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  • Echo vs. Reverberation

    This is a notion I want to toss out here before I forget it.
    As I was having a look at some of the science links Ellimist sent my way (thanks, by the way), I ran across this discussion of echo and reverberation. It struck me--and I know people in the sciences tend to hate this sort of thing--that the differences between the two could, metaphorically, describe Johnny's changing relationship to The Navidson Record: initially, he hears echoes (just as many, many of us have and have posted on here); as he becomes engrossed in--"closer to"--the text, that relationship turns into reverberation: a sound bigger on the inside than on the outside. The physics site says you have to be less than 17 meters from the sound-reflecting surface to get reverberation; Johnny, as we know, gets to within 1/4". Exactly.
    Surely someone has posted on this or on something similar, I thought. To the Search Function I go, and in this thread, I found this observation by the long-missing (and sorely-missed) MoleculaRR:
    Similarly, perhaps we are both haunting and haunted by the book. Peter Schwenger in Fantasm and Fiction writes about reading as vampirism. To be fair, he's quoting someone else whose name I can't recall, but the point is that being engrossed in a book is like being overcome by a vampire which we are also parasitically feeding upon. The point was made much more elegantly than that, but I think the basic idea is there.
    No doubt others have said the same thing in different ways. And I know Johnny himself has much to say about this as well, both directly and indirectly. But here, just now, I want to note that the relationship between echo and reverberation is something like, in the relationship between reader and text, that between "escapism" and delusion.

  • #2
    I have also wondered, on occasion, why Zampanò, with his penchant for false etymologies, doesn't make more frequent use of the word 'reverberation', which could be made out to be related to the Latin 'verbum', and would thus equate throwing words back and forth.

    In actual fact, of course, reverberation has more to do with lines of defence.

    Edit: Strictly as an aside, would it be too far-fetched to suggest that the false etymologies in HoL are similar to the false genealogies we also encounter in those pages?
    Last edited by fearful_syzygy; 12-04-2009, 12:56 PM.

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    • #3
      Not sure if this will help, but here's what echo and reverb actually mean in a musician's effects-box.

      Echo is alternately used for the term delay. Delay is usually a decaying repetition of a specific sound. You can hear it in Pink Floyd's Us and Them.

      Reverb adds spatial ambience to a sound. In essence, reverb broadens and widens a sound's propogative field. Reverb alone does not tend to also give delay as a feedback. Reverb exists, more or less, in almost every bounded space. You know what I'm talking about if you're a bathroom singer.

      Both effects, ie delay and reverb are used very often in combination, though.

      Originally posted by John B.
      ...that relationship turns into reverberation: a sound bigger on the inside than on the outside.
      I'm a bit confused about this, because what I have learned so far is that in reverberation the sound is smaller on the inside and bigger on the outside. Or perhaps I am confusing inside and outside with something else.

      And also, though echo and reverberation are somewhat interchangeable in some aspects (both share similar needs and effects somewhat), I learned that echo needs 17 meters for the sound to bounce (as the Physics site you mentioned confirms), while reverberation happens within closed confines (the bathroom). So I'm confused with what you're saying (reverberation happens at less than 17 meters)--are you implying that in this case echo and reverberation are the same, perhaps?

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      • #4
        I posted something here based on a completely random thought process based on the above thoughtful posts. I apologize if anybody read it.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by sutrix
          Originally posted by John B.
          ...that relationship turns into reverberation: a sound bigger on the inside than on the outside.
          I'm a bit confused about this, because what I have learned so far is that in reverberation the sound is smaller on the inside and bigger on the outside. Or perhaps I am confusing inside and outside with something else.

          And also, though echo and reverberation are somewhat interchangeable in some aspects (both share similar needs and effects somewhat), I learned that echo needs 17 meters for the sound to bounce (as the Physics site you mentioned confirms), while reverberation happens within closed confines (the bathroom). So I'm confused with what you're saying (reverberation happens at less than 17 meters)--are you implying that in this case echo and reverberation are the same, perhaps?
          Echo is an inexact copy of the original sound or text; reverberation is an "over-copy" that causes the hearer/reader to lose the original.
          All I meant was that the SOUND that results from reverberation is "bigger"--louder, fuller--than it in fact is. I wanted to suggest that Johnny comes to "hear" more in these texts than there really is. In lit. crit. terms, he over-reads, which leads him to read (and write) into TNR words/things/people(?) that weren't there or weren't intended by Zampano to be there.

          Edit: corrected the unintended (but highly-appropriate, considering) agreement error in "these text"

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          • #6
            Originally posted by John B.
            I wanted to suggest that Johnny comes to "hear" more in these text than there really is. In lit. crit. terms, he over-reads, which leads him to read (and write) into TNR words/things/people(?) that weren't there or weren't intended by Zampano to be there.
            This is exactly where I was going with the reverberation thing before, because it's not just Johnny that 'over-reads'; we do it too. Throughout the text there are words and phrases which are repeated (and the Index helps and encourages us to find those repetitions), and in fact, more often than not, the very fact that those words are 'reverberated', so to speak, lends them significance which they wouldn't ordinarily have had.
            As I believe I suggested to keysersoze ages ago, perhaps the reason no-one's been able to agree on what the pieces/pisces thing means is that it doesn't actually mean anything other than what you attribute to it, or indeed its only purpose is to be noticed and pondered over by the reader. The word becomes 'louder' or more resonant with each repetition, until finally it's impossible to ignore.

