The Sound of People

The easiest way to experience the sound of people…

Of hearing talking as music, speaking as a tune, the rhythm and melodic pattern their words make is to listen to a language you can’t understand being spoken.

Watch a foreign film without subtitles and just listen to the sound of the language.

If you’re an English-speaker and you’d like to hear English as though it was foreign language, and listen to the sound of it – the following video is genius:

How English Sounds to Non-English Speakers – the script for the film can be found on tumblr: Brian and Karl: We get a lot of emails for the script of Skwerl

Another way of hearing the sound of people, of the people you know, around you, in RL…

Is when you’re tired.

The kind of tired where your mind can’t take anything more in – it’s closed for business, done for the day, down for maintenance.

The kind of tired where if someone talks to you, you can’t hear the words they’re saying, but you can hear them making a sound – what does that sound sound like?

Does their talking sound like a dog barking, a cat meowing, a mouse squeaking, a bee buzzing?

Do their words flow like waves on a beach, a babbling brook, a sudden rushing flood coming at you and sweeping you off your feet, a whirlpool sucking you in and under, a bottle of carbonated water being opened, water dripping from a tap?

Is it a droning sound – humming, vibrating. A car idling, a drill drilling, a lawn mower going backwards and forwards, back and forth, a buzz saw sawing, a motor scooter putt-putting along a long flat road. A washing machine… which cycle?

Is it a rat-tat-tat like a machine gun or a ye olde typewriter, a woodpecker pecking wood, someone knock-knocking insistently on your door while you’re pretending to be out of town for the next month. The tapping of a pen or pencil absentmindedly, the drumming of fingers on a flat surface when nervous, bored, impatient.

Do you find it soothing to hear their voice even though you can’t hear their words or do you find it poking, prodding, prickly?

Do you want them to keep making that sound or wish they’d stop?

Carlos Pinana and Waed Bouhassoun in musical dialogue concert – Flamenco et Soufisme

Last night I had a case of the tired mind which can’t take anymore in and hears people talking as soundwaves.

I was watching an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld talking to Seth Rogen. I did understand one or two words here and there, but most of it was one tune interacting with another.

Seth Rogen’s voice sounded like a low mumble, mumbling warmly in the distance – a bass guitar strumming. While Jerry sounded more like a lead guitar… getting caught up in a solo, riffing, leading the tune to where he wanted it to go.

The title of their duet sounded to me like it could be called – Myth-making.

I said as much out loud about the myth-making and slightly annoyed my partner with my version of the sound because he was listening properly, hearing the words, and I wasn’t. He heard a different sound to the one I heard, and mine sounded wrong to him. Out of tune, out of key, tone deaf.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the sound of other people, how you hear them, their music, tune, rhythms, etc, is influenced by your own sound, your inner soundtrack, your music, rhythm, tune – what you’re tuned into, and how you tune in, what you tune out, what turns you on and what doesn’t.

How you hear other people will be different from how others hear those same people.

And how you hear yourself will be different to how others hear you.

It’s like music – I can’t listen to Jazz. I’ve tried because it is supposed to be an amazing sound, but it just makes my synapses snap like wire which has been put under too much pressure. When someone sounds like Jazz to my ears… I just want to get as far away from the sound as possible, turn it off, tune them out or stab my eardrums with a pen or pencil.

There are a couple of pigeons outside of my window right now, they’re making classic pigeon noises – coo coo roo – over and over. Every time I hear that particular sound it reminds me of the – woo woo – of Sympathy for the Devil.

The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil (Official Lyric Video)

That’s a really good song to listen to if you want to hear people talking as music because it’s one of those songs where the lyrics are spoken-sung.

The tune is the way the “Devil” expresses himself, it’s a rather mesmerising song, lures you in, makes your body move to its rhythm even if you don’t want to be moved by it.

Manipulators and influencers have a way of speaking, the sound of which can get you to dance to their tune like a puppet on a string.

Sometimes it’s the sound of what they’re saying which gets to us, hooks us – they’re singing a song we want to hear, telling us what we want to believe is true.

