When I left New York, the potential amplitude of my voice withered away. And when I left Boston, it seemed to decay even further. I suppose this is because, in bigger cities, every-day actions take on far greater meaning. Or, at the least, it’s easier to place oneself in a narrative. This type of mindset carries momentum and eventually turns into a lifetime.
I recall that it’s whimsical, and that inspiration is easy to come by. The slightest breezes are witnessed and documented to the point that they are retold as storms and hurricanes. And often it only takes the wave of one’s hand to create those mythic wind storms. With resounding episodes to inspire us, it seems prose and poetry flow out of one’s mouth with ease, as it did for Mailer or Capote or Didion.
So when I hear of friends’ successes, I wonder how loud I would be able to yell if I stayed on those mountaintops. In honesty, these thoughts aren’t about success or accomplishment, but rather about power and fame. It would be so intoxicating for ones voice to have such weight, would it not?
The thing about being on a stage, though, is that at some point you forget that it’s a stage. It’s something I recently became aware of because, hidden away between New York and Boston in a forgotten land, I exist in the gaps between one-hour commutes through forty treacherous miles of Connecticut slush. I exist in a suburban Panera Bread, where the cashier chides me for not using my frequent buyer card, and I exist in the shampoo aisle at a Target, where buying bottles in bulk is logical because one can afford to think that far ahead. My footsteps are quiet and my voice muted, because under my feet is clearly not a stage, but rather dirt — and when you return home with mud on your feet, it’s easy to remember you’re not on stage.
Of course, this isn’t just about geography, but more so about the acoustics of one’s environment. It’s about the resonance of one’s voice, which depends on what kind of chapel you have built around you.
On a stage, one can certainly can feel powerful at times — and I feel I must return at some point. But I learned a good lesson when I was a young pianist, and it is this: In order to know what you wants to do with your fingers, you must jump off the bench and watch others go through the motions — watch how the thumb can tuck under the third finger to complete the scale. It’s quite an ordinary maneuver for a pianist, but it’s an extraordinary thing to watch when this swift movement can send human hands gliding up the octaves.