Saturday, March 15, 2014
A Perfect Vocal: A Revision Model
Teena Marie had one in the song, “Fire and Desire,” and Luther Vandross had several throughout his career, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Phillip Bailey as a lead in the mega –group Earth, Wind and Fire. I’m talking about a perfect vocal where notes are delivered so clear that they touch down masterfully onto the musical melody. It’s undeniable, not a note, rift or run has to be changed. Most likely a production engineer did not say,” Let’s run that back and try again.” No remix needed. A remake by another artist is not advised. This is why I listen to music while I’m editing a novel. It reminds me that perfection is possible. Artistry begets Artistry. We are all looking to produce as Larenz Tate described in the movie, Love Jones, ‘the definitive work’. Julia Cameron in the book, The Artist Way talks about taking an artist date where you nourish your inner artist by indulging in muse-worthy activities. It could be a day at the theater, a movie or a leisurely walk through a park. You can find me taking my date tethered to Beats headphones with my 1418 song playlist. What defines us- our brand – our message must all be contemplated when you’re editing. How will this work measure up to other books, and how will it stand out? Revising a novel like recording a song must concentrate on what a work is saying. A great beat is cool, but a song has to be lyrically strong for me to make a connection. Everyone knows or has known someone who can just,” . . .love them and leave them.” Still others may identify with the raw and vengeful voice of newcomer, Jazmine Sullivan who boldly confesses, ‘I bust the windows out your car.” Plotlines are everywhere. I create a playlist with each book I write as if I were asked to make a soundtrack for the movie version. Each song reminds me of the minutest detail in my story make up. When I edit, I whittle my first draft back to my characters motivation and the pursuit of their goal. My goal is to reach the very nerve ending of my characters certainly, but my readers as well, and poke at it. In fact on of my themes of my new book, Submissionary, about an unlikely missionary on his way to Haiti, is about editing his relationships after a long absence. It’s a process, you either love or hate, but it is necessary. Revising a novel like recording a song is all about the way in which you say things. Who can forget Adele’s break out hit, “Someone Like You.” Now, that’s a perfect vocal in its mix of what its saying and how it is said. It has very poignant lyrics, and it is haunting in its delivery. I try to be a relationship weaver in that same respect to show those bonds between people, and, certainly the bond between a person and their creator is what art is all about. It’s about experience. I guesstimate 85% of the songs written at its core are about relationships. Most of them are not ever covered the same way. Love has subtle nuances you don’t get right the first time whether on a digitally mastered MP3 or the printed page. The way people meet, how they love and how they clash, ultimately calls for creativity in one’s delivery. I must remember as a novelist that it’s not just the outcome but how my characters arrive there. It’s about the journey that seems fresh and new. When you achieve what you’re trying to say and how you are trying to say it, you’ve just laid the perfect track. Admittedly, not everyone achieves it. You got to tinker with the elements- Earth, Wind and Fire – your Fire and Desire to get it right, and the saving grace of talent.