Sometimes it’s not what they’re saying but how they’re saying it which affects us – maybe they’re singing a sad sad song which reaches into our body, grabs our heart and squeezes it, won’t let go. Perhaps they’re whistling a happy tune, like a Pied Piper it’s so catchy that we follow them without caring where it leads us.

That particular video is also excellent because it shows you how to hear music when reading words.

If you can’t be bothered to watch the video (which is often how I feel when someone uses a video in a post or article), here’s a great quote from an author who teaches other authors how to write (I’ve never read any of his work because I avoid reading those kinds of books, listening to that kind of music):

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

Gary Provost

Different authors have different soundtracks which go with their style of writing and self-expression.

Again… how they sound to us will depend upon how their sound mixes and mashes up with our own sound.

Some writers have a plodding rhythm, each word sounds like a weighty step taken, heavy boots in gravel, in mud… getting stuck in the mud and having to heave itself out to take the next step, then the process repeats itself. Ugh, thump, squelch, ugh, thump, squelch. While reading that writer you might feel as though you’re slogging through dense matter.

Other writers have a light, playful, skip, hop, jump, giggling and laughing feet running barefoot through dewy grass tune accompanying their work. When reading their writing you feel uplifted and carried along by the fun they’re having expressing themselves. You get a buzz from their buzzing.

Think of a writer whom you love to read and now think of a musician whose music you love to hear. Have you ever listened to that musician while reading that writer? Would they go well together? Would the music be the sound those words are making?

It’s similar to when you’re watching a film or TV show and there’s background music merging with the story and words being spoken by the characters. Sometimes the music is so loud it drowns out the dialogue as though the words don’t matter, it’s all about the sound.

Some characters have theme tunes… sometimes it suits the character perfectly, other times it’s jarring, doesn’t make sense.

In one drama I watched they gave the lead male this tune which I found so delicious to listen to that I ended up liking the character just because of it (I didn’t watch the whole drama because I got tired of hearing the sound of the female lead, not the tune they gave her character, not the actress’ voice, but her script of me-me-me-poor-me which turned the drama into a heavy booted tromp through melodrama molasses):

Zza Zza Com mi – Do Jae’s Serenade

Now think of when you listen to someone talking – what music would go with their talking?

If they’re telling a happy story – can you hear the happy tune it is making? If they’re speaking about their sadness – can you hear the sad music they’re speaking?

Of course it depends on your mood too – If you’re tired when someone is excited, their excitement might sound annoying, grating, irritating… then again it might be the very sound you needed to hear to wake you up and get you dancing in the streets.

It also depends on how true the words someone is speaking are to what they are feeling.

There are people whose words clash with their tone of voice. Their happy words aren’t playing a happy tune, instead the tune is angry – passive-aggressive people make that kind of music.

People who are trying to appear fine when they’re not, who say “I’m fine” but the sound of their I’m fine is not fine – lyrics which don’t go with the tune or two songs played at the same time, one is a ditty, the other is a dirge. Which do you hear?

Some people say all the right things to say but the background music is all wrong for the right things said.

People-pleasers sound like that (I’ve been a people-pleaser and… that’s why the people-pleasing often went all kinds of wrong. It’s also why I resented doing what I’d convinced myself I should be doing – my words and music didn’t go together, I wasn’t in tune with myself).

People who are trying to be who they are not, sound like that. Those desperately trying to be a positive person may have a undercurrent of frantic music. You’re not sure why but every time you hear them speak a positive affirmation you feel anxious, nervous as though the Jaws’ theme accompanies their words.

Narcissists also sound like that – they’re adept at figuring out what people want to hear and saying it, but if you listen carefully, don’t get caught up in just the sound of the words and what you want to hear, but also listen to the tune the speaker is playing, you’ll hear the disconnect, the manipulation.

“Hear how the use of the wrong word wakes you from your reading spell.”

Gary Provost

And the wrong kind of music going with the use of right words can break you out of a spell the speaker of words is trying to cast upon you.

