Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some thoughts on being a Human Mic, with Growling

First, the practicalities: 
The taller someone is, the further their voice carries. If you can get up high, please do.

The corollary is: the shorter the listener/speaker is, the harder it is to hear. Tall people put their sound muffling bodies between a short person (me) and the speaker (far away) and I am stuck and it sucks. 

(Note: Hey, guys! You with the Y chromosome that, on average, puts you a head taller than me! Don’t shove in front of short people, and if you do, use the voice you’ve got and speak up so the little folks behind you can hear. Or I will kick you in the knees. In my head. Gr.)

How to speak so the people around you can hear: Face them. Seriously. The bright young people shouting words back at the speaker like they are in boot camp? Not so bright—the speaker can hear themselves just fine. Please turn your head—or better yet, your body—towards your audience. And the audience is behind you. 

It’s not just because sound travels the way you are facing—it’s about the visual cues. I’m a little hard-of-hearing when there is a lot of background noise.  I use lip-reading to get some of the consonants that are lost in shouting. “Democracy” and “My friend Stacy” sound very similar in a crowded protest. Show us your mouth!

Case Study: Friday morning at 5:30, when we were sure the park was getting cleared out and we stood in the dark anyway, a young woman finally took our pleas of “MIC CHECK! We can’t hear you!” as a call to action and stood up on the railing. (Yea!) That worked pretty well, except when she put her hands around her mouth to make a megaphone shape. That is great for directional noise-amplification, but she shouted forwards, and we were to her right and back. We shouted at her to take her hands down but I don’t know if she heard us. Gr. We had to use a relay that was directly in front of us and helpfully piercing—until they left their position, and we were forced to chat amongst ourselves because we couldn’t hear anything. Gr.

Frequency of Mic “Generations”: I heard someone say that a Human Mic can reach a group about 20 people deep. I do not know what planet they live on, but it is not Planet Short Person. Between the valleys of the tall, huddle the short people. Do not forget us! 

To be fair, I think that “20 people deep” thing is for Human Mics standing up well above the crowd. And the crowd should be otherwise silent and of uniform height. But for the rest of us…

If someone is watching me and not the Human Mic in front of me, I assume that I am easier to hear for them (plus, sometimes the first time you hear it you hear “My friend Stacy” and it isn’t until the second or third time you hear the phrase that it resolves into “Democracy”)… and in my experience, with tall people between us, it was best to have a person 5-7 people behind me relaying my words. Anything more than that, and it was uncomfortable for the listeners.

The revolution should be comfortable when possible, don’t you think?

Also, I think the more Human Mics the better in general, for philosophical reasons as well as practical--But I’ll save that for the next non-food entry.

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