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This article is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Voice Lessons: A Notebook Jeffrey Gray
In Puerto Rico, 1997, I heard Herbert Blau scream. It was deliberate, not a reaction to pain. He was showing us – in a classroom – how to make a sound that would seem to tear your vocal cords to shreds but actually would cause no injury. The context was Antonin Artaud – Artaud’s commitment, devotion, intensity. The scream, Blau said, should come straight up from where you find it down inside; you let it emerge without friction or duress, even though its texture and import were all friction and duress. I don’t know if anyone else was in the building apart from our group of a dozen or so. It was a long scream and extremely loud.  Blau was 71 at the time, small and slight of build. The scream didn’t shake or wrench his body; his face did not turn red. But there was no separation between him and the scream; his eyes looked up like a nursing baby’s, his mouth was wide open. The scream left no space for anything else to enter your mind, not even the thought, which came later, ‘This is outrageous – can anyone hear?’ Or, ‘Isn’t this illegal?’


The flutist James Kincaid advised, ‘Tone should never be too direct, or too natural.’ He
also said, ‘Darken the bright notes, bring them into place.’ More profound, if less useful, he said,
‘Plastic and impeccable, music is the friction of space against time.’


In the 1950s and ’60s most poets and critics thought that ...

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