How Can We Keep from Singing: Finding and Living Your Life's Passionby Joan Oliver Goldsmith
Walt Whitman wouldn't have to strain his ears to hear America singing. Over twenty million Americans sing publicly in a choir, chorus, or other ensemble. In an irresistible writing voice, Joan Oliver Goldsmith celebrates the world of song. She brings the reader inside the music she loves, to share the physical joys and agonies of making harmonious sound and the sensual pleasures of hearing it. She shares her inspirations and wisdom -- about making mistakes, about courage and difficulty, about teaching, friendship, self-knowledge, and the essential elements of creativity. When Goldsmith observes conductors, she gives insight into leadership, and when she participates in the chorus she intuits the essence of great "followership." Finding the range in which it's most comfortable to sing, she discovers, is linked to finding one's home in other areas of life and work. Above all, Goldsmith teaches us to listen to ourselves, and not to hold back in playing the "invisible instrument" of the creative spirit -- whether in writing poetry, restoring old cars, planting a garden, or singing a good old song.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 1 ED
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- 5.69(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.89(d)
Read an Excerpt
Overture: Playing the
When I make music, adventures happen.I sit at the feet of a grand old lady of spirituals, who tells storiesof escaped slaves and Carnegie Hall recitals. I find myself onstage in Mexico City singing Mahler's glorious Symphony of aThousand, while tenors stumble offstage to throw up in convenientlyplaced buckets. I am awed by the rich contributions madeby the not famousthe fifteenth violinist, the accompanist, thesingers in the choresthe multitudes of voices who singBeethoven's Ninth at Orchestra Hall, but never Mimì at the Met.We teach, drive school buses, write corporate brochures, whateverit takesbut we keep singing.
We're everywherethe passionate, committed, talented, frequentlyunpaid or underpaid workers who make possible the greatthings of life. We're the utility infielder, the middle manager, thesmall-enterprise entrepreneur.
We are described by what we do, not by labels like professionalor amateur. We work with craftsmanship and artistry. Wecreate excellence. But for whatever reasonlack of luck, overweeningambition, the physiology that creates an operatic-sizevoice or Olympic athletewe do not make it to the top.
We do not become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. It's hardfor us to believe we have significance as individuals. After all,when we getsick, the show goes on and the audience doesn'teven notice. Yet collectively, we are indispensable and sometimesmagnificent.
Without us, the CEO would not have a company nor the conductoran instrument. A lonely picture, that: the conductor dancingup there on the podium, waving his or her arms, reaching forsound and receiving none, because the not famous suddenlystopped.
We have a particular kind of couragenot the courage ofthose who climb mountains, but the courage of those who showup and practice. Not every day, perhaps, or even every year. Wetake time off to attend to loved ones or earn a living or indulgeour exhaustionbut once that's accomplished, back we come. Itpuzzles and amazes me. The obvious rewardsmoney andrecognitionaren't there, and the price is high. It would be somuch less trouble to sit home and watch television.
The reason for this glorious insanity, it seems to me, hassomething to do with an invisible instrument we all carry insidea creative spirit that must be expressed if the soul is not to diea slow, bleak death.
If you find yourself pulled beyond all practicality towarddoing somethingwriting poetry, building a business, restoringold cars, planting a secret garden; if at four in the morning theright word comes to you, the perfect flower to plant in that particularspotyou are playing your invisible instrument.
For me, the invisible instrument manifests through the voice,that mysterious sound maker composed of vocal cords, lips,tongue, breath, and spirit. It's a peculiar and fascinating instrument,a peculiar and fascinating life.
There is never enough time. It is harder than you ever imagined.You are never as good as you want to be. And if tonight wasnearly perfect, watch out, because tomorrow you may slip up andcommit the chorister's greatest sinsinging an "unpaid solo."
Always, always they will ask you to give moremore concentration,more purity of sound, better line, finer adagio. Theywill ask and you will ask it of yourself. You will especially askyourself what you are doing here after a hard day's work at yourday job, when you don't feel that good anyway, and your spouseis mad at you, and your kids say you never get anything right,and there isn't enough money to pay all of the bills. Then suddenlyit flowsa bar, a phrase, perhaps even a whole movementandyou are the physical instrument of something higher.
Then you know again creation's assignment: to learn thenotes, to find your music. The invisible instrument is the oneinstrument we must all learn to play.
Excerpted from How Can We Keep from Singing by Joan Oliver Goldsmith. Copyright © 2001 by Joan Oliver Goldsmith. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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How Denial Imperils America's Future and Ruins an Alliance
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W. W. NORTON & COMPANY
Copyright © 1996 R. Taggart Murphy. All rights reserved.
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