Anne Karpf Quotes
“Greeting the ageing self In trying to depathologize age, we need to make an important distinction, between resisting ageism (stereotyping or discriminating on the basis of age) and resisting age itself. The first opens the door to a path of rich potential, freeing us to keep on developing and changing, while the second closes it, condemning us to an endless attempt to recover the irretrievable.”
“Yet some of the business of hearing is still frankly unfathomable. Although we know, for instance, that the brain procesess acoustic vibrations into neural signs, some of our phenomenal auditory talents, like translating the physical properties of sound into the abstract realm of meaning, remain a profound mystery, all the more since this occurs within 150 milliseconds after the beginning of the sound.”
“Sound travels from the outer ear, via the middle ear, and into the inner ear. In the course of this journey it's converted from sound waves into mechanical vibrations (in the eardrum), from mechanical vibrations into pressure waves (in the cochlea), and thence into electrical signals firing towards the brain.
The outer ear (the cup-shaped part we can see, known as the pinna) collects sound and amplifies it, by as much as three decibels. From here the voice travels down the external auditory canal - a tube that acts as a resonator of its own, with its own frequencies. It's this characteristic of the external auditory canal that makes us sensitive to certain frequencies of the voice.”
“How different the life cycle looks if we substitute the word ‘growth’ for ageing. The word ‘age’ has become so contaminated by contempt and fear that it’s tempting to dispense with it altogether. Better, though, to try to reclaim it, detoxify it and attach it to the whole life cycle, rather than just offloading the idea of ageing onto later life. For to age is to live and to live is to age, and being anti-age (as so many products proudly proclaim themselves) is tantamount to being anti-life. By embracing age we embrace the life process itself, with all its pain, joy and difficulty. If we can cultivate a respect for our own growth, and develop the ability to greet our ageing self with both pleasure and realism, and without the need to either idealize or deride its younger incarnation, then we’re putting in place important capacities that will serve us our entire lives.”
“We can hear a wider range of frequencies than we can speak, but the frequencies to which the external auditory canal are most sensitive lie roughly int he middle of our hearing range, around 1000-3000 Hz. In other words, at normal volume, we detect the middle frequencies more easily than the high ones. In this way human beings have developed the most favourable capacities for speaking to and hearing each other.”
“No piece of technology or Swiss precision-measuring instrument has ever come near the extraordinary sensitivity of the ear in its abilities to detect nano-changes in loudness and frequency or pitch. (Frequency is an acoustic measurement of the voice's vibrations; pitch is a perceptual term- how those frequencies sound to us). If you play a pure tone (where the pattern of vibration keeps repeating itself, like a tuning fork) at a single level of loudness, the ear can perceive 1,400 different pitches. If, on the other hand, you keep to one frequency but change the volume or intensity, the ear is capable of identifying 280 different levels of loudness. That means that, if both the frequency and intensity are changed, the ear has a repertoire of between 300,000 and 400,000 distinguishable tones. Does the planet contain a more discriminating organ?”
“His interviews revealed that the majority of Sak's employees, half of Macy's, but only one-fifth of Klein's sounded the 'r' clearly, bearing out his theory that a more emphasized 'r' was now the more prestigious pronunciation, and that social class is inscribed in the pronunciation of even a single sound.”
“Our auditory skills certainly demand just as many superlatives as our vocal abilities. We hear because the pressure of the air is great enough to move the eardrum, and yet the extraordinary responsiveness of the ear to tiny vibrations in pressure almost defies belief. The force brought to bear on the ear is measured in dynes-very small units of force. To support the weight of one ounce against the force of gravity, for instance, we have to exert an upward force of 28,000 dynes. Yet the ear can detect a force of 0.0002 dynes. In other words, the force acting on the eardrum is around 140 million times smaller than the force needed to lift a weight of an ounce. At the threshold of hearing, the eardrum moves roughly one-tenth of the diameter of a hydrogen molecule. It's even been argued (astonishingly) that, if there were nothing between you and an airport ten miles away, with no competing sounds or intervening objects for the sound to reflect off, in theory you could hear a piece of chalk drop at the airport.”
“THE FIRST CRY
Humans, according to the philosopher Kant, are the only species to emit a sound at birth-one reason, perhaps, that the newborn baby's cries have been invested with such purity, innocence, and almost mystical power. Hegel, on the other hand, thought the first cry reflected the 'horror of the spirit, at its subjection to nature'. The reality is more prosaic. The first audible cry clears the respiratory tract of mucus for the first breath. It's also an instinctive reaction to a shocking change of temperature, light, and air.
Immediately after being born, healthy newborn babies everywhere produce an almost identical reflex cry-one which, intriguingly, matches the frequency of the international standard tone for tuning musical instruments. So essential is the first cry as a sign of independent life that, if it is absent, a baby is often-still today-slapped into producing it. The pitch, tone, and dynamic strength of the cry are assessed within one minute of the infant entering the world, and then again at five minutes. The APGAR scale judges health, allocating two points for a good strong cry, but only one for a weak (whimpering or grunting) one.”
“Newborns can discriminate between their own cries and those of other babies. They get upset when they hear other babies cry, which is probably why, when one baby cries in a maternity ward, the others inevitably follow. It's always assumed that they're simply copying each other, but they're probably also pained by the sounds of distress. Human empathy develops early, and it's expressed vocally.”
“Studies into the reactions of newborns to cries also cast fascinating light on their developing senses of self. When 1-day-old babies were played audio tapes of another neonate crying, as well as recordings of the wails of an 11-month-old, and a tape of their own cries, they cried most to howls of the neonate, but didn't respond to the playback of their own cries. Already at birth, it seems, babies can discriminate vocally between me and not-me, and are most sensitive to the group that most resembles them.
Babies' cries can also be a guide to their psychological state. Entering a ward full of battered babies, voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg heard strangulated cries-'their experience of violence had already pierced their voices.”
“When we de-repress the fear of death, we reclaim the energy that has gone into denial. We feel buoyed up as streams of creative energy course through our bodies, minds and nervous systems. By facing a subject that usually depresses and terrifies us, we feel lighter, freer, more perceptually and cognitively alive in all our encounters....Old age will no longer be a synonym for death, or dying, but for living.”
“What we manage to do with sound is nonetheless astonishing. With the exception of the muscles around the eyes, those of the human larynx have more nerves than any other muscles in the human body, including the hands and the face, even though we only use around one-third of their capacity in speaking. Each can produce a different balance of forces in the larynx, generating a different pulse wave and sound quality. They're our vocal palette: through them we colour our voices with affection, bitterness, pleasure, disgust, etc. With such a formidable range, we are in effect Leonardos of the larynx.”
“Ear and voice complement each other: both are activated by the movement of air. Just as air makes the larynx vibrate, so it's the air in the form of sound waves that causes the eardrum to vibrate-the basis of hearing. To listen to someone's voice is therefore 'a partnership of vibration'. The ear has even been called a 'sonic mouth', since some of the same organs in the body form them both. By ensuring that the ear canal resonates at the same frequencies as the vocal tract, nature has thoughtfully matched the reception organ with the production one, and developed a human ear with the precise properties best needed to hear the human voice.”
“Hearing is one of the first senses to develop in a foetus-the ear has already begun to be formed in an eight-week-old foetus, and three months later is structurally complete. When we go to sleep, our perception of sound is the last sense to close off, and when we awake the first to start up again. And hearing, it's claimed, is the last sense to die at the end of life.”