A Netflix history series caught our eye, and we watched nearly an entire episode, but I decided to quit because of issues related to narration style.
A Social Justice Week lecture by a nationally recognized speaker had much to offer, but I left in the middle—with acute ear pain. Again, I had to quit because of peripheral issues.
For me, the sound of things can get in the way. A lot. Another way to say this is that the content of things can be blocked by side factors.
It can be difficult for me to concentrate on important material when there is a lot of hubbub.
The hum of a machine can drive me up a wall.
I have a tough time listening to voices that speak in grating tones (e.g., overly nasal, very scratchy-sounding, a lot of high overtones) or with monotone pitch, uninteresting declamation, halting/agitated bursts, or unvaried tempo.
At most contemporary-style churches, sound gets in the way for me, too: maybe it’s bad sound, poorly mixed sound, or just way-too-loud sound (or all three).
When I play an instrument in a group, I sometimes choose to stop playing because of intonation issues. When I’m distracted and it seems impossible to tune well with the sounds around me, it is better to stop than to add to the problem, I figure.
Various sound factors are distracting, and I can become almost claustrophobic (soniphobic?). Above, I referred to the history series titled Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. I didn’t really even know who Oliver Stone was (still don’t know much), but he has a national reputation, which makes his terrible narration habits all the more surprising. Someone should have taught him how to read aloud! The narration is so sonically distracting to me that I have trouble concentrating on the information he’s relaying. He routinely pauses between word-pairs that are inherently connected:
- a preposition and its object
- a verb and its complement
- an article and the word it attempts to specify
- the “to” and the other component of an infinitive
90% of the time, he mispronounces “a” as “aye” (never correct) and “the” as “thee” (only correct when the next word begins with a vowel sound). Arrgghh. Here are sample extracts with intentional misspellings, forced punctuation, and line-ends that I hope will somehow visually demonstrate the sonic effect:
This went on in . . .
far greater proportion than has ever ||
been officially admitted.
Such was their pride: many refused to ||
evacuate thee ||
city when given thee |
Stalin now began thee | greatest forced evacuation in …
human history, evacuating some 10 million people to the | east of the || Ural Mountains in Central Asia and |
Siberia and to thee | South and to |
… to rebuild thee | U.S.S.R in a second Industrial Revolution that matched that of thee |
1920s and 30s
The transfer of thee || greatest part of thee |
Soviet economy was accomplished in two incredible years and by ||
1943, thee |
USSR was the equal of |
any industrial power in Europe.
If the problem wasn’t clear, it could be because you’re used to seeing PowerPoint slides poorly laid out, so try reading a few of the above lines aloud, observing the indicated breaks. Oliver Stone’s hiccup-infused style blocked a lot of the content for me, raising my blood pressure a couple of points, because I was actually trying to learn something and couldn’t.
Content can become obscured by other sound factors involved in transmission. Just this afternoon, I intentionally cleared some time so I could go hear a speaker during the local college’s observance of Social Justice Week. I figured I could use more education and personal connection around civil rights and just treatment of people of color in this country. The lecture was free and student-organized, and those factors were plusses for me, too. The speaker’s content turned out to be strong, and he certainly knew how to present, both dramatically and persuasively . . . but whoever was running (or not running) the sound mixer was asleep, deaf, or missing. My eardrums were bursting, and I simply had to leave. I could speculate that the rest of the (mostly younger) crowd was more polite or tolerant than I, and that may be true, but it’s equally likely that their ears are simply more damaged than mine since they’ve been using .mp3 players and earbuds since they were this high. In this case, the sound didn’t entirely obscure the content, but it surely made it difficult to listen to.
Some of my problem with sound (and other peripherals) getting in my way, I’ve come to know, is that my ears are extra sensitive—because of (1) anatomy and (2) musical training. I’m actually kind of tired of having non-central things get in the way of my experiences, but I can’t change the ear pain, and I wouldn’t trade being a musician for anything . . . so I think I’ll carry earplugs with me more often. I wish the content weren’t blocked so often, but I can probably also work to become even more adept and comfortable with leaving sonic crime scenes when I need to.
B. Casey, Friday, 2/17/17