Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Voice

I have tried for a week to find the words to express my reaction to the life and death of Whitney Houston. No words seemed adequate to describe the talent, poise, performance and impact of such a gifted soul.

Whitney Houston sang both a capella and with a band in a way that only a black woman can; with a bold, yet silky voice characterized by the phenomenal ability to hold a note for long periods, while traversing the extremes of the musical scale. Any listener could not help but to have a physical reaction. She incited energy in the beholder. Reaction to her voice reminds me of dipping into a cold spring on a hot summer day. The immersion of the hot body into the cold liquid results in a shock that causes a quick, deep breath. Whitney‘s music evoked a similar response, always followed by a relaxing of the body and soul, with the deep slow breaths that accompany relaxation. 

As her body became an instrument that transformed air into sound, Whitney effortlessly used lyrics to communicate universal truths. This effortlessness is a sign of a gift that comes from none other that the Universal Creator. She utilized her brilliance to co-create with Him through song, acting, dancing, and physical beauty that catapulted her into worldwide superstardom in the 20th and 21st centuries.

This high energy diva was a creative. Creative people need to be free to experiment with both the conventional and the absurd. Criticism can cause paralysis of the creative spirit because pure creation requires a certain vulnerability. 

A creative artist puts her heart on display for the world to either accept or reject. That is why, whenever I write a book review, I am as kind as integrity allows. I do not want to be the one who crushes someone’s heart with harmful criticism.

The creator is typically separate from the creation. With the different mediums of art: music composition, writing, and sculpting, the creation can be offered anonymously. Even when the author’s identity is revealed and known, the creator does not have to be present for the audience to experience the work of art. The singer can not be anonymous. For if attempted, some people would be able to recognize the voice, even in the absence of documentation of the singer. And while one may argue that based on the style used, the creator of a painting, drawing, sculpture, and writing may reasonably be identified, for the entertainer, anonymity can never be achieved.

In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle writes of the similarity between the creative and the spiritual. She says that both are similar in that to create truth, the artist must die to self, getting out of the way of the expression itself for the art to be pure. The spiritual person must die to self in order to become an instrument of God, putting one’s own desires away, yielding to the will of God.

In entertainment, the entertainer can become dead to self for the performance to the extent that they can, but the body is the instrument; anonymity is destroyed. The entertainer retains some of the identity of the art to the point that the artist is mistaken as the art form rather than the vehicle of the art form, thereby becoming the focus of the audience, sometimes twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. The artist, then becomes a focus of worship and criticism simultaneously for the masses at times. What mortal is worthy of this and can survive this experience without dysfunction?

So what, then does this say in terms of Whitney Houston? The entertainer becomes a victim of the art form itself if not careful, especially in the presence of such an extraordinary gift. I think that this led to the untimely demise of Whitney Houston.

As for me, I will remember her performance of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl as a representation of her talent and voice. I think that performance was her greatest moment in time. This performance established Whitney not only as a superb vocal musical instrument, but as an instrument of our national patriotism and possibly an instrument of God as well. When she sang this song, she made our nation proud.

I will miss Whitney. She will forever remain one of the top talents of this century. This voice sadly has been silenced on this plain forever. May she have peace.

copyright 2012 by Kathy Robbins

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