Passarello is a writer and actor who has written this collection of essays about the music of sounds, and even sometimes the sound of music; chapters on soprano castratos, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra describe the techniques, anatomy and training behind the timbre and tone of notes and lyrics.
Other essays about spoken sounds take on the Wilhelm Scream that has has been used in many Hollywood movies (google it to find a Youtube compilation), how to spell or sound out the Rebel Yell, and or to recreate that classic Brando screen scream of "Stella!". This last topic is of close personal interest to the author as she entered the annual New Orleans Stella Scream contest a few years back (and yes women are allowed to enter, and that year Passarello was not the only female entry, and she did very well).
An essay about Howard Dean's ill-fated and often-parodied campaign scream from 2004 bridges the gap between the spoken word--and Robert Plant's primal scream singing on Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown". The connection is not so bizarre as you may think, and Passarello has some prescient points to make about how much that scream did and should have influenced voters' decisions on Dean.
This little collection isn't easy to categorize. In my personal book list I classified it first as pop culture for all the pop references I described above, but that seemed too trivializing, then briefly considered labeling it as science for the author's explanations of the anatomy, physics, biology, and psychology of sounds, but that seemed too stifling. In the end I went with "Other", a middle ground that represents the multidisciplinary and indeed literary (where my local library placed it in the Dewey Decimal System) approach and intent of the volume; it isn't primarily intended to entertain or to educate (though it does both well) but to make the reader listen to sounds in different ways, and it does that very well.
What did you think of this review?