Garth Greenwell Recommends...

"I studied vocal performance before I was a writer, and my favorite singer—to my mind, one of the very greatest singers of the twentieth century—is Peter Pears. He has a strange, unruly voice, with none of the bel canto virtues (evenness of tone, ease of production) I was taught to emulate. Even singing the music of his life partner, Benjamin Britten—music composed so carefully for Pears’s voice it seems like an embodiment of love—one hears him struggle, approaching each passage as a problem to be solved. One hears him thinking, that is, and part of the thrill of listening to him, especially in the later recordings, when the voice is less secure, more apt to wobble and stray, is to hear how brilliantly he marshals scarce resources. Every day as a writer I feel my own scarcity of resources. Another writer would be more economical here, I think as I struggle with a passage, more inventive, would have more interesting thoughts. I listen to Pears to remind myself how much can be done not despite limitation, but through or within it. When I hear Pears’s voice nearly break in the last phrases of Britten’s 'Before Life and After,' I remember how much of artistry lies in strategy, in putting defects to use. I remember that another word for limitation might be form, that the limiting line can also be the line of beauty."
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)