The reason I’m posting this article is that while watching BBC News yesterday I noticed a peculiar humming noise coming from what I initially thought was the television set but concluded after switching channels that this distracting hum was coming from the BBC News studio and wondered if anyone else had experienced the same phenomenon. Then I found this!
Anxiety hum noise in all television these days
Whenever the protagonist or other empathetic character is in trouble, facing some kind of extreme fear, anxiety, worry, intrigue, shock, or some other dire circumstances that should elicit from them the extremes of emotion, I’ve noticed that television shows will emphasize this emotion with a sound editing technique I call “anxiety hum”.
This is a background sound in the midrange, a kind of vibratory hum, crescendoes louder until it drowns out all other noises including the music, and makes dialogue difficult to understand. It’s a kind of wintermute, what a person hears when a bomb goes off. (in fact, the same sound technique used after bomb does go off nearby to demonstrate ringing ears)
I find it difficult to believe that there’s one sound engineer in hollywood that is going around promoting this ‘anxiety hum’ or that people are so stupid in that sound community that they have to lemming each other with a wholly annoying noise.
When I watch TV with someone else, I bring their attention to this noise and they universally agree on how annoying it is. Because you have to micromanage your volume level or else you make someone around you mad at you. Especially if you are an aging parents couple with one hard of hearing.
- The Man in the High Castle
- The Walking Dead
- Breaking Bad
- About a million other shows
So my point in posting this seemingly ridiculous rant on /r/conspiracy is : why the F are these sound engineers doing this so consistently throughout nearly all TV shows now? Are they catering to the 1% demographic of people with a dedicated basement home theater with 20 speakers?
I feel like it’s some kind of Pavlovian thing to engage or dissociate the viewer: it’s a queue. It’s like a sound queue to concertize an identification of the viewer with the character and their responses.
If that’s the case, why? Am we being ‘trained’ how to ‘feel’? And if so, why?
Maybe next time we see violence on TV, or hear a politician say a thing they want us to hear, then maybe they play that hum in the background and it will kind of cross-associate our identifying with the intended message they wish to implant?
Or maybe it’s a bunch of sound engineers being assholes. Who knows?