Can we please have a Moment of Silence and a Moment to Mourn … the Sound of Music

February 21, 2012

A few weeks ago, I became ecstatic just by hearing my colleague utter one word: “Aznavour”. Yes, as in Charles Aznavour, one of my favorite singers of all times was performing in my city. I could not believe that after numerous final performances, he decided to come back, again, and still had the energy to perform once more in his aging tenor voice.

All his signature songs simultaneously clashed in my head: from “Hier encore”, “La Bohème”, “Emmenez-moi”, “La Mamma” to “Plus Bleus que tes yeux”. The wonderful arrangement of symphonies fused from passion, talent, emotions and melody, created the perfect sound wave that traveled from my soul to my toes.

I grew up listening to his songs and adore him as much as lots of French-speaking people do. For my readers who have refused to listen to anything that is not in English, please note that Aznavour is more than popular, he is an international icon. This Armenian-French signer sold more than 100 million records and was even recognized as the century’s outstanding performer, with 20% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.

The fact that he is not a French national, but an Armenian, is surprisingly not a well-known fact. He was in fact born Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian in Paris, France. Immediate name change wasn’t a dilemma as we know that integration as a foreigner is very difficult in France. The “La France aux Français (France to the French)” mentality is still very much applicable as it was a few decades ago.

However, when one becomes successful, respected and worthy of the coveted “Made in France” stamp of approval; acceptance and admiration even, comes with one’s accomplishments. A few weeks ago, on January 23, 2012, the French Senate voted to criminalize any public denial of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of 1.5 millions of Armenians, which started in 1915. Turkey officially denies the fact the word genocide is associated with the fact that hundreds of thousand Armenian Christians and Turkish Muslims died during World War I. It was not genocide as they affirm, it was war. A group of French senators are appealing the bill to the Council.

But yet again, is there any critically acclaimed Turkish living legend that may admire the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from their appartement while eating their tartines of bread with jam?

Bref, enough politics, after coming down from a relatively long euphoric frame of mind, I then transitioned into a melancholic cognitive state. Although a part of me is willing to tolerate the enormous price tag of one decent ticket, while being grateful to have the opportunity to tell my grandchildren that I once saw him perform in person. Another part of me, too busy doing the math to care, realizes that he will be 88 years old this year. Even if this could be his true “Der des Ders“, can his voice remotely even sound anything like it does on his recordings?

When I then think about it, I tell myself that the days of any artist (“entertainer” would be more appropriate nowadays) sounding as they do on record are long gone. In this age of technology, there are countless performance-enhancing instruments that can alter pitch in vocal. That being said, that transformation might not be applicable to aging voices but only to the ungifted ones. I therefore asked myself; what is the life-span of a voice and can it be restored?

You must remember that not only your vocal cords age as everything else, but also, anything that you put into your body is going to go right past your vocal cords. That means cigarette smoke, soft drinks, hot drinks, spicy food, frozen drinks, medicine, air pollutants and yes, even , if not especially, smoke inhaled from a crack cocaine pipe.

A revolutionary biogel is currently in development by Harvard professors and MIT scientists which could allow signers to regain their youthful tones. It could also aid people who have lost their voices speak again.

Could that gel have helped saved Whitney Houston? Or at least have given her a few memorable final performances, even if the curtains were destined to close as the spotlights fade. She is a diva after all. We all know how they often tend to leave our world: “Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” Reviews from her many failed come back attempts were disappointing and miserable. For entertainers that define themselves as singers, it could understandingly be depressing and unbearable to even fathom the fact that what makes you YOU is no longer. That alone, excluding personal demons, could be excruciating to come to accept.

In no particular order, here are just a few musicians/ artists / singers that left us before their time: Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Ronnie Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Randy Rhodes (Ozzy Osbourne), Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones), Cliff Burton (Metallica), Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Hillel Slovak (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Nico, Amy Winehouse, Elvis, Otis Redding, Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon), Keith Moon (The Who), Jonathan Melvoin (The Smashing Pumpkins), Billie Holiday, Freddie Mercury (Queen), David Ruffin (The Temptations) and Michael Jackson.

I might just go ahead a buy myself a couple of these Aznavour tickets after all….

It use to be all about the music…

“When I decided to be a singer, my mother warned me I’d be alone a lot. Basically we all are. Loneliness comes with life. God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?”

– Whitney Elizabeth Houston (08/09/63 – 02/11/12)

Copyright © 2012 Thus Always To Genius. All Rights Reserved.

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