Finding Voice

Louis Menand, writing in Best American Essays in 2004 said, “The real basis for the metaphor of voice in writing is not speaking. It is singing".

This is what Mark Tredinnick has to say about the idea in his Little Red Writing Book:

The singer, unlike the talker, rehearses. She needs to get what she utters exactly right. Not just nearly there. There are matters of rhythm and diction and flow that have to be spot on. There are matters of technique, for singing is not the natural act talking is. And in singing, the voice you hear clearly belongs to the singer, but it is something other than the one they speak in. Song is an artificial kind of utterance. But all its artifice is about affecting naturalness and clarifying diction and expressing oneself and the music without error so that the song might be remembered. The song is performed, and listeners will make the kind of judgements one makes of a work of art. The kind one makes of a piece of writing, as opposed to a passage of conversation.
        And when it works, a song goes in deep and stays. Music will do that. It's got to do with the power of recent change us...  In song, it's how you sing, not just what you utter, that counts. And so it is with writing. You do it and do it again; you're making a work that takes a finished form and lasts and performs gain each time it's read; and it's not just what it means but the way means that holds all losers your reader. The messages in the music. So make a beautiful noise.

And in the words of Geoff Datson in Mincemeat: 'So, that's what we're doing, OK?'

NB: Mark Tredinnick is a total genius. His books on writing are a must for any writer's library, and his poetry and in particular, his extraordinarily beautiful memoir of place, The Blue Plateau, is bliss. His writing books are published by UNSW Press (Australia)

Popular Posts