Whitney Houston, Fall 2016 American Theater, the Headphone Jack, and More : This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we recommend the Verge’s take on who benefits from the killing of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, the Guardian‘s preview of Fall 2016 American theater, an exploration of the links between Whitney Houston, auto-tune, and North African music, and more.

In the Atlantic, Jennie Dear discusses her mother’s final weeks after having decided to go off chemotherapy, then delves into palliative care research that’s been done to try to understand the thought processes of people near death — as well as the physical experience of gradual deaths. She also explains the reasons why so much of this remains unknown, and why — despite abstract ideas about the sensations of dying likely fueling many people’s anxieties — it goes relatively undiscussed in detail:

During six-and-a-half years of treatment, although my mother saw two general practitioners, six oncologists, a cardiologist, several radiation technicians, nurses at two chemotherapy facilities, and surgeons at three different clinics—not once, to my knowledge, had anyone talked to her about what would happen as she died…There’s good reason. “Roughly from the last two weeks until the last breath, somewhere in that interval, people become too sick, or too drowsy, or too unconscious, to tell us what they’re experiencing,” says Margaret Campbell, a professor of nursing at Wayne State University who has worked in palliative care for decades.

This week’s biggest tech news was Apple’s plan to drop the headphone jack from its next generation of iPhones. Jacob Kastrenakes writes at The Verge:

While it’s tough to make the case that dropping the headphone jack is better for consumers, the benefits for Apple are much easier to see. The iPhone 7 will be bought by tens of millions of people during the next few months alone, and its lack of a headphone jack is going to make many of them consider buying Lightning or Bluetooth headphones. Apple profits from both.

Pitchfork excerpted a chapter of Jace Clayton’s book Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture, and the particular selected passage posits that the prevalence of melisma in Maghrebi music may have been one of the things that led North Africans to be among the first people to embrace auto-tune — because auto-tune has a hard time processing it and therefore creates beguiling surprising sounds. He delves into melisma by discussing Houston’s famous rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It’s all fascinating, and the way he talks about, breaks down, and relishes her performance of the song is so good:

Indeed, the crushing power of “I Will Always Love You,” its meaning in sound, results from how Houston’s melisma activates a mysterious, even mystical relationship between overflowing emotion, life’s vicissitudes, and ultra precise self-control. Rather than simply sing about the bittersweet conflicts involved in saying goodbye to a lover, Houston deploys melisma to enact in sound a heart-felt struggle between holding on and letting go. Like life as it unfurls, each moment is un-anticipatable until it happens, whereupon we can’t possibly imagine it any other way… Such is the power of melisma. The technique breathes life-flow into fixed text.

New York Magazine features an incredibly sad story about Lenny Pozner, a dad who lost his son at Newtown and realized that some of the conspiracy theorists he’d listened to didn’t believe his beloved child had ever lived:

Lenny may have been the first Newtown parent to discover that conspiracy theorists didn’t believe his son had been killed, because he used to be a serious conspiracy theorist himself. “I probably listened to an Alex Jones podcast after I dropped the kids off at school that morning,” Pozner said, referencing the fearmongering proprietor of InfoWars. Pozner had entertained everything from specific cover-ups (the moon landing was faked) to geopolitical intrigue (the “real” reasons why the price of gold sometimes shifted so dramatically) and saw value in skepticism. But for him, the appeal of conspiracy theories was the same as watching a good science-fiction movie. “I have an imaginative mind,” he said.

The Guardian posted an extensive preview of what’s coming up in American theater in the Fall 2016 season. Among some of the intriguing projects are New York Theater Workshop’s Sam Gold-directed production of Othello, starring David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig, and A 24-Decade History of Popular Music — Taylor Mac’s 24-hour performance, which Mac calls “a radical fairy realness ritual, performing 246 songs that were popular in United States from 1776-2016.”