Say What? Not Focus On k.d.’s Voice?
It may sound odd for me to ask you to stop focusing on k.d. lang’s voice. But this is what I am going to ask you to do for this blog post. The reason I am asking you to humor me on this is: I want to argue that her voice is spiritually invigorating but is also one that can prevent our own authentic spiritual transformation if we are too linear in our perspective about it. Like many artists, it takes some effort to truly “get” what is going on. I contend that this is true for k.d.; that how we “see” the relationship between k.d., her voice, and what I want to call a “the vast openness of acceptance” can shed light on the astounding aspects of being alive.
Love is Blind
What I am asking of you may not seem so strange when we recall the old adage “Love is blind”. We have all experienced it, no doubt, from both sides of the fence. My concern is I fear many listeners to k.d. suffer from this plight. They are so in love with her voice, a voice that is truly unbelievable, that they never can see beyond it. Now, I certainly do not want to seem sanctimonious in making this claim for I write this as someone who spent too much time in the “jaw dropping love overwhelm” over her voice. The pitch, tone, emotion, phrasing and on and on.
But luckily for me, not too long after I first heard her, I realized that k.d.was truly an authentic artist.
An Authentic Artist
When I say that k.d. is an authentic artist, I am not talking about arbitrary claims to legitimacy such as musical education or experience or seniority, or awards won or any other socio-political yard-stick we may use to give k.d. her kudos. I am talking about the ability of her artistry to make profound spiritual changes in our lives. In fact, I almost want to make the more normative claim that we “should” see beyond the ear-candy to the more substantive philosophical issues k.d. bridges for us. But that may be too much…even for me who sees in k.d. the chance to make serious spiritual headway in this life.
Beyond the “Voice of an Angel”
For the past year or so, I have been following k.d. on Twitter. I feel I have a fairly good sense of what the typical “fan” tends to say to her, and what they are, and are not, able to articulate. What I have noticed is a kind of “literalism” if you will. People tend to focus on one song they like (usually “Hallelujah”, or “Calling all Angels, or “Crying”) and tell k.d. how much they “love” that song. What I do not see are deeper explanations about why. No one seems to ask “But why is this or that song so moving, or so beautiful?” And this is the omission that I fear, prevents many from seeing what we really have in k.d.’s art. Mind you, I am not talking about k.d. the person in real life necessarily; merely the artist. There is a difference. Like most “authentic artists”, the art produced transcends the actual real-life person. I am going to stipulate that this is probably true for k.d.
The Vast Openness of Acceptance
There are “reasons” why the way k.d. can sing makes us take an auditory double take. I think the main one is because her voice is rooted in a deep spiritual understanding of authenticity and a lack of need for outside affirmation. When we listen to her, we are taken to this place. And if one is willing to “get over” the voice, and pay attention to the place you end up while listening, I think there is a great chance for spiritual progress. Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about.
- When k.d. sings your favorite song of hers, do you notice that something has changed in you? even for a second? that there is a sense of shedding some of the bullshit of our lives. Things like self-obsession, or arrogance, or petty anger. There is no place for these things while you are listening and taken to the “Vast Openness of Acceptance”.
- Do you notice that in the beauty of her voice is a place that you can go to anytime, no matter who you are? That it does not matter what religion you may be, or where you come from, or whether you are “trained” the right way. Her voice accepts anyone and takes them to this place, this “peek” at the things that seem to carry more meaningful weight.
- Do you feel inspired to do things that focus less on yourself, and more on others? I am going to bet you do. After hearing “Crying”, the impulse is probably not go on a shopping spree for window dressings. But rather to feel empathy for all of those stuck in unrequited love.
- Are you amazed at the beauty that is possible? I argue that this amazement you feel is not about k.d. so much, but the spiritual situation of being human.
Lastly, I want to point out that all of us experience k.d.’s art in our own way and yet we still are taken to this same state of spiritual “Eurekas”. The critical lesson about this fact is we each “get there”. I think that we need to spend more time thinking about this state where we end up after listening to k.d., and less time being amazed at her voice per se. This is the opportunity for authenticity that we can miss if we are not careful.