Monday, October 28, 2013

The little grey cells in action . . .

Tell me, were I to offer you a name, the name of 'Hercule Poirot', what would come into your mind?
Would it be a small, dapper figure with a waxed moustache . . . Agatha Christie's Belgium detective as portrayed, for so many years, by David Suchet?
We are all familiar with the mannered walk, the impeccable attire, the courteous doff of the hat.  But what is it, in particular, that embodies this interpretation of Poirot?

In an absorbing interview, given at the launch of a new series, David Suchet contended that personality is embodied not in appearance, but in the sound we make . . . hence 'personality', which stems from its Latin root, 'per sona'.  We are 'our sound', and it is this unique, instantly recognisable sound which carries within it our inner essence.  By this understanding, it is not the physical image, but the clipped tones, distinctive accent and modulated delivery that constitute the essence of an unforgetable Hercule Poirot.

David Suchet's comments caused me to ponder and realise how much we react to sound rather than words.  Wouldn't you agree that whilst our minds react to the information in the words we hear, our emotions respond to the truth contained in the sound.  If the speaker's tone runs counter to the words being spoken, you'll ignore the import of the words and place your trust in the tone.

Nor is it just the sound of the voice.  I'm sure you've noticed how film-makers use their knowledge of sound to skilfully manipulate our feelings.

A person walks into shot and immediately you know you are encountering one of the 'bad guys'.  How do you know this?  It's the music that tells you. To make certain that you are not led astray by any fanciful notions of your own, the music anticipates every turn of the plot with appropriate under-scoring, and never fails to pull out the sweeping strings for an orchestrated happy ending.  Words are superfluous . . . the background music is a wholly reliable narrator.

In his recent, absorbing radio series entitled 'The Science of Music', Robert Winston explored this subject from a scientific viewpoint . . . successfully proving that the sound of music plays a much larger part in our lives that I'd ever imagined.

Music, it would seem, is the universal language.  Voiced by every aspect of creation, it is found everywhere.  I hadn't realised, had you, that there is no region of the world where music is not an inseparable aspect of human existence?

Not only, as we've seen, does it activate our emotions, but it also forms the essence of communication.  We convince ourselves that words are all-important, that language dominates.  Don't you believe it . . . our larynx, it appears, was designed to produce far more subtle sounds than those needed for speech.

Could it be recognition of the communication and unity achieved by sound that has given rise to the recent popularity of choral singing?

According to a scientific study, members of a choir not only breathe together, but their hearts beat in unison . . . physical  bodies, it seems, can be woven by music into choral coherence.

Whether it be the tone of the voice or the music of the spheres, sound both unites and informs.  It is common to all of us . . . and, as we now know,  it is one of many mysteries effectively solved by the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot!