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A collection of essays by Elena Passarello

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The music of sound

  • Feb 24, 2014
Rating:
+3
I picked this up based on the title of one of the essays in this collection called "Double Joy: Myron Cope and the Pittsburgh Sound."  Growing up listening to My ron Cope on Steelers games and on the Channel 4 News sports segment, and sporting perhaps the only Myron Cope memorial front license plate in the world, when I have lived away from the area I have struggled to convey to those unfamiliar with Cope the strangled sound of his voice.  For even when you could see him on the TV news, more than his wizened appearance and loud clothes was his louder and more distinctive voice and vocabulary, which when you try to reproduce results in either the disbelieve or bafflement as Passarello describes from her experience in a bar on the night Cope died.

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.

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February 25
Great sounds!
 
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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #1
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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