Composer Tom Myron and I traded e-mails about our shared love for Randall Jarrell's sublimely funny novel Pictures from an Institution, which contains, in its portrait of the émigré composer Gottfried Rosenbaum, some of the wittiest musical commentary in fiction. I quoted a favorite part of the novel here. Tom drew my attention to this more serious passage:
In any art there is a Higher Regularity which seems to conventional people arbitrary and to unconventional people commonplace: Irene's singing was of this sort. And of all the singers I have ever heard she was the most essentially dramatic: she could not have sung a scale without making it seem a part of someone's life, a thing of human importance. Yet when the song and her voice said: We are all dying, something else about her voice — a quality that could not be localized, that all the sounds possessed together and none possessed apart — said to you also: Whoever dies? Over feeling and act, the human reality, her voice seemed to open out into a contradicting magic of speculation and belief, into the inhuman reality men discover or create. Her voice pushed back the boundaries of the world.
And I immediately thought of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.