It wasn’t immediately obvious what it was when I picked it up, but the fact that it had Complaints Choir plastered across the front of the package made it easy to be curious about. Chad showed up at the door of the on-air booth partway through the proceedings and asked, “Did you find Complaints Choir?” That man knows a treasure when he finds one.
I know people say shit like this about all sorts of human activities - we obviously hold ourselves in rather high regard – but even more than holding ourselves in rather high regard, there is not a more distinctly human activity than complaining*. It’s the very first thing we do from the moment we exit the birth canal, and from that moment on, practice makes perfect.
Think of all the ways we use our powers of complaint: to effect change under conditions with which we are dissatisfied where we have the power to change things, to blow off steam under conditions with which we are dissatisfied where we DON’T have the power to change things. We write formal letters of complaint to the parent company when the fish guy at the supermarket doesn’t know enough about mercury levels, but not before we’ve recounted the episode to our mothers, sisters and significant others (not to mention blurted what an undertrained doofus that guy was all over the Twitterverse and Facebook).
Ah yes, there are those who will try and tell us, either right to our faces or more indirectly, that we shouldn’t complain so much. These people can get stuffed, for all I care about what they have to say. Complaining is something that is in us, which brings me, more or less, back around to Complaints Choir, because the complaining instinct is especially strong in our impulse to create.
It’s right there in all of our creation myths. First, there is nothing – well, nothing but some all-powerful someone- or something-or-other who exists outside of time and space and all that. And it stays that way for a long time, until our all-powerful someone or something decides to start making stuff – people, places, things – and setting them in motion. Why? The complaint is implicit, but obvious: Because there’s nothing to do.
Now, not everybody can just up and make a whole universe, or even a paltry little planet, when they’re bored. But just about everybody can sing. A song. And it makes sense to do it because just about every song ever written is a complaint about one thing or another, even if it’s wearing a tuneful disguise.
And it also makes sense to sing your complaints in a group, because another thing that humans are is social (Think about what you’re doing when you chat up a stranger at a bus stop, and your opening line is, “Cold enough for ya?”**). People getting together to sing their beefs: that’s definitely the most human activity going.
Hence, the worldwide phenomenon of Complaints Choir. And the documentary movie about them. And the soundtrack package, with four (FOUR!!!) discs – 3CDs and a DVD of the movie itself – for the documentary movie, because the absolute most human activity going, we social complainers who hold ourselves in such high regard, is the one where we gripe in groups while we record the whole thing for posterity.
*If there is, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps Buster Friendly knows?
**Did I just BLOW YOUR MIND or what?