I heard someone use this phrase the other day which struck me in a big way: Living in the context of constant crisis. In our current climate of discord and conflict, I wonder where in the world people aren’t living in/with constant crisis. And yet, hearing someone say that phrase really took me aback, and I heard myself say, “Wow” out loud.
The Sunday evening before I heard that phrase, I watched the “final episode” of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown which focused on the lower east side of Manhattan where Bourdain had spent time among punk rock and early hip-hop artists before they broke big commercially. It was really cool to see Debbie Harry on TV, by the way. I remembered being quite the Blondie fan until I heard Pat Benatar’s bel canto-trained voice rocking my radio, but I digress… or maybe I don’t.
The final Parts Unknown episode was disturbing to me, much more so than the previous one which went behind the scenes of the show with Bourdain and his crew. The final episode was well-produced – as the whole series was (along with its predecessors No Reservations and The Layover) – and captured that punk rock attitudinal vibe that made Bourdain … well, Bourdain. Still, it was disturbing. The episode itself was disturbing as well as the fact that it was the series finale. I felt a great sense of unease while watching it and, when it was over, I was left with this anxious feeling like I needed to watch or listen to something else that would be reassuring.
Those who trained me as a singer/performer had the work ethic that artists should provide an escape from the chaos and confusion in the world; The show-must-go-on mentality. The “punk-rockers” seemed to feed off the chaos around them as well as the anti-establishment vibe of the late 70s. They seemed to let disorder influence their art as well as how they presented themselves as artists, and they had an audience that appreciated that, and Bourdain was in that audience; a part of that scene. So, I guess, the final Bourdain episode was supposed to be disturbing, as punk rock was disturbing to the status quo music culture, and as the circumstance of Bourdain’s death is disturbing.
Anyway, what might be disturbing to me may be motivating to someone else. As a singer, however, I would prefer the crisis factor to be at a minimum or, you know… non-existent. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we currently live in. If the singer is “living in the context of constant crisis,” the challenge becomes how to keep that constant crisis from affecting them vocally so that the singer sings well. Top and bottom line, the singer needs to sing well – as well as they are physically/vocally able to sing – in a given moment, regardless of whatever crisis is going on around them. But then, maybe that’s just me. Also… I miss Bourdain.