Alex Ates speaks with Whit MacLaughlin—the experimental theatermaker who ventured into the online realm before it became our norm—about the intersection between digital technology and live performance and pedagogy.
I don’t know Kurt Cobain very well.
I’ve never had a Nirvana phase, or any kind of grunge phase.
My rock and roll is more about sex than it is about frustration.
I don’t know how to get angry in a way that feels good.
Kurt Cobain passed away almost 25 years ago.
He committed suicide. He left a note.
That note was widely disseminated.
You can find pictures of it, on Google Images.
Or you can listen to Courtney Love read it, on YouTube.
You can find conspiracy theories about his death,
Without even looking that hard for them.
I don’t know all the words to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
I don’t know how to play it on guitar.
But I used to listen to one Nirvana song on repeat—“Lithium.”
When I was fourteen I had a severe depressive episode.
I don’t remember much about it except that I was at war with my imagination.
I went to see a psychiatrist who recommended to my parents that I be placed on lithium.
My parents took me to see a different psychiatrist, and I Googled “lithium” late at night.
I downloaded “Lithium” on Kazaa, I Googled “bipolar disorder” at sunrise.
Today I take an anti-psychotic, a mood stabilizer, and the occasional Klonopin—
But I have never been placed on lithium.
His cousin, a registered nurse, told the press after his death that he had bipolar disorder.
I have been told that I have bipolar disorder, and I think that this is true—
At least, it is if bipolar disorder is real. Suicidal ideation is common for bipolar patients,
Even in the absence of depression, even in mania. I think about suicide often, I accept this.
There were a number of studies done in the early 1990’s about suicide clusters and contagions. A suicide cluster is a term to describe multiple suicidal behaviors or suicides that fall within an accelerated time frame, within a defined demographic or area. A mass cluster refers to one that is completely irrespective of geography—they are often associated with media influence. The suicides of celebrities and other public figures. Kurt Cobain’s suicide note reads:
“I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to, as well as creating, music, along with really writing something, for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things – for example, when we’re backstage and the lights go out, and the manic roar of the crowd begins, it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish in the love and adoration from the crowd.”
At this point,
Courtney Love, reading his note out loud,
“Well Kurt, so fucking what?
Then don’t be a rock star, asshole.”
I read his note to myself and I understand what he means. What he loves gives him pain.
He feels that he made his own pain. The excitement is gone, he can’t get affected.
Freddie Mercury Passed away in a slow decline, Kurt Cobain in an instant.
The second verse of “Lithium” goes like this:
I’m so lonely/that’s okay, I shaved my head
And I’m not sad/and just maybe,
I’m to blame for all I’ve heard/but I’m not sure
I’m so excited/I can’t wait to meet you there
But I don’t care/I’m so horny
That’s okay/my will is good
We are tempted to look for clues when someone has killed themselves,
To dissect their art and their correspondence and interrogate their relationships.
We live in danger of romanticizing death. The suicide of Kurt Cobain did not inspire
As many imitations as you would think. The local news refused to ask why he did it—
They refused to call it a tragedy. They told the world what happened: