Marc Ribot in Literary Hub:
Hi. My name is Marc. I’m a guitarist who points extremely loud amplifiers directly at his head. Very often. Sometimes as often as 200 nights a year for the past 45 years. Audiologists say this could make one’s ears howl, create an uncomfortable sensation of density in one’s head, and eventually make it impossible to hear human conversation. Yet I persist . . . Why?
It’s true most amps sound better at volumes loud enough to fray the edge of notes with the subtle distortion that is to electric guitars what makeup is to a drag queen of a certain age. Not accidentally, as manufacturers in the late 50s and early 60s raced to design equipment with less and less distortion, guitarists turned up louder and louder to subvert their efforts. Nor are guitarists alone in this desire to strain.
We seem to love broken voices in general: vocal cords eroded by whiskey and screaming, the junked-out weakness of certain horn players, distortion which signifies surpassing the capabilities of a tube or a speaker—voices that distort, damage, but (at least in performance) don’t actually die. The singer pushes through the note, the horn player eventually finds breath, the amplifier struggles on but doesn’t explode and become silent.