My upcoming book, 99% True, is working its way through the last of the story editor’s comments. One of his consistent themes is a demand for me to refrain from describing sound with nothing more than descriptive words: dry, wet, rich, thin, fat. In his view, these words bring little meaning to the reader unless they are audiophiles.
In fact, he’s correct. What does thin sound like if you’re new to our endeavor? Instead, he’d rather I use simile, “a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox ).”
Language is a funny thing. We use words to describe words. If you haven’t a deep knowledge of words, then using other words to help with meaning doesn’t work. In order for the process to have meaning, we need to first compare words with physical objects: cat, dog, tree, sky, air. Over time our minds catalog these references to form relationships which we can then use to extrapolate other word images.
It occurs to me that listening skills are the same. We immerse ourselves in live music, often at an early age, and form comparisons between a physical object, like a violin, and the sound it makes. In this way, we learn the lexicon of music.
The lexicon of reproduced music, audio, really only works if we already possess real-life comparisons in our memory.
My task as a writer pales next to the mind’s struggle for meaning.