Little anatomy of the sound7 min read
“If you talk to any director, they’ll say music is fifty percent of the movie.”
— Hans Zimmer —
I even claim that music and the entire sound backdrop make up a good deal more than 50% of the film. Sound has an underestimated importance not only in entertainment, but also in your live. Music, sounds and noises have an enormous influence on your brain and thus on your perception of the world. The sound waves make their way directly into your emotional core, where they captivate your senses, paint beautiful and detailed pictures or bring up deeply buried memories.
The sight of sound
The sounds detected by the ears are processed to a large extent in the amygdala. That is an almond-like region in your brain that is responsible for memories and feelings. The processing of the sound happens on four levels simultaneously.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL LEVEL
Because our body consists of 70% water, it is an incredibly good sound conductor and functions excellently as a sound receiver. Depending on the pitch and frequency, we can more or less feel the sound chasing through our body and making its way into our brain via vibrations. With our body we not only receive the sound, but react to it lightning fast and often intensively.
For example, if we hear a worrying noise, our heart starts to race, our breathing becomes faster, we start to sweat and put ourselves on alert. Just a tiny noise, which we find convincing and associate with something terrible or dangerous. And although we can’t see even the slightest shadow, our body goes the whole hog. The last doubt is then dissolved by our imagination. With brutal honesty it shows us via head cinema what is hiding behind the sound.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL
Every sound, no matter how faint and simple or loud and complex has the power to influence your feelings. One could say that a conductor conducts your feelings when you enjoy a live performance of an orchestra.
Melancholic sounds make you pensive and can drive you into deep sorrow, while something cheerful like birdsong can relax you or even evoke extreme euphoria. Under specific conditions, sound can be even used as an instrument of torture.
Yes, that’s right. Sound can break human psyche.
THE COGNITIVE LEVEL
Your brain is constantly busy processing information. Sound is a big part of this and its processing is so complex that you can’t process a lot of sound at once. In a noisy environment, for example, your productivity suffers enormously. And when you try to understand two people speaking at the same time, your brain is quickly irritated and reports a conflict.
But this high sensitivity has an advantage. If you focus on a single human voice, that you also find sympathetic, you absorb the sound and meaning of the coherent sounds (called speech) with all your senses. In this way you build particularly wide and fast neuronal highways in your brain which have a huge impact on your life.
I experienced it myself when I fell in love with my wife’s voice 18 years ago. Of course, her personality, which I got to know in hours-long chats over the course of several weeks, also played an important role. But just the sound of her voice and my emotions connected with it made it a hell of a farewell every time. I felt a strong emotional pain when we had to end our hours-long phone conversations, because outside the birds were chirping already and we could not keep our eyes open from exhaustion any longer.
THE BEHAVIOURAL LEVEL
Sound can move you to a behavior that you don’t normally display. A nerve-racking noise can drive you mad and a frightening noise will make you flee.
Imagine walking through the park in the evening. Darkness surrounds you and far and wide no human soul. Suddenly out of nowhere you hear the voice of a crying baby, which seems eerie regarding current time and the surroundings. You’ll probably ask yourself: What is going on there? Why doesn’t it stop crying?
Your heart begins to race, excitement and possibly fear come up. The repeated screaming gets trapped in your head and nourishes the growing fire of panic. You know it is a baby and it probably needs your help. You keep saying it to yourself with your inner voice. Finally you succeed in overcoming your fear and start to locate the sound through the darkness in order to find the baby. If this were a horror movie you could be pretty shocked when you realize that not a baby was the source of the sound. Perhaps you were lured into a deadly trap over a greater distance, driven by a sound you thought you knew and trusted.
On all these four levels we humans have a very high sensitivity to sound. This makes sound in general a powerful tool that is still underestimated by many artists and creators.
You feel only as good as you are talking
Sound knows no barriers. Also on a psychological level it penetrates into the smallest part of your being and influences you. Even the otherwise difficult to access subconscious. That’s why hypnosis works so well. Sure, it doesn’t work for all people, because besides what you say, also very important is how you say it. And with that the feeling of sympathy for the respective voice and trust plays a decisive role.
But there is one voice that you have trusted without hesitation since birth. It’s your own voice.
And guess what.
The sound, the pitch, the respective emotional timbre – all this has a subconscious effect on your everyday well-being while you hear yourself speaking. Many people do not seem to be aware of this.
If one speaks quietly, depressedly or lethargic in everyday life this negatively charged sound will linger in that thought factory between one’s ears forever. It should not be a big surprise if this mantra then clouds one’s mental well-being.
To live an optimistic life, it’s not enough to think positively. It is also necessary to speak positively and to listen to positive audio sources.
The emotional roller coaster
Intentionally or not, a sound scenery can make you experience something wonderful but also something unbearable. The corresponding sinus tone or noise can soothe your restless soul or unfold far more powerful healing powers.
That’s why you should consume sound quality-consciously and purposefully and not treat it as the little brother of the picture. You can easily make it clear to yourself that your experience can be great without a picture as long as there is a good sound background. (e.g. in this video).
Thanks to a great canvas of sound, your own imagination will paint a fictitious world that can far exceed the director’s visions. After all, we cobble them together from fragments of our own experiences, memories, from what we have seen, heard and dreamed.
We only have to find the drive to use our imagination more often again. Because all these images that roar before our eyes have made us slaves of our own comfort. They make us too lazy to build our own fantasy worlds.
We get used so quickly to rely too much on the visions of people who have built them up for us. But these visions can’t always correspond to our own imagination, because they’ve not originated from our own head cinema.
It is challenging but also rewarding
It is such an incredibly intense and great feeling when flying through self-made imaginary worlds. When the emotions become so strong that imagination and reality mix up, and you no longer know whether you actually experienced something or just imagined it.
Then – and only then – do you embark on a real adventure.
I often experience such emotional journeys during the development of TGWSTW. Events, plots, facts, places and characters mix up, accompanied by the constant feeling that Frances is somewhere out there (in my head universe) and needs my help. It’s a kind of beautiful craziness.
Thoughts/stories and sound have accompanied us through our human history. Their role and importance must neither be underestimated nor forgotten. Instead we should pass this miraculous tool on to our children. Because a fantastic story told by the warm and familiar voice of a mother or a father, lets the neurons in the little sunshine literally sprout which certainly will have a positive effect on his/her future life in many ways.
Speaking of, have you already read to your offspring today? If not, then give yourself a jolt. Because in this way you have the chance to build an incredibly strong emotional bond to your sunshine, which is only possible as long as he/she is still young.
If you don’t have children, just grab your cat. Same effect 🙂
In this sense, let us listen more often and more intensely in everyday life, while the rest of the world is trying to drown itself out.
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