This post is inspired by a comment chat I had on my previous post. Here’s my side of the chat which sparked some questions which prompted me to write this post:

“Yes, that’s a great point about listening to the vibes, picking up on the other forms of speaking which people do with their emotions, bodies, energy, and listening to those.

My mother was like this heavy grey fog, a pea-souper – it was hard to breathe in her company. She used to talk non-stop, often saying the same things over and over, a mostly negative mantra of bitching, complaining, criticising, whining, and there was never an end to it, it went around in a vicious circle, it didn’t matter what the subject was it always ended up in the same place and then it would begin again.

Over time my ears would hurt when I was in her company, I couldn’t actually hear what she was saying, it became noise, white noise, static similar to when you’re trying to tune a radio.

It’s funny, I just remembered that one of her anecdotes of her early days of acting was about when she was an extra, she and the other extras would have to simulate being in conversation in the background of the scene, and they were instructed not to have proper conversations but to say “banana banana banana” repeatedly in a low mumble. That’s kind of how I ended up hearing her non-stop talk, as though it was the same word repeated in a mumble, except she had this strident piercing voice so it wasn’t relaxing and was painful to the eardrums.

I went through a period of not being able to hear words, instead I heard people talking as music, tunes, sound waves, instruments – similar to Peter and The Wolf. It was a weird experience but afterwards I viewed it as a way to perceive patterns. It works with reading as well, the sound the words make when you read them and the pattern of the sound.”

from the comment section of Building a Wall in Front of a Wall

I mentioned Peter and the Wolf…

Peter and The Wolf – with an introduction explaining which tunes and which instruments belong to which character in the story

I used to listen to that a lot as a child. I loved the sounds and how it sounded. It taught me to listen to the sounds of people, as well as the sounds of animals, machines, and the world around me as music.

I’m not sure exactly when I started to listen to the sounds I made. I do recall moments when I would hear the tune of my voice as I spoke and… I didn’t like the sound of it.

I’m not talking about listening to a recording of the sound of my voice – that is invariably a weird experience.

I mean the sound I heard as I talked. Especially when it was complaining, criticising, or just droning on and on telling my mother what she wanted to hear to appease her, give her validation, etc.

Growing up with narcissists tends to provoke self-scrutiny because you’re constantly being scrutinised, watched, analysed and dissected into parts which you’re mostly told by them to get rid of – get rid of your ego, get rid of your pride, get rid of your needs, get rid of your self, get rid of that bit of garbage they’ve dumped onto you and told you is yours, and so on.

My tone tune changes when I’m in conversation with a narcissist, narcissistic person, rigid thinker, or other type who is completely disinterested in anyone else, in anything anyone has to say and who only want to hear the sound of their own voice pontificating.

While all narcissists are different, they all do tend to sound to me like they’re singing opera. Both of my parents had a thing about opera, the association grew out of that.

Before I shut up and press publish post, I thought I’d give you a few question to (ignore) answer:

What is your personal you-being-you soundtrack?

What’s your favourite song – does it remind you of you? Do you listen to it when you forget yourself?

What’s your favourite sound?

Has your tune changed as you’ve changed? Have your favourite songs and sounds changed as you have?

What sound do you hear when you think of yourself?

Do you have different sounds for different moods, activities?

What does happiness sound like to you? What does sadness sound like to you? What does anger sound like to you?

What song do you sing when you speak?

What music do you make when you write?

What is your favourite type of music – does your favourite type of person sound like your favourite music? Does your favourite activity sound like your favourite music?

What about your least favourite type of music – does your least favourite type of person sound like your least favourite type of music? Does your least favourite activity sound like your least favourite music?

Who do you love to listen to?

What does the ‘Like’ button sound like to you when you press it and when others press it on your social media posts, tweets, etc? Is it a Ka-ching, a slot machine win, a yeah-baby, a cheer, the sound of approval, a gold star being stuck on, one hand clapping, hollow-emptiness, silence after the storm, the sound of people-pleasing, Kilroy Was Here, popcorn…?

