Tag Archives: Voices

Is there a human sense of psychological and physical distress in others that operates below the level of consciousness?

I’ve just been watching the former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull being interviewed on the 7.30 news program. I was particularly struck by his revelation that during the period of his career following his gross misjudgement in the “Utegate” affair he was in a very dark emotional state, despite maintaining his usual polished and confident image. When Turnbull fell for the deception of an unhinged and ill public servant who claimed implausibibly that the very wealthy and ambitious leader of the party opposing Turnbull’s party had accepted an old utility truck as a political bribe, that destroyed my confidence in Turnbull as a leader, and we now know, it also wrecked his own self-image. As I marvelled at the contrast beteen the politician’s inner state and his exterior image, I was reminded of a baffling dream that I had when Turnbull was still a political leader.

I rarely remember my dreams, but this one was also remarkable for other reasons. In the dream I somehow percieved that Turnbull was in a dire state of unhappiness due to his work and this concerned me. His facial expression was sad but not extreme, so this was one of many examples of a dream in which I simply knew something by telepathy or unclear means. In my dream I said something like “Cheer up, it’s only a job”. Upon waking I was baffled that I even cared about this politician in my dream, as I deplored his party and never had much interest in him as an individual. I hadn’t recalled noticing any particular news or media coverage at the time suggesting a drop in this politician’s career satisfaction. After wondering what in the world had prompted this oddly vivid dream, it seemed to me that the dream was a manifestation of a basic human concern for others that operates independently of conscious rational judgements about another person’s character. Now that I know that possibly at the time of my dream I might have seen Turnbull on TV during the time when he was feeling secretly bleak, I’m left wondering whether I had unconsciously sensed something in his voice, appearance, words or manner that betrayed his real state, and this perception was explored in my dream. This wouldn’t be the first time that I apparently sensed stress and serious danger in a person I was not particularly close to.

When I was in my 20s I once got the idea into my head to write in a Christmas card a sincere hope that the recipient (not a close relative by any means) not suffer a heart attack. I thought twice about that choice of wording and asked my flat-mate if she thought it appropriate. She clearly thought I had lost my mind,  as any sensible person would, but still I felt genuine concern about this ambitious and busy person who I saw only occassionally, who always seemed to be bathed in sweat. Roughly a year later I recieved news of that person’s full recovery from a heart attack. A few years later I formed the opinion, based on what I am not sure, that one of my work supervisors, a kind person but not one who I felt was a friend, was headed for trouble due to trying to do too much in tackling the roles of mother of young children, wife, career-builder and property investor. Not long after that she came down with shingles, a nasty disease that can be triggered by stress. I’ll never know why I felt constantly concerned about a friend of one of our young adult offspring in the week before we were shocked by the terrible news of her suicide. I had only met this striking person a few times and we weren’t friends or close, but the day before we recieved the news I had been asking questions at work in the faint hope that there might be a job opportunity for her there. In hindsight, many other people would have known enough to be very concerned for her welfare, much more than I did, so I’m baffled as to how I apparently sensed imminent danger in the life of a person I barely knew and was not in direct contact with.

Maybe these anecdotes are all nothing more than unhappy coincidences that appear to be predictions when viewed in retrospect. Could I or anyone have altered fate? Even if it is possible to sense the approaching date when a friend or acquaintance will reach beyond their physical or psychological limits, I ask you, how do you save someone from themself?

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/malcolm-turnbull-the-7-30-interview

Moments that will shock and stun in the story of the late Orion AKA Jimmy Ellis

I had missed the beginning of this documentary about a singer from the south of the United States who’s claim to fame was a singing voice that was naturally and astonishingly similar, even identical, to the voice of the great Elvis Presley. I was fussing over things in the kitchen and not paying 100% attention until there was one jaw-dropping “Oh wow!” moment that stopped me in my tracks. This was the bit where profile photos of Jimmy Ellis and the father of Elvis Presley, Vernon Presley were shown side-by-side. Jimmy had been an adopted, illegitimate child, with a father only listed on his birth certificate as “Vernon”. This wasn’t the only shocking moment in the documentary. Fame and money aren’t the only motivations in entertainers’ careers. There are also groupies.

