The Listener: The most important component. Part I.

The most awesomest, bestest component EVERRRR … is the one most of us can find on top of our spinal column.

I was at a local Blockbuster, which is going out of business… again. And they were playing “I Want My MTV” by the Dire Straits. The POS(r) speakers built into some kind of TV were behind a pile of something or another, and it was hard to hear just what the words were.

Our Believability Helper Processor

So what did I do? I sang the words [no. no. NO. NOT out load. Silently. In my head :-)] filling in the blanks. We also sing the *music* in our heads, filling in those blanks. The blanks where the bass should be. Where the harmonic color of the guitar should be. The corrected decays for all the notes.

It came to me then that this happens a awful lot when we hear only snippets of music, or when we hear not-so-perfectly rendered music from, say, a stereo system.

This component, this Believability Helper Processor feature of this awesome component most of us have, does this ‘filling in’ for all systems at all sorts of levels. Systems with all sorts of intrinsic and relative qualities – the great and the not so great. Even on the best systems we might fill in the music with a little more lushness, add a little more slam to the bass., add a little more emotion to the voice, a little more color to the brass section.

Our Whiteout Processor

Sometimes the music has offensive sounding things in it. We like it enough to continue to listen to it, but some parts we would just rather not hear. For example, a cover of, say, a Beatles song might put in some distortion at some places in the music that just seems gratuitous and stupid. Our Whiteout Processor helps us ignore this part of the song, and as long as we do not focus too much on it… it just isn’t part of the song for us [or is at least significantly minimized].

Of course, more common examples abound: anytime the treble is bright, or the bass linger too long, or the singer sings off key [and not on purpose, which seems to be fashionable at times]. I often have to tune out somebody whacking the side of a drum as is so popular on some hip-hop, and symbols. Symbols in general as the clash clash clash I find sometimes drowns out the melody and the musicians who are actually, you know, playing the song.

Our Rainbow Processor

Sometimes we get ambitious and our Rainbow Processor helps makes things sound better than they ever could have possibly sounded. We add a ton more slam to the drum solo at the beginning of “I Want My MTV”. There are no windows left unbroken in the listening room. Perhaps we add a little more lewdness to “money for nuthin and chicks for free”. We add harmonics with more color than Timothy Leary saw when looking at a Dr. Who scarf.

I think those are the most common Processors we bring to the party when we process music and information in general.

A lot of learning how to really listen has to do with learning how to turn these internal Processors off – and just HEAR what is really happening. [A lot of learning how not to be a Sheeple also has to do with turning these puppies off when we, say, listen to the news].

And a lot of learning to explore the music-human interface has to do with learning how to manipulate these Processors for our own benefit.

For example, a glass of wine [or three. Or if you prefer, a toke or three] modifies these Processors of ours [or makes us want to or be finally willing to modify them ourselves] and you can just see the knobs being turned up a little bit on all 3 of these Mental Processors as the Tipsy Listener listens.

But what about when you want to go beyond this kind of passive mental manipulation of what you hear. What if you want to enjoy music itself as a drug [without chemical or medicinal assistance]?

[continued in part II]