Throughout the development of
radio and television, a main obstacle to good sound quality has been
unwanted background noise. In technical terms, we aimed
for a good "signal to noise ratio" which was measured in decibels.
Such noise could be
the hiss of valve amplifiers, the "surface noise" of disc
recordings, rumble from turntable motors, magnetic tape hiss, and
so on. Medium and long wave transmission also introduced lots of
crackles and whistles.
modern FM transmission and digital recording, these noise levels
have been almost eliminated. But it seems that some of our
programme producers and directors just cannot stand this silent
backgound. They have at their disposal a battery of electronic
drum machines and automatic rhythm units, with which they bombard us
some of the most appalling sounds. These can range from the
mildly irritating to the positively maddening.
BBC news bulletins
have those throbbing deep bass drums, which persist for up to a minute
and a halfat the start, in the middle and at the end of each half-hour
programme. They seem to be pitched at a frequency that resonates
with every thing in the room including our chest cavities.
Could they be approaching "infrasound" which is known to be
harmful? ITV news seems to bring in
drums quite randomly in any part of the programme. Channel 4
news stays remarkably drum-free.
"actuality" and "makeover" programmes tend to be the worst, but some
documentaries and dramas have been so bad that we have abandoned
viewing. At times we have even tried viewing silently with
subtitles. Our mute button is the one most used and the
first to wear out, not only to silence adverts and sport, but also
these accursed drums. Sometimes we find ourselves viewing with a
thumb continually covering this button.
producers never heard of background music? I remember a
programme from the Chelsea Flower Show. One would think if any
backgound were needed, a light oirchestral one would be
appropriate. But no. We had to have this loud clashing and
banging of drums, Can someone tell me why?
I wonder sometimes if there is something more sinister behind the use
of these drums. Along with the weird animated logos, could they
be some kind of "IPCRESS File" conditioning, to numb our minds
and turn us into better consumers so that we borrow and spend
more? Brave new world here we come! Beware - if you don't
notice the drums, it may already be too late for you.
Thank goodness for
Radio 4 with its present ow noise level, and a hope that it remains so.