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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chaos and Beauty

So, there's a dvd out there called The Zen of Screaming. It's for punk and metal singers who want to learn how to scream without shredding their vocal cords. You can get pustules on your vocal cords from screaming and end up losing your voice.

Melissa Cross, the vocals instructor who put out the dvd, gave an interview on Terri Gross's Fresh Air. (I listen to a lot of NPR. I'm slightly embarrassed by how much.) Melissa Cross is fascinating. She trained to become an opera singer. Then she went to London and was drawn to punk music. She was in a punk band for a while and ruined her vocal cords by screaming on stage "the wrong way." Apparently there is another set of vocal cords higher in the throat than the "regular" vocal cords that we all know about. These other cords are sort of unfinished, she said, as if God, or evolution, or whoever created us, started work on them and then abandoned them and descended lower in the throat to finish the job. I like very much the idea that we are made, physically, of approximations, of tissues and organs that are not perfect but manage somehow to sustain these miracles of breath and speech and motion and digestion and thought that we all are.

But I love even more the idea of a zen of screaming. It reminds me of chaos theory, which contends that if you look closely enough into what appears to be in utter disorder you will find patterns of a strange but great beauty. I think about this a lot because I started listening to Metallica (I watched the documentary about the band, Some Kind of Monster, and was intrigued and curious), and I didn't understand why some songs that were loud, chaotic, abrasive, moved me. I tried listening to Smashing Pumpkins too, with the same effect. A strange peace settled in my head and my chest in the middle of ear-piercing songs. There's an element of catharsis in the loudness for sure, but that doesn't explain completely what I feel when I listen to these bands.

I used to dismiss this kind of music as the mad bawling of people on drugs. But it takes an artist to stay in those impossible realms of sound and distill from them something unexpectedly coherent and strangely beautiful. I have to admit I can take this kind of music only in very small doses, only when I'm in the right mood. But it restores me in a way that nothing else can.


Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

I believe what you get on your vocal cords from singing heavy metal are nodules, not pustules.

December 16, 2005  
Blogger Green Whale said...

Thanks for the correction. It's nice to have someone out there who keeps an eye out for these things. Thanks also for reading.

December 16, 2005  

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