There’s a sound females of our species emit that I’m convinced can reduce adult males to defenseless, quivering piles of goo, capable only of plugging our ears. I can accept that. What’s disturbing is that it’s oft heard in public: at concerts, sporting events, in bistros, clubs and pubs, but I’d guess it also appears at lingerie parties, perhaps even bridal showers…as well as at “Haunted Houses” around Halloween.
I first became aware of this sound at the height of Beatlemania, when teens thrashed in place, hands clenched, seats drenched, jaws tight, mouths open wide, producing a high- frequency, armor-piercing pitch against which adult males simply have no defense…way more potent than nails on a chalkboard, it’s positively primal, shrill, akin to a dog whistle among canines. When the Beatles played Shea Stadium, the screams were so strong that they couldn’t hear one another onstage. I know it also happened to young Sinatra and later, Elvis. I suppose it goes down that way for the Jonas Brothers but for the life of me can’t understand why?
I suspect that every race is on the same page in this area. I’ve seen and heard footage of Middle-Eastern women do it, adding a tongue-induced warble that at such an unbearably high pitch can actually buckle knees. Of course, I kid. But I’m still not completely convinced that all those scarred adobe structures were actually artillery targets. I suspect this sound has claimed its share of mud huts, not to mention windows. I know black women hold their own on this–just listen to or watch clips of Marvin Gaye live (not to suggest that many of his contributors weren’t white. Marvin had great cross-over appeal). I’m trying to find recorded samples of Asian women doing the shriek but haven’t yet. I’m thinking my chances are good. If you know where I can locate some, let me know.
Some men are capable of it but there’s no way I can come close. Robert Plant, Steve Perry, Jon Anderson, Prince and countless other tenors get in the neighborhood. (The opening of “The Immigrant Song” confirms this). But when a woman or teenage girl opens up, I’m quick to plug up and crawl under my desk. Mariah Carey, Patti LaBelle, Minnie Ripperton and others have it or had it. Rumor has it that Ripperton (God rest her soul) once felled a flock of low-flying birds with “Loving You” but I suspect it to be an urban legend.
I once sang in with a tenor who had a massive natural range augmented by a strong falsetto and since he also played horn, despite his cigarette habit, had terrific wind. Smoke often came from the bell of his flugelhorn as red-faced, he soloed and I suspect it was one way he got away with it…he seemed to get rid of whatever he inhaled. We used to cover a Blue Oyster Cult song in which he emitted a sustained, tortured scream that undulated, modulated and shredded the PA, enhanced by our analog Echo-Plex. Those were the days. And Ian was amazing.
Back to the sound. It now appears on game shows, reality TV, talk shows, occasionally at shopping malls, nearly every time a bride receives a proposal/engagement ring projected on a “Jumbo tron”…almost any time women congregate. It’s inescapable.
I heard it at Obama rallies. I used to hear it at my son’s soccer matches. Unlike men, whose voices change and in many cases can’t reproduce the same frequencies they could as choirboys, women never seem to lose the ability to loosen wallpaper with sound. I’ve had a senior citizen in my ear and had to plug it.
I’ve been up front at countless loud rock shows and rarely experienced decibel levels near those produced by an excited woman seated directly behind me. Being a “silver lining” kind of guy, I can’t help but look for a positive use of this.
We spend so much on weapons. I suggest that we instead invest in high-end PA equipment—not the crude horns I’ve seen the Army and ATF use, I mean concert grade systems. Instead of “amoral” messages conveyed by pop tunes, thrash rock, rap with filthy lyrics and speed metal to terrorize our enemies, I suggest recording multi-tracked young women as they receive engagement rings, party in public or react to male strippers. There will be less cost involved, less blood, fewer life-threatening injuries and our armed forces can learn a trade useful on the outside: sound reinforcement/engineering. Of course, we also need sanctions. We would need to control the supply of headphones , earplugs, cotton, tissue, literally anything our enemies can stuff in their ears to maintain hand use. We MUST eliminate hand use. Of course, our troops will wear ear protection. Let’s get it started.