            Edit: I think it's perhaps also important to note that although in principle echoes bring about a loss of meaning, they can also trigger a shift in meaning, as the various word games in the 'echo ramble' demonstrate. Thus, the 'copy of a copy of a copy' phenomenon (or the 'deteriorating dubs' of the 5½ Minute Hallway) don't necessarily result in loss of information so much as a mutation of that information, as well as increasing the importance of interpratation.

            I'm almost loath to say it again here, but: Know nest call is air at. :|

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            • #7
              Originally posted by fearful_syzygy
              As I believe I suggested to keysersoze ages ago, perhaps the reason no-one's been able to agree on what the pieces/pisces thing means is that it doesn't actually mean anything other than what you attribute to it, or indeed its only purpose is to be noticed and pondered over by the reader. The word becomes 'louder' or more resonant with each repetition, until finally it's impossible to ignore.
              Couldn't you apply that just about everything in the book, though? How can we definitively say one thing is important and the other's not?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by sutrix
                Couldn't you apply that just about everything in the book, though? How can we definitively say one thing is important and the other's not?
                Well, I think that applies just to literature in general rather than of Leaves specifically, no?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by fearful_syzygy
                  Originally posted by sutrix
                  Couldn't you apply that just about everything in the book, though? How can we definitively say one thing is important and the other's not?
                  Well, I think that applies just to literature in general rather than of Leaves specifically, no?
                  You got me. I know jack shit about literature. As far as open ended, multi-faceted narratives go (book or film or otherwise), though, yes, you're quite right.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sutrix
                    Originally posted by fearful_syzygy
                    As I believe I suggested to keysersoze ages ago, perhaps the reason no-one's been able to agree on what the pieces/pisces thing means is that it doesn't actually mean anything other than what you attribute to it, or indeed its only purpose is to be noticed and pondered over by the reader. The word becomes 'louder' or more resonant with each repetition, until finally it's impossible to ignore.
                    Couldn't you apply that just about everything in the book, though? How can we definitively say one thing is important and the other's not?
                    As both of you note, this problem is why, in a couple of places, I've said that this novel is really more interested in forces and dynamics than in content. By that, I mean that while there ARE narratives (and thus stories) here which, of course, depend on content, what's REALLY interesting--and crucial to our finally understanding this book--are the textual physics of the novel. What grounds these texts? What is the narrative stratum that, no matter what else is going on, remains solid, unchanged? In (my VERY elementary understanding of) Einsteinian terms, what's THE ONE constant in this universe called of Leaves? From my first days with this novel, I've been convinced that the more "outside" this novel we can get, the better chance we have of coming to some understanding of it. The ideas of echo and reverberation (nice pun, Mr. Syzygy) are both prominent ideas in the novel AND the reasons we readers have so much trouble with it. Understanding those facts is a way of clearing our way to establishing Ultimate Causes.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by John B.
                      Understanding those facts is a way of clearing our way to establishing Ultimate Causes.
                      Yes, which is precisely what Zampanò says we might even be able to trace on p. 193, just before talking about the 'aftermath of meaning', which, I suppose, is precisely what an echo is.

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                      • #12
                        This is interesting - especially to an audiophile - so just an aside, if I may.

                        Sutrix provides a nice primer on echo/delay/reverb from a musician's perspective. What's interesting to me about those definitions, vis-a-vis of Leaves, is how the two effects, in music, seem directly transferable to the effects MZD creates in literature.

                        At the risk of stating the obvious (it's happened before, I'll grant you) - the echo effect and reverb effect Sutrix explicates are created artificially, in a little box, by stage and studio musicians to fool the ear into thinking the room the music is playing in is larger in dimension and more spacious than it really is (echo) or that there are more acoustic reflections than there really are (reverb). A direct correlation of intent and effect with MZD's layers of artifice as literary device creating a "bigger" or "more multi-faceted" interpretive content to HOL than may actually be there.

                        I know that's probably not new to anyone, but it is never tiresome to me to reconsider MZD's purpose or method in employing what can at first appear to be obvious devices, yet which when examined take on a new significance by relating to another medium. Whether he plans this--or whether the open-endedness of such concepts as echoes merely invites this thread's kind of correlation with music--I can't say.

                        Finally, I would say echo and reverberation per se are, to my mind, pretty much the same thing (sound bouncing), with the difference being in wavelength, distance traveled by the wave as reflected from the wave source (which results in a varying number of repetitions per unit of time) and other physics stuff I won't pretend to understand. But essentially, in music reverb is "fast multiple echo" and echo is simply echo, until you shorten the delay period to the point where the sound echoed is directly "on top" of the original, resulting in an artificially "fattened" sound.

