Loud and in 3‑D

Do you know why I love going to live shows like plays or musicals? Sure, the dialogue can be hilarious or touching, the songs a hoot, the action and suspense thrilling. But I go for another reason: the 3‑D stereo experience. Long before movies were shot and viewed in 3‑D, people were putting on real live performances, which provide a 3‑D experience for all the two‑eyeds watching. And theater performances dont simply approximate the 3‑D experiencethey are the genuine article.

But, you might respond, one goes to the theater for the dance, the dialogue, the humansfor the art. No one goes to live performances for the 3‑D feel! What kind of lowbrow rube are you? And, at any rate, most audiences sit too far away to get much of a stereo 3‑D effect.

Ah, I respond, but thats why I sit right up front, or go to very small theater houses. I just love that 3‑D popping‑out feeling, I tell ya!

At this point youd walk away, muttering something about the gene pool. And youd be right. That would be a dopey thing for me to say. We see people doing their thing in 3‑D all the time. I just saw the waitress here at the coffee shop walk by. Wow, she was in 3‑D! Now Im looking at my coffee, and my mugs handle appears directed toward me. Whoa, its 3‑D!

No. We dont go to the live theater for the 3‑D experience. We get plenty of 3‑D thrown at us every waking moment. But this leaves us with a mystery. Why do people like 3‑D movies? If people are all 3‑Ded out in their regular lives, why do we jump at the chance to wear funny glasses at the movie house? Part of the attraction surely is that movies can show you places you have never been, whether real or imaginary, and so with 3‑D you can more fully experience what it is like to have a Tyrannosaurus rex make a snout‑reaching grab for you.

But there is more to it. Even when the movie is showing everyday things, there is considerable extra excitement when it is in 3‑D. Watching a live performance in a tiny theater is still not the same as watching a 3‑D movie version of that same performance. But what is the difference?

Have you ever been to one of those shows where actors come out into the audience? Specific audience members are sometimes targeted, or maybe even pulled up onstage. In such circumstances, if youre not the person the actors target, you might find yourself thinking, Oh, that person is having a blast! If youre the shy type, however, you might be thinking, Thank God they didnt target me because Id have been terrified! If you are the target, then, whether you liked it or not, your experience of the evenings performance will be very different from that of everyone else in the audience. The show reached out into your space and grabbed you . While everyone else merely watched the show, you were part of it.

The key to understanding the 3‑D movie experience can be found in this targeting. 3‑D movies differ from their real‑life versions because everyone in the audience is a target, all at the same time. This is simply because the 3‑D technology (projecting left‑ and right‑eye images onto the screen, with glasses designed to let each eye see only the image intended for it) gives everyone in the audience the same 3‑D effect. If the dragons flames appear to me to nearly singe my hair but spare everyone elses, your experience at the other side of the theater is that the dragons flames nearly singe your hair and spare everyone elses, including mine. If I experience a golf ball shooting over the audience to my left, then the audience to my left also experiences the golf ball going over their left. 3‑D movies put on a show that is inextricably tied to each listener, and invades each listeners space equally. Everyones experience is identical in the sense that theyre all treated to the same visual and auditory vantage point. But everyones experience is unique because each experiences himself as the targeteach believes he has a specially targeted vantage point.

The difference, then, between a live show seen up close and a 3‑D movie of the same show is that the former pulls just one or several audience members into the thick of the story, whereas 3‑D movies have this effect on everyone . So the fun of 3‑D movies is not that they are 3‑D at all. We can have the same fun when we happen to be the target in a real live show. The fun is in being targeted . When the show doesnt merely leap off the screen, but leaps at you , it fundamentally alters the emotional experience. It no longer feels like a story about others, but becomes a story that invades your space, perhaps threateningly, perhaps provocatively, perhaps joyously. You are immersed in the story, not an audience member at all.

What does all this have to do with music and the auditory sense? Imagine yourself again at a live show. You hear the performers rhythmic banging ganglies as they carry out behaviors onstage. And as they move onstage and vary their direction, the sounds they make will change pitch due to the Doppler effect. Sitting there in the audience, watching from a vantage point outside of the story, you get the rhythm and pitch modulations of human movers. You get the attitude (rhythm) and action (pitch). But you are not immersed in the story. You can more easily remain detached.

Now imagine that the performers suddenly begin to target you. Several just jumped off the stage, headed directly toward you. A minute later, there you are, grinning and red‑faced, with tousled hair and the bright red lipstick mark of a mistresss kiss on your forehead . . . and, for good measure, a pirate is in your face calling you salty. During all this targeting you hear the gait sounds and pitch modulations of the performers, but you also heard these sounds when you were still in detached, untargeted audience‑member mode. The big auditory consequence of being targeted by the actors is not in the rhythm or pitch, but in the loudness . When the performers were onstage, most of the time they were more or less equidistant, and fairly far awayand so there was little loudness modulation as they carried on. But when the performers broke through the screen, they ramped up the volume. It is these high‑loudness parts of musicthe fortissimos, or ff sthat are often highly evocative and thrilling, as when the dinosaur reaches out of the 3‑D theaters screen to get you.

And thats the final topic of this chapter: loudness, and its musical meaning. I will try to convince you that loudness modulations are used in music in the 3‑D, invade‑the‑listeners‑space fashion I just described. In particular, this means that the loudness modulations in music tend to mimic loudness modulations due to changes in the proximity of a mover. Before getting into the evidence for this, lets discuss why I dont think loudness mimics something else.


: 2015-05-08; : 612;




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