Who has ever really listened to a word?
When it comes to listening to words, ears commonly tend to focus on a limited range of decoding processes. From meaning to subliminal tone and intensity clues, most of the cognitive effort goes into ‘understanding’ the speaker. From a broader aural point of view, that’s quite a poor listening, even for a single spoken word. Spoken words are not just symbols –such as those flat, typed words on a screen or on paper– but real things, physical objects, living events in our 3-dimensional world.
So far, little attention has been paid to sound richness when digitally broadcasting or streaming speech. Even less so in e-learning audiovisual contexts wherein sound quality most often plays a secondary role — surrendering to poor production and/or awful amounts of digital compression. Most web multimedia players are built to prioritise visual quality by default. ‘Minimum viable quality’ for audio normally applies as soon as that blunt threshold of ‘intelligible’ speech is reached. Again, making possible merely ‘decoding’ the meaning of words…
Actually, there is much more to listen to and discover in spoken words. Real words are placed in a 3D space, they have location, size, width, projection… In short: words, like real physical objects, have a strong presence — they fill our space, not just our time.
slowLiterature in English is a fortnightly series of premium audio-visual episodes brought to you by tangiblemode.
The basic idea behind the “slowLiterature” series is quite straightforward. Take a short text or excerpt, something that you could actually read in a few minutes. Make it last longer, much longer than it would normally last. It’s not about unnaturally slowing down your reading but rather about iterating – creatively orbiting the text till its presumed meaning gets expanded and sort of blurred, sometimes deeply transformed, almost by ‘friction’ against your own gaze.
We could say that slowLiterature is a semantic-stretching method placed in between learning and aesthetic enjoyment.