a journal of observations, obsessions and inspirations

musings on the artist's life

Posted in: The Tenor Book

Mixing things up

As I start getting back into the book, I’m running into options. Forks in the path. This is my favorite part of a writing project, the not-knowing-where-it’s-going. Can’t wait to see the twists and turns it will take (and take me with it) towards the final form.

The way I answer the questions that come up helps determine that path, of course. Here’s one: cameras and film. When I go to meet these new interviewees, which camera do I take? Film or digital? 99 percent of the photography in the book, including interviews, has been done with film and it gives a look that can’t be matched by pixels, no matter how many mega they are. Add in that a major theme of the book is the historical lineage of teaching, singer-to-singer, and I feel… I want… I think I should stay with what brought me to the dance.

Here’s another: interviews. Do I need more interviews? I’ve talked with some 110 people already and the majority were filled with discoveries and parallels that intrigued me at every turn. When I found myself, in the last 2 or 3 interviews, knowing what they were going to say and not finding anything new, I realized I’d gathered everything I needed. But a few years have gone by and the focus of the book has shifted a bit.

To fill in some gaps, I’ve started a list – and the requests – for interviews with a handful of young tenors… with a couple more (current) big stars… and some who can link the teacher-to-student legacy for me.

Keeping track of which teachers, for instance, I have conversations with, I’ve always kept my interview list in alphabetical order within voice/job type. A few days ago, I decided to do something I’ve always done when shooting – that is, to look from another perspective. I re-ordered the list chronologically, and thought it was a disaster, showing up the difference between working on the book full-time versus part-time. But my book mentor saw the glass half-full, and said Wow!

So, keep going. Renewed energy. Clearer vision.

Here’s what I found – number of interviews/locations:
1998 (Oct – Dec)
22 – 4 in San Diego, rest in LA, SF, NY
1999 (Jan – Oct)
71 – SD, Mission Viejo, Irvine, Palm Springs, LA, NYC, upstate NY, Mass, London, Faversham, Chicago, Bloomington IN
5 – 4 SD, 1 LA
5 – 4 SD, 1 Cerritos
3 – SD
1 – SD
1 – LA
4 – SD, LA, Virginia
1 – SD
2 – SD, Seattle
2009, 2010, 2011
probably 5 – 1 SD, 4 SF
working on it…


  1. Patrick Ross - January 14, 2013 3:58 am

    ML, can I kindly suggest that, as to the question of whether you need more interviews, that perhaps 110 is enough? 🙂 You’re giving me a complex; I’ve only got a little over 40 in my WIP, and I’m not doing any more!

    • martha - January 14, 2013 5:17 am

      Ah yes, but 40 is manageable – good for you! I get sucked into an obsessive level of detail that, once acquired, paralyzes me. The intention was always to capture a sentence or two from some of the “fringe” people – I didn’t know it’d turn out that everyone had meaningful and relevant stories!

      The end is in sight – in the opera world, schedules are known a couple or more years in advance, and the final interview will be this August. Time to write!