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LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT by Elena Passarello



by Elena Passarello

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936747-52-8
Publisher: Sarabande

A collection of essays by a regional theater actress and writer about the relationship of voice to identity.

When Passarello won the 2011 Stella Screaming Contest in New Orleans, it marked the culmination of a lifetime interest in voice. As a child, she took pleasure in trying to out-shout her mother, whom she calls "one of the loudest people I have known in my life.” Throughout her young adulthood, she used her voice "as an actor in plays that required lots of talking, some singing and the very occasional scream.” Passarello explores how voices work and how a few famous voices became cultural icons. Marlon Brando found screen immortality through the pained screaming of his lover’s name in A Streetcar Named Desire. The author writes that his "transmutable hurt is what moves the line of dialogue to raw sound.” Brando's Hollywood colleague Judy Garland was the diminutive star with the big, electrifying voice that shook buildings and overwhelmed listeners with its emotional complexity. However, writes Passarello, voices and what they communicate can be the undoing of their owners. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's "hostile mutation of a 'Yeah!' cheer" helped sabotage his election hopes. The author’s book is a mostly fascinating study of the meaning behind individual voices and other sounds, such as rebel yells, manufactured sound-artist screams and even birdsongs. However, because Passarello does not link the essays together, the text comes across as haphazardly constructed.

Fun and intelligent but disjointed reading.