The Original Popcorn song


  1. Another great thought journey. Thank you!
    I had never really thought about the rhythm of the time of people’s speech before, but you’re right, different people DO have different “songs”. It’s something I’ll be paying closer attention to since I’m aware of it.

    That video of the couple was great. I couldn’t understand what they were saying (I have partial deafness, scarred left ear drum from Scarlet Fever when I was a baby, so I have trouble understanding spoken words a lot of times) but the flow and intensity at certain points have a general idea of what was being communicated.

    I love that Peter and the Wolf video. King Ben likes to watch the original Fantasia and that’s a fantastic movie for showing music telling a story.

    That popcorn song sounds very familiar. It got my toes tapping.

    I like the questions. I can only answer one without thinking about it, so I copied them into a draft post. Sometime during the week when Ben isn’t “Grandma…Grandma… Grandma!” wanting me to script with him, the dog in my face, the TV blasting a movie on repeat ( Corpse Bride is the current choice) when I have enough quiet to hear myself, I will see if I have answers to those questions.



    • Thank you, Angie 🙂

      Cool, I’m intrigued to read your answers if and when you have time to share them. I tend to ask the sort of questions which are of the “I need time to think and reflect about that” type because those are the sort of Q’s I love as they take me on thought journeys 😀

      A while ago you mentioned viewing your fibromyalgia as a gift in a way which made you focus on fewer things and become happier with yourself. Partial deafness can be viewed similarly, allowing you to focus on more than words – words can be very distracting and aren’t always necessary. Sometimes people use words to hide what they really mean – not hearing the words clearly can be revealing of what is being hidden by the words.

      The sounds of your home sounds rather lovely and loving 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always love rock and metal music, the kind most would label as noise. My favorite album was Downward Spiral from NIN. The screeching of the electric strings or any metal music dissipate my anger sometimes, it cools me down. Another favorite album was GN’R, Lies. There was also electronic music I like, Depeche Mode 101,was also on my favourite list. I like the song Sympathy for the Devil also, the GN’R version. This was from my younger days.

    Aside form English rock, I listen to mainstream Canto pop. I liked and listened to various singers but my favourite was Lesile Cheung and later I found a female voice that I love so much I would call her my favourite female voice, Faye Wong. This was only later when she developed her own style. In fact, the first time I heard her hit song Rouge, I thought her voice mimicked that of Sandy Lam. Opps, excuse me, I’m babbling stuff that is probably hard to relate for you.

    Between 17-19, I’d worked in a music shop and got to listen to all kinds of music. For awhile, I enjoyed music by Kitaro, his album Dreams is very dreamlike lol. Ehm, let’s not bore you with these stuff, I thought I was just going to answer some of your questions in this post.

    There isn’t a you-being-you song so far. My character has been thru stages of metamorphosis. But maybe there is a song I strongly relate to its lyrics, the Cantonese version of the theme song from Infernal Affairs. HAve you watch that film or its Hollywood version The Departed?

    I love the sound of the sea, the waves. The song Hurt sounds sad to me, I like both the NIN and Johnny Cash version. Anger sounds like any music from Metallica, or rather when I got very angry those days with my mother and couldn’t vent it out, I always listen to Metallica from my Walkman, full blast and didn’t care if it damage my ears. And you know what, those times their music could actually put me to sleep. Being angry is a tired thing really lol.

    The Like button has been to almost all the sounds you mentioned above (I felt that in my Insta days) depending on who is pressing the it 😉


    • Thank you for sharing, Reverist 🙂

      I know Kitaro, I used to have a couple of his albums, the Silk Road ones, and listened to them regularly. I went through a long phase of only listening to instrumental music. I used to have a tendency to get into arguments with lyrics so I’d just get stressed out when listening to singing unless the singing was sound without words. Instrumental music taps into a different part of the psyche, the monkey mind tends to shut up and listen.

      Btw, you’re not boring me with this stuff at all – in fact the stuff which people think will bore is usually the most interesting 😉

      I’ve seen both Infernal Affairs (the original and sequel) and The Departed. I enjoyed IA, but found The Departed to be easily forgettable.

