Sunday, May 06, 2012

The show's not over until the fat lady whispers

Progress is a wonderful thing, generally speaking; it has put more food on our tables, more money in our pockets, and a wider variety of booze in our fridges than ever before. True, occasionally this onward progression does throw up a curious specimen such as Alan Jones, but my point remains. And we here, at the beginning of the 21st century, live at the most progressive point of that progress which progressively progresses towards wherever it is going. We would seem to be living in an age of miracles.

However, I can not help but note one small anomaly in this supposedly inexorable march onwards to better, bigger, greater, nicer times; a hump in our way; a lump in our... well, our throats. Our throats? Yes, our throats, our mouths, our lungs, our tongues, and all our organs that give us capacity to speak and sing and deliver voluble auditory ornaments unto our fellow human beings. For you would be forgiven, dear reader, if you thought, upon venturing into a pub where a band was playing, or a cafe where a poet was reading, or a library, or gallery, or theatre where someone was delivering a speech, if you fell to wondering that we did not live in a race of giants with the voices of gnats. Nothing else could explain our fondness for microphones, loudspeakers, hailers, and amplification devices of every variety.

The comparison could not be any clearer, really; just one hundred years ago, people packed into capacious theatres and gigantic galleries and libraries of the most vast proportions to hear this person speak, that person sing, and another person recite; somehow, all these artists managed to make themselves perfectly clear in spite of their handicap. These days, no matter how small the venue, no matter how few people there are, the speaker, or musician, or poet will find it absolutely necessary to place between themselves and the audience a small metallic object in order to negotiate their relationship with the audience and facilitate a louder ambience than would otherwise occur.

How can this great change have occurred? In this age of miracles, have our voices miraculously shrunk so that we can only make ourselves heard with a microphone, attached to a sound system, in which all of the knobs and buttons and widgets and dubobs have been manipulated by an expert technician; and in which the volume button has been turned to the top? Are our shrieks no louder than the whispers of previous generations? Consider that only a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln somehow managed to address an entire army, without amplification of any kind - and managed to make himself understood perfectly clearly, and have his words remembered until this very day. But we shrink at the task of winning over a couple of drunks in a pub. 

It really does seem strange that, in this great age of onward progress and inexorable miricalishness - an age, moreover, in which few people are above a bit of shameless exhibitionism and self-display - that we should really consider the device known as the 'microphone' to be so necessary. In most cases, a person speaking in an ordinary tone should be able to make themselves perfectly clear to the majority of their listeners.

So Poets! Musicians! McCracken! Throw off your microphones! You have nothing to lose but your chains! (And, er, your pride. But who wants that anyway?)


Carolyn Cordon said...

A great post Mr Tim - Poetry readings without the mic can be even better with one, because the poet feels free to project their voice!

Our little group in Gawler have gone with and without the microphone, and the readings without the mic are sometimes better. People are scared of the mic, sometimes. It's tricky sometimes to convince them to speak so others can here, but when there's nothing between them and the listeners, they feel more comfortable with using their voice.

TimT said...

A lot of the time I just don't know why people bother with the microphone, because it just makes things more complicated and makes voices louder while not making them clearer.

Email: timhtrain - at -

eXTReMe Tracker

Blog Archive