M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, March 11, 2003  

On the Air

Ever have someone point something out to you that you never noticed before, and now that they’ve made you notice it you can’t unnotice it, and now you have no choice but to hate the person who made you notice it forever?

I was just curious.

But you should listen closely to some radio commercials sometime soon. I don’t pretend to understand the root causes of the phenomenon I’m about to bring to your attention, although I’m sure that it’s somehow Clear Channel’s fault. All I know is that recently, the people who make radio spots have taken to editing out pauses for breath. Like, a lot.

It’s most noticeable in the ads that have only one person speaking. When there’s dialogue, the actors jump each others’ lines so quickly that they almost seem to be interrupting each other. But with the single-announcer variety, some of the worst offenders try to cram in so much information that the guy sounds like he’s interrupting himself, starting the next thought before he’s and it’s kind of annoying. See what I did there?

I first noticed it in an ad for a local dentist. Here’s what the copy probably looked like on the page:

…Call to set up an appointment. He’ll even use some of that Novocaine you’ve heard so much about. Told you he was a nice guy. Call…

Here’s what it sounded like on the air:

…Call to set up an appointme’ll even use some of that Novocaine you’ve heard so much abouTold you he was a nice guyCall…

Every time the ad came on, I would suck in a sympathetic draught of air when it was over. Even though his tone was relaxed and friendly, it had become impossible to listen to the ad without imagining the poor guy’s diaphragm stuffed halfway up his esophagus as he forces that last phoneme out between blue lips and collapses on the studio floor.

Intellectually, I know that some overzealous recording engineer used some bleeding-edge digital editing software to excise every picosecond of silence between sentences while the talent, judging by the volume of phlegm rattling around his larynx like ballbearings in a snare drum, stood outside the back door for five minutes and sucked down a pack of filterless smokes. But it’s still distracting.

And it also called my attention to how frequently (if less heavy-handedly) it’s done. Try speaking along with a radio ad sometime. You don’t have to memorize the words. Just go “aaaah” whenever the person is speaking. But don’t do it while driving, because the spots that will appear in front of your eyes at the twenty-second mark may impair your vision and hypoxia-induced unconsciousness is going to cause you to wake up with a bad headache if your out-of-control car tries to drive under a semi.

This is where I could launch into a you-kids-get-out-of-my-yard-inflected lament for the lost rhythms of natural speech, and how the current generation of radio professionals has no respect for the listener, and that this is just another example of advertising bombardment that numbs our senses and drives people to shoot up day care centers. But I’m not going to go into that whole rant, not least of all because it doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m just going to say three words: Boycott Clear Channel. That means the same thing anyway.

* * *

It doesn’t look like Pete Townshend is going down for the child pr0n thing. At least not very far down. He’s getting a formal caution. As long as I’m in anti-media curmudgeon mode, I should comment on how much more difficult that story was to find than the original (what with the original headline being on the front page of Yahoo! and all). So please assume that I am commenting thusly.

posted by M. Giant 3:23 PM 0 comments


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