                        If Mollecular were here, he could tell this tale better - he's an electric musician and an egghead.

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                        • #13
                          Hello.

                          Since my opinion was actually solicited , and since maybe posting to this thread will lure John B. back, I'd like to add a few thoughts and echoes to the present discussion.

                          First, JB, I really like the phrase "textual physics," and I plan on using it soon. To be specific, it sounds like you're talking about "narrative physics", but my interest in the novel's issue with representation as a consequence of merging digital and analog modalities has a lot to do with physics and other mathematical notation systems. For the present paper I'm working on, I don't think I'll be able to fit it in, but eventually I want to try to draw in comparisons to alchemical notation. Anyway, as you say, science people tend not to appreciate these kinds of appropriations, but we can do it anyway. For my purposes, textual physics might be a way of talking about the kind of forces within a text that produce what Donald Ault calls a holograph(em)ic reading in which a text reveals itself to contain graphically the visual information it describes.

                          Anyway, the idea of echo and reverberation do make a pretty big difference in guitar sound, but is there any parallel phenomena relating to light? It seems that reflection and refraction are likely choices, but maybe that's too obvious.

                          One thing that struck me in thinking about how delay and reverb work electronically is the sense in which they are most effective or "true" when produced by analog effects. As any gearhead knows, tube amps simply sound better than their digital counterparts. Its difficult to say why, but clearly an overdriven tube makes a better crunch than a digital mixed, "sterilized" crunch.

                          One crucial difference in analog vs. digital recording (or transmission, I suppose) is the loss of quality. In the case of distortion, a digital device has to mix in the crackle that is inherent to the tube device.

                          On to reverb. My first decent amp (which was really pretty lame, to be honest), had a built in reverb effect which it somehow produced by running the sound through a series of springs. I know there were several large springs bolted into the floor of the amp, because when I shook it enough, they would collide and rattle to produce cool space ship noises. The amp itself was all digital, but I believe its correct to call the effect itself analog in that it literally passed the sound over a surface which produced the reverberation effect.

                          My current amp is much more powerful, and it ostensibly offers me much greater control through its all-digital onboard effects. Don't get me wrong, my new amp kicks the old one in the face, but there is something stale or overprocessed about the sound of its reverb.

                          My new amp also has digital delay (echo) built in, and its my understanding that delay as an effect pretty much has to be digital to be practical. What's important about a digital echo is that it reproduces the initial sound exactly, adding in a calculated degradation to simulate actual distances and actual sounds. Just like digital photography or digital whatever, the medium is capable of reproducing the message exactly the same way thousands of times.

                          To apply all this to the metaphor of reading, over-reading, re-reading, I think that part of HoL's message (if it's safe to make such designations) may be something like my appreciation and nostalgia for the "authenticity" of the analog. While many (including me) have been eager to label this work digital or hypertextual for its complexity, I think it's very much about the authenticity of the analog, and perhaps its nostalgic for that mode of representation as such.

                          On the other hand, the layers of aporia the novel presents us with are in fact calculated "degradations" (if the sonic metaphor still holds), so the artifact of the novel is digitally derived, and our reading process of it only plays along with the illusion of decay (again, sonic, not biological) that it creates, just as when we hear Depeche Mode or Charlotte Church singing, we can realize intellectually that they're most likely not performing inside a bathroom or cathedral, but we enjoy the sound as if we were because our experience with those types of sounds leads us to fall for the illusion gratefully.

                          I've really got to start writing this paper . . .

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MoleculaRR
                            On the other hand, the layers of aporia the novel presents us with are in fact calculated "degradations" (if the sonic metaphor still holds), so the artifact of the novel is digitally derived, and our reading process of it only plays along with the illusion of decay (again, sonic, not biological) that it creates, just as when we hear Depeche Mode or Charlotte Church singing, we can realize intellectually that they're most likely not performing inside a bathroom or cathedral, but we enjoy the sound as if we were because our experience with those types of sounds leads us to fall for the illusion gratefully.
                            Yes, just like we know right off the bat that Zampano is blind, but enjoy (well, that's the wrong word) his thesis on the film anyway.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MoleculaRR
                              My first decent amp (which was really pretty lame, to be honest), had a built in reverb effect which it somehow produced by running the sound through a series of springs.
                              Spring reverb! It's like hearing about someone who remembers the same brand of buggy whip you used to use!

                              Great comments though - as I had predicted, Mollecularr brings both worlds to bear on the idea.

                              He, like, says what we're all thinking.

                              The idea of delay/reverb/echo vis-a-vis analog vs. digital gets to be rather thick wading, but still seems ripe with possibilities. This is a kind of re-writing of sound on the same physical space - (palimpsest?) echoes upon echoes - that to me does constitute a compelling analogy to MZD's use of literary echoes upon echoes - beginning with the tolling of old myths, which reverberate through the ages, to religion and convention, which themselves intertwine and produce - yes - the feedback in the form of the modern (dare I say it?) novel, a questioning and searching of these reverberations, echoes and distortions for their true - analog? nostalgic? - significance in the here and now.

                              What the hell am I talking about?

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