to be acknowled for more than her music and also to have the privacy to be herself is shared by many performers and very understandable.

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