Volunteer explainer personality.
Did you know that you can play a blade of grass? I thought everybody did, but apparently not.
You need one blade of grass and I only know how to do this with two hands with a thumb on them each.
There’s grass everywhere. I can’t in good conscience suggest that it’s healthy or hygienic to try this with whatever patch of grass happens to be to hand. The cleanest grass closest to me right now is probably at the cemetery, where they don't let anything pee on it.
But let’s say you have your own grass, in a private outdoor space or in an urban windowbox. Having found a truly clean blade of grass, pluck it.
You can make an incredibly stupid and loud sound by doing the following:
- Pick up blade of grass.
- Hold hands together at the base of thumbs.
- Put one end blade grass between top of thumbs and other end between base of thumbs.
- Stretch blade tight between the thumb joints.
- Blow through little space between thumbs as if trumpet.
If these are bad instructions there are other resources available. There is a pretty similar article to this one at theartofmanliness.com—just go there and search "how to play a blade of grass." The YouTube culture of “how to play a blade of grass” is wonderfully representative of online tutorials, in that it showcases a number of shades of volunteer explainer personality.
Here, for example, a white guy with dreads solemnly describes two ways make a horrific sound:
All the other “how to play a blade of grass” videos are the same serious over-explanations. This is the kind of person I don’t want to become but also the person who greets me about this far into a piece of writing.
Whatever excuse I’ve come up with for the article is established, and now it’s time to gesture to some deeper level of meaning. In practice, the difference between historical information and "deeper level of meaning" is negligible and they can be used interchangeably.
The volunteer explainer is, in my mind, a delusional individual attracted to opportunities for the ostentatious dispensation of their knowledge to an an ideally captive and genuinely appreciative audience. I am one and I think it's a control thing.
Once you have internalized these principles it’s time to practice playing the blade of grass. In many city parks of the contemporary world there are evening performances by orchestras in the late summer; you can picnic in the tall unkempt grass far away and still hear the music. The evening can go electric blue, the oak trees becoming black paper cutouts spiked through here and there by church spires. Seeds in the grass are ready to knock loose in the long holiday breeze and tickle your foot through a sandal; lie flat, play the grass trumpet to the clouds.
Playing a blade of grass into the cooling summer night air is neither talking nor not-talking, making it a cure for a certain imbalance of humors within the physical brain.
- This is not the kind of grass instrument mentioned in the title of Truman Capote's The Grass Harp, which is pretty confusing given how often "harp" is used for small instruments played with the mouth. That's about the wind playing a patch of grass.
- Grass Whistle is a move in Pokémon—I'm sorry, I don't understand the internal taxonomy—that lulls an opponent to sleep, eg: "Snover picks up a blade of grass, brings it up to its face, and blows on it. The blade of grass starts to glow green, and when the opponent hears the music, it falls asleep." Some plant Pokemon can play parts of their own bodies instead of grass.
- It doesn't have to mean anything. I should send myself that in an affirmative daily email. Everything connects to everything else, but not at all like a puzzle.
- According to this interview with him, sound supervisor Tim Nielsen here plays a blade of grass in audio track to the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:
If you can find this moment in the movie, please let me know.