      I’ve never had an ear for metal. I can see why people love it, how listening to it with volume cranked can be very satisfying. And hmmm… how it can be used to express your anger to others indirectly, make them feel your pain and rage. Reminds me of a couple of flats I lived in where I wanted to kill my neighbours because they played really loud music, one of them played it in the early hours of the morning. I once took a hammer and dented a brick wall in several places because of the noise, it was driving me nuts. I also did the fighting noise with noise but then I felt bad about the other neighbours whom I was disturbing. Hmmm…


  3. I don’t really have a favourite song but favourite musicians and singers – Roger Hodgson, Tom Petty, Susan Aglukark. I’m not fond of love songs, jazz (I find it difficult, like the musicians are just loudly warming up, or something) or opera, although I do like some of it.

    The “what English sounds like” video is brilliant. Listening to it was very evocative for me of the period when I couldn’t speak German, but as I began to learn, that sound wave separated out into its constituent parts, and became more and more identifiable and understood. I have also experienced falling asleep to the sound of a video or podcast – I find it quite comforting.

    Brilliant post, Ursula. 🙂


  4. Lol I agree metal music can be use to express anger to others indirectly. However, in my case, I always listen to them with ear plugs instead of speakers.

    Do you like Enigma or Gregorian music? Yes, now I remember my fav Kitaro album is called Kojiki that recorded the famous track Matsuri. Some time in my 30s, I stopped listening to Canto pop because the lyrics made me dive into sorrow and hopelessness. And I switched to plain music. Ah, I like Chris Spheeris and David Garrett too. Bach’s Air on G string, love it becos it was repeatedly play in a drama I was watching before. The instrumentalist I never listen to is Kenny G and maybe Richard Clayderman. I like piano concerto though.

    I still never exactly watch The Departed yet. Twice I had it on and I fell asleep in minutes haha… For me, I A is definitely better cos I can relate, like the polarites in my personality. When I was 19 maybe, I enrolled in the Police Academy but got out after less than a month or so 😉


    • Haha! There are a couple of films I’ve tried to watch several times (usually I only do that with a film that is a classic or a must-see and I want to know what the big deal is about), and have fallen asleep each time, so I finally gave up trying to watch them unless I want to fall asleep 😉 One was 12 Monkeys and the other one was The Sting.

      I’ve been through a Kenny G phase and a Richard Clayderman phase – the latter did a Zodiac sign suite which I found intriguing. I also went through an Enigma phase, a Vangelis phase, Jean-Michel Jarre phase, and a New Age instrumentals phase. I also really liked Candy Dulfer and went through a sax phase. It’s weird remembering all of that. I never got into Gregorian chants, but I did get into Buddhist chanting after I went to a concert in a small church, the way the sound echoes and reverberates is fascinating.

      I don’t tend to listen to music deliberately nowadays, it’s more incidental, such as music in films in TV, or when someone else is playing it. The other night there was music wafting through the night, every now and then someone has an open air concert, party or rave and the sound travels in the countryside. It’s kind of ghostly music 😉

      I do have a lot of music in my head though, some of it is just made up tunes based on what I’m doing or observing.

      Have you seen The Raid (2011 Indonesian film)?


      • Wow, I absolutely enjoyed the film!! I just watched it during my hour long journey just now. Whenever I see an image of an isolated building the one in the film, like KWC, it makes me think of the mind. The chambers in our mind, and how sometimes we got trapped in our own workings…

        The fight sequences are fantastic, the blood and gore is a thrill 😉 I haven’t seen a good action film in a while. A few scenes where the goons squad charged at the characters is haha it is like what you would see in a video game. It’s funny in a good way. The film is well shot and the soundtrack added more grip to the action part that had me so engross throughout. Finally, the ending where the brother walked back towards the building, the grin on his face makes me wonder…

        What is it about the film that you asked if I’ve seen it? Anyhow, thank you for bringing up the film 🙂


        • The film just came to mind as I was writing my reply, probably because you mentioned your stint with the Police Academy, and since you like action films… it’s a great action film 😀


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