Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On noise and audio...

Yep, you are reading a new post.  It has been many months since I posted anything and I have had a lot of great ideas that just fade as quickly as they came because I don't follow through. Most of the time the disappear simply because I am on the road somewhere driving or riding on some form of conveyance that means I have the freedom but not the accessablility to blog.  Well, that and the Blogger interface on the Android system isn't what it needs to be yet.  On with the post, but first a quick vocabulary lesson:
Sibilance:
Noun - S: (n) sibilant, sibilant consonant (a consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s or sh))
Adjective - S: (adj) fricative, continuant, sibilant, spirant, strident (of speech sounds produced by forcing air through a constricted passage (as `f', `s', `z', or `th' in both `thin' and `then'))

This morning I was riding on the bus from the terminal at DIA (Denver Interational Airport) to the parking area to get the company car and I was doing my usual people watching at the same time.  This is a fun past time since it really is quite entertaining, especially if you make up stories about the people in your head, and easy to do while sitting anywhere. I have even done this sitting in the Magic Kingdom when that family of 6 walks by late in the day with Mom and Dad looking frustrated and the kids all wiped out but they all have to get one more ride in before they go back to the room.  But I digress...

One lady had moved to the back of the bus as I was boarding and I was quite fine with that since the seat she abandoned was close to the door and allowed me and the Backpack of Doom (I plan to write a post about this backpack in the near future) to sit pretty comfortably without being a pain to others. As I sat there and observed the young doctor in scrubs who serenades his patients on his guitar, the lady who will be riding horses later today but is currently talking quietly with her husband about the new drapes, and construction outside the window, I realize that I am hearing and odd sound that previously used to drive me up the wall and straight to an EQ.

A little history for those who don't know me.  For about 20 years I was a part time audio reinforcement technician (a sound man) for bands and churches.  I did this in my off time when I wasn't traveling and actually headed up the team at my church for several years.  I taught classes on the subject, fixed sound systems that were setup wrong, and generally worked very hard to make things work right.  One of the toughest things to fix, and something that really would annoy me, was the sibilance that that some people have when saying the "s" sound on a word.  This is very difficult to remove without losing the clarity of the spoken word at the same time (unless you have some cool toys to help you).

Enter the odd noise that I was hearing.  Apparently the horse lady (she had on a pair of grey pants that looked like riding pants and a pair of knee high boots that were two tone and look somewhat like riding boots) was very involved in this call but didn't want to allow anyone to overhear the conversation.  No problem, except she had a very bad sibilance when she said anything that has the letter "s" in it.  Most people can say the "s" with a minimum of steam releasing, but apparently the boiler was stoked and she was going full stroke on these words.  All I could hear from the back of the bus was "mumble mumble SSSSmumble mumbleSSSS mumble SSSmumbleSSS SSS mumble mumble SSSSmumble...".  It actually led me to work hard not to chuckle or grin and make it seem like I was laughing at her.

All this led up to this one thought...

Isn't it funny how we have this nice word that someone with a sibilance can't say the word without their sibilance coming through?  That's just mean.

-- TT