Extrapolating from sound, the hind brain embellishes.

As I listened to the audio readings (need a better term…ah screw it) I kept thinking to myself “these are really good. Why are these so good?” Somehow these stories were better for having been presented in an aural, rather than textual, medium. What’s so special about sound?

In a lot of ways I think its about control. Inert text gives the author full control of content navigation. Interactive media surrenders navigational control in exchange for greater user investment. Visual media gives comprehensive control of imagery while sacrificing fine control of detailed description. Sound falls somewhere between text and visual media on the axis/spectrum/tidal pool of narrative control mechanics.

I can identify three reasons for loving Apron Strings of Savannah, namely: Edgar Oliver’s voice, Edgar Oliver’s accent, and Edgar Oliver. Listening with closed eyes I had a powerful mental image of Oliver’s that somehow combined


this guy; for obvious reasons

with this guy; for slightly more obscure reasons

and this guy; God alone knows why

all wrapped up in a bag crocheted by Tim Burton holding one needle and Neil Gaiman holding the other. While the content of Oliver’s story was delightful in and of itself, his presentation added a whole extra dimension that I would have missed if I had simply read a transcript.

Similarly, the sounds of The House on Loon Lake and Bear 71 had a much more powerful impact for having an aural dimension. Loon Lake employed an entire cast instead of just one narrator. This directly communicated the  communal themes, and conversational style, characterization of Loon Lake’s story more subtly and efficiently than an equivalent paragraph of text could have done. Both Loon Lake and Bear use soundtracks (I recognized Requiem for a Dream) to more immediately impose specific emotional responses on the user. In particular I noticed that Loon Lake reused music in an almost leitmotif fashion that created associative connections between discrete events (e.g. Requiem for a Dream == creepy) or played on pre-existing cultural associations (e.g. the patriotic music during the parade). All this saved bothersome time and text that would have otherwise been spent on telling, rather than showing, what mood the user should be in.

Bear 71 implemented these methods on a more primal level during its climax, using a strong steady tempo to convey the physicality of the trains forward motion, coupled with a roaring crescendo that drives home the moment of Bear 71’s death.

Aural narratives taps into an older, more instinctive, more intuitive part of our consciousnesses.  Before we frontal lobes learned to turn squiggles into language, we listened to the inflections of  conversation and the rhythm of skalds. Before even that we jumped and felt fear at the growl of predators at our back. With eyes, what you see is what you get, but ears take the tiny barely-noticeable physical signals of sound and beams it straight into your brain stem as a fully realized EXPERIENCE.

The gunshot is louder than the muzzle flash.


~ by Freddie on March 17, 2013.

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