Do I believe Ellis was Elvis’s half-brother? 150% I do. I’d believe it based on the incredibly similar singing voices and Ellis’ birth certificate alone, but the facial resemblance – that is amazing. This story is a reminder of how sometimes close relatives can look like twins, while at other times they can look like random strangers. Clearly Elvis got his looks from his mother and his voice from his father, and therefore didn’t look much like Ellis. This documentary is also a reminder of the way that extraordinary talents and creative drives can apparently be inherited, coded in DNA to be sent to one child or another like the random results of a throw of a dice. The pattern of apparently inherited desire to sing, along with an incredible singing voice in this documentary reminds me of the apparently inherited talent and drive in ballet dancing in another fascinating real-life mystery of DNA – the story of Somerton Man recounted in the TV series Australian Story, which I have previously written about in this blog.

I recommend this documentary about a third-rate musical career based on an astounding natural talent that cannot be dismissed, even though in many ways it is a sad story. Maybe this is not a good choice of documentary for any viewers who have not come to terms with a childhood in foster care.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/orion-the-man-who-would-be-king

The man they thought was Elvis
The strange tale of Jimmy Ellis and one of the greatest hoaxes in music history.
LOUISE BRODTHAGEN JENSEN 13. MAJ 2017

https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/webfeature/orion-eng

Can’t stop spotting celebrity doppelgangers

A man’s mouth decorated with black lippy, those sad-looking eyes that seem to be melting down the side of a long face with minimal cheekbones, on a man with a tall, powerful build and a deep voice that is simply stunning.

 

Why is this look so familiar?

 

Why?

 

Oh yes, that’s why!

Interesting that Fred Gwynne was also a great slab of a man with a deep voice that he shared with us in song, and had a great love of theatricality, a sense of humour, and a willingness to dress like a horrific freak for a job. Similar faces often go with similar lives and similar personalities. Are these similarities more than skin-deep?

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fred_Gwynne&oldid=775146731

Where are the yellow bits?

The other night we were watching RocKwiz on SBS and the band and a guest singer did a cover of Goodbye Yellow-Brick Road, a major early 1970s hit by Elton John, which was a very nostalgic experience as I haven’t heard that tune much since the 1970s when by best friend was a mad-keen Elton John fan. Two things struck me: what a great and unusual song, with interesting lyrics and music that rather reminds me of another unusual and sad hit tune (How Soon is Now? by The Smiths), and what amazingly high falsetto singing the hit recording had, but the most interesting thing that I noticed when I heard the cover-version was that the bright-yellow pineapple-jelly bean-flavoured bits were missing.

They say you don’t notice things until they are gone, and I hadn’t realized that the falsetto bits of the original recording had been, for me, such a dominant (visual) feature, till I listened to a relatively colourless but enjoyable cover version, with decipherable lyrics. That amount of falsetto in a rock song is I think quite typical of the psychedelic era when the tune was created. Would it be pushing an idea to far to say this is a psychedelic recording? I don’t know why, but most of my favourite music, since I was a kid to now, has had some element of psychedelia; hypnotic repetition, extreme forms of singing, unusual instruments, unusual sound effects, extreme emotionality, etc.

Tunes that I listened to as kid or teen seem to be more often coloured than music from recent years, I guess because synaesthesia is less likely to form anew as one ages, just as new brain connections are less likely to form. It seems likely that I got the idea of that song as a yellow song from the title, but this merely abstract idea becomes an experience only when evoked by that singing, Elton’s yellow singing.

The yellow-deficient cover-version:

Vale Chris Cornell

For me the human voice in song is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For synaesthetes enjoyable experiences are often coloured. Many but not all voices of popular singers have specific colours, in my experience: men’s voices typically brown, women’s red, baritones deep brown, counter-tenors and falsetto yellows and whites, harsh Italian tenors shining gold, but there was only ever for me one orange singing voice – that of Chris Cornell, the late singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. Orange is the colour of experiences that are so intense that they are close to painful.

Person recognition a crucial point in plotline in another classic movie?

We stayed up late to watch the 1940s classic movie Gaslight the other night. What an amazing story and brilliant acting from Boyer and Bergman! Charles Boyer was not an unusually handsome man, but her certainly knew how to use his eyes, and he also knew how to use his voice.

Was it the detective recognizing a family resemblance between Paula and her late aunt that caught the attention of the detective, or was it that combined with a visual recognition of Serges Bauer?

