You know me. I love reading fiction. However, I chose to read Andrea Bocelli’s autobiography, “The Music of Silence: A Memoir,” out of curiosity for this man whose voice has the warmth of a cozy fire, resonance of a cello, and familiar tone of a father’s words. What kind of life produced such a singer?
Bocelli’s poetic life story begins humbly in Italy. He was not, as I learned, blind since birth, but rather suffered from the disease of glaucoma, which took his eyesight. Knocks and hits during a football match exacerbated the deterioration, until at age twelve he could no longer even see light nor shapes as he formerly could. But Bocelli’s life is only flavored by blindness, not defined by it. I found this phrase, which the townspeople said about him, incredibly poignant: “Nature has taken something away from him, but it has also given him something beautiful.”
Bocelli’s mother was trying to soothe her anguished young son crying from pain, when she noticed her son reaching for the wall and staying quiet in order to listen to strains of music. Acting on instinct, she sought out the source, which was a man singing. From there, the whole family realized Bocelli loved music. They nurtured this love by buying him albums and lessons constantly. For me, this was powerful, to see how he recognized their support and cultivation of music for him from early childhood.
I was also captivated by his faith in the Lord. Words of wisdom filter through this book like rays of light in a forest. Reading it felt pleasurably as if I was watching a popular, happy movie and gradually realizing it was a true story.
Bocelli’s mellifluous words (I suspect translated from the original Italian) are poetic, evocative and purposeful. His writing speaks of a depth of soul rarely seen, as well as years of rigorous and classical education (he quotes Quirinius, for goodness’ sake!). However, he is still a real person. Bocelli makes mention of first loves and lusts, his passion for horses (who knew?), his extreme anxiety going on-stage but a trickling sense of pride at singing for others, his youthful rebellion, desire to do dangerous things as a young man, and the annoyance of having others pity him or help him unnecessarily for being blind. I was amazed to read about his trepidation before having a child, saying he had never felt the urge to be a father, though the idea of a child interested him. Then, he spoke of the overwhelming love for his children which grew upon holding them that first time. Bocelli speaks of the temptations of the music industry, the long travel, commitment to protecting his voice (no soda, less alcohol, absolute silence on the day of a concert!) and how (before he was famous) the fear of providing for his family (he studied law to have a steady career). He says often how vulnerable he feels in writing this book and baring his secrets and personal life to the world, but Bocelli says he does so in order to help others live fully. To me, it felt earnest and noble.
I honestly cannot fully describe to you the power of this man’s language, especially in the Epilogue. Bocelli is no singing puppet; if anything, his richly beautiful tenor voice is but an echo of a profound soul. I would love to read this book again and again.