"Why can't I get sex more than every four months?"
"The government does not believe in global warming."
"Nobody listens to me."
Apparently, Philadelphians had a lot to complain about last month.
But that last grievance won't be true for much longer - those words are now in the chorus of a song that the city's first complaint choir will perform publicly in Center City on Nov. 1, and again at the First Person Arts Festival on Nov. 12.
Two prominent Philadelphia-based artistic organizations, Spector Projects and First Person Arts, teamed up to organize a group of volunteers to sing the gripes of regular Philadelphians.
"Philadelphia's kind of a complaining town, a town where there has historically not been a lot of city pride," said choir organizer Shelley Spector. "This feeds on that a little bit but also celebrates it."
Over the past month, Spector Projects and First Person Arts members collected complaints from random passersby at 40th and Walnut streets, around Center City, in Fairmount Park and in Old City. And, on Monday, about 50 volunteer singers showed up to the choir's first rehearsal.
"It's silly, but at the same time there's a piece of anthropology in there - it tells a little bit about the time and place where it was made," Spector said.
Since two Finnish artists formed a Helsinki complaint choir in 2006, similar choirs have been formed in at least 15 other cities around the world.
But whereas most other cities' choirs generated the complaints in workshops, "we thought it would be more Philly-specific to gather complaints directly from people on the streets," said Nick Forrest, administrative coordinator at First Person Arts.
"That made it more open, more of a performance, more of an art project within the area," he said.
The complaints range from intimately emotional - "I hate how couples make out in front of me when I'm alone" - to pragmatic: "I have an MBA but can't get a job and my grad school keeps calling me about coming back to get a Ph.D."
In late September, Spector said, organizers and initial choir members chose just enough complaints to compose a six- or seven-minute song.
The inspiration for the upbeat musical track that accompanies the singers was a soul music genre that originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s.
The track was composed by Evan Solot, chairman of the composition department at the University of the Arts.
The complaints were inserted into the song almost exactly as stated.
"Some of the words had to change to fit the rhythm, but we were careful to stay true to the original intent," Solot said.
Though the lyrics for each choir around the world were generated in their own settings, some of the same complaints keep recurring.
"We had stuff that everybody gets, like stepping in dog poop and people who can't drive," Spector said. "But we also had stuff in and of Philadelphia that makes it special, like the people that wanted to build casinos, the horse and buggies, the duck boats and SEPTA."
Jennifer Yuan, an analyst in Penn's Information Systems and Computing office, joined the choir because it "combines two things I love to do: singing and complaining," she said.
To Jodi Gross, a part-time nanny in Philadelphia, the choir was a welcome outlet for pent-up grievances - such as "I have gas," a complaint she submitted and will sing with the choir in November.
"I'd just started an empathy group, and I felt like I was complaining all the time," she said. "This has been so cathartic and wonderful for me."Comments powered by Disqus
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