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1754531097

 

Personification at the heart of imagination in stories loved by children

The Thomas the Tank Engine stories, with railway stock who have faces and voices and dialogue and relationships and dramas, and the Wizard of Oz story, with a tin-man and a living scarecrow and curmudgeonly apple trees are just two examples of classic children’s fiction which translated very successfully to popular family screen entertainment, and both are full of objects that are personified. Many synaesthetes like myself have naturally and mysteriously developed conceptions of letters of the alphabet and numbers as having personal characteristics such as genders and personalities, as well as individual and specific colours. These synaesthetic ways of thinking formed in childhood and has become embedded in the structure of the brain. It is possible that all people once experienced synaesthetic thinking as children, but synaptic pruning did away with all that fanciful nonsense for most of us. Perhaps we were all personifying synaesthetes when we were little kids, and perhaps that explains why object personification pops up so often in children’s entertainment. To complement the winter school holidays one of our TV channels is broadcasting The Wizard of Oz for the umpteenth time. I’m not sure if I’ve ever sat and viewed the whole thing and forgotten half of it, but there was some familiarity in the deep and gruff sound of the voice of one of the apple trees. Could any grown tree have a voice that is not dark and resonant? I doubt it. Irrational as it is, object personification operates according to psychological rules and relationships, and big dark brown things tend to have deep voices.

I’m sure I’m not the first to observe that popular movies are full of psychology, and the Wizard of Oz is as good an example as any. There’s the object personification in many of the characters. There’s also some interesting psychology in the way that Dorothy feels that she has known her three strange new friends for a long time, but also logically knows that can’t be true (the story is set in a dream with bizarre characters which Dorothy’s sleeping mind has created out of memories of real people in Dorothy’s real life). “Oh, you’re the best friends anybody ever had. And it’s funny, but I feel as if I’d known you all the time, but I couldn’t have, could I?” Would face processing researchers call that “implicit familiarity” or “covert recognition”? It is actually person recognition, not just face recognition, but then again, I’ve been arguing at this blog that face recognition cannot be separated from person recognition. Faces are only memorable because they are the front windows of minds. I think Dorothy’s strange and unexplained feeling of familiarity is a nice illustration of the way that person recognition is swifter and more emotional than the verbal labeling of people with personal names and place names that we are able to do once we are able to figure out where that person fits into our autobiographical memory bank. That memory bank is quite a thing to search, so it can take a while. I like the way that the Dunning-Kruger Effect or something like it is woven into the centre of the narrative of The Wizard of Oz, the tin man not understanding his own emotional dimension, the scarecrow suddenly spouting a bit of geometrical wisdom once told he does have a brain, and the lion needing to be told how brave he actually is even though he had been through so much. There’s also a message about the possibilities of human development, effort and experience changing what we are, if we care to give it a red-hot go. That could have something to do with synapses. Of course, this story has a lot to say about the psychology of quacks, con-artists, fame and inflated authority figures, but the odd thing is, despite the many decades of popularity of this book and the Hollywood movie, great hordes of educated people in America and other English-speaking countries continue to be conned and robbed by quacks, con-artists, famous people and inflated authority figures. Yes, I’m no genius for pointing out the main message of the story of The Wizard of Oz, but if it is such an obvious message, then why does it appear to be so seldom heeded?

How’s your ability in voice perception?

Guess a person’s age from their voice. New Scientist. 

http://www.newscientist.com/embedded/voice-age-quiz

I tried the test but got no score or feedback about how I did compared to others who’ve done the test. I think I did well, with most age judgements within 10 years of the correct answer, a few, maybe 4 I guessed the ages within a year or two.

I maintain that there are some women who have voices that sound much younger than their age. They are unusual, but they do exist. There is an interesting collection of reasons why men can have voices that sound deeper and older than their years. Hormones probably influence how deep a man’s voice is, and this effect can be confused with the effects of age. There is a common belief that alcohol can have a temporary deepening effect on the vocal cords, giving a deeper tone the day after a big night. I think there’s something in this theory, but I’m not sure how much it is supported by hard evidence. The Uncyclopedia’s recipe for a rich bass voice describes a lifestyle that is not for everyone: “The diet of a bass consists of alcohol, cigarettes, more alcohol, fried meat products, children, ex girlfriends, yet more alcohol and even more cigarettes.” The late Jim Morrisson had a reputation as a hard drinker and had a singing voice well beyond his years. Till Lindemann has a brown-coloured monster of a voice, and a family background in which people hit the bottle hard. Genetics clearly plays a major role in vocal pitch, often displaying a pattern of inheritance. I have known one family in which both the father and sons from infancy onward all had markedly deep voices. An unusually hoarse voice can be caused by a genetic connective tissue or collagen disorder. Inhaling Sulphur Hexafluoride can deepen the voice temporarily, but that’s a pretty silly thing to do. Lots of things besides the ageing process can alter the sound of the voice, so reading age in the voice is not always a simple thing.