Adultness, Aliveness, Holy Crap: JUMP FACTOR!

"Is there someone in your living room, Stephen? I hear voices in there."

I like it when my mom visits me. Something about it makes me feel very adult. I get to ask her if she wants anything to drink, I get to show her my new Jonathan Adler placemats, I get to introduce her to the hi-fi. Stuff like that. I realize that I'm not so very young anymore, but I'm still young enough to stop and marvel at exactly how old I am. Every now and then I'll just be walking down the street and:

"Holy crap,
I'm
twenty-eight

years old.
I'm
an adult."

I imagine there'll come a time when I'm no longer impressed by my age; no longer impressed by my adultness.

My mom and I were sitting in the kitchen. In the living room, Feist's Let it Die was playing at a very low volume. It was barely audible, but it existed with an uncanny realism. There were voices in there. (I wish it was really Feist. I would've walked right in there, put my arms around her, and you know what.)

"No, ma," I told her, "that's just the hi-fi. Sometimes it freaks me out."

Yes, sometimes it freaks me out. This usually happens when I'm not paying full attention to the music. Sounds enter my apartment with a startling truth. My head whips around to the origin of the sound, my eyes wide and searching for evidence.

Today, I learned that there is a term for this weirdness: "jump factor."

I discovered it in J. Gordon Holt's 1985 article, "What I Mean," recently added to the Stereophile website.

Mr. Holt writes:

"Realism," "presence," and "aliveness" are three overworked terms which baffle many readers, and for good reason — they have no definitions, except in terms of "the real thing." And to someone who doesn't remember the sound of live, unamplified instruments or voices, [How can one forget? Aren't these sounds around all the time?] "the real thing" is an equally meaningless term. To one (like myself) whose reference is live sound, realism, presence, and aliveness (interchangeable terms) describe the feeling that I am listening to actual, in-the-flesh instruments rather than their reproduction. This feeling — and it is only that — is brought on by a certain combination of aural cues which my perceptions identify as characteristic of live music.

And, then, the stuff that usually catches me off-guard and totally freaks me out:

But aliveness does not pertain exclusively to music reproduction; it includes the reproduction of such incidental sounds as page turnings, chair squeakings, and, during a quiet passage, the muted clearing of a performer's throat.

And, finally, "jump factor" — what me and me mum experienced from the kitchen:

The most apt description of aliveness that I have heard — attributed to Sheffield Records' Doug Sax — is "jump factor": Listening to music with only half your attention, you hear a noise from the speakers that sounds so much like it's in the room with you that you jump with surprise.

I don't really like the term "jump factor," though. It just sounds dorky. Once this entry's done, I don't think I'll be using it anymore. I'll have to think of something else. No offense to Doug Sax or J. Gordon.

***

From Absolute Phase to Zippy
If you follow the links from the Jump Factor article, you'll find a glossary of almost 2000 audio-related terms, which is really damn awesome.

I bet you were wondering what the vertical-Venetian-blind effect was all about.

Share | |
COMMENTS
Al Marcy's picture

Don't forget that bootleg recording made with a stereo mic hidden in the wooden leg of a woman sitting in a lawn chair in the TB section ...koff, rattle, thud, koff, koff, squeak, koff

X
Enter your Stereophile.com username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading