Rune Tunes
Commentary
Jonathan Foote
8 June 2001

The mail’s been just overwhelming! This from Dr. Beebeb D.D. Chatterboks of Pissepore, Uzistan: the good doctor, who holds several post-doctoral degrees in holistic and ana-holistic statistics, has two amateur passions: prostate massage and sound-system room treatments. In the interest of delicacy, we direct our attention to the latter. Dr. Chatterboks has made a study of runes, which, for the one or two of you out there who may not know, are ancient characters found in Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic inscriptions. Runes, which bear a resemblance to several letters of our modern alphabet, are thought to have been adapted from Helleno-Italic writing, that is, surviving fragments – household memos and shopping lists – by mostly deceased Italian women named Helen, whom Calabrians call Gina.

According to Dr. Chatterboks, one runic character, an upside-down, lower-case aitch with a vertically doubled hump, has proved especially useful in taming standing waves and comb filters, and seems also to be effective as an appetite suppressant. The walls of Dr. Chatterboks’ listening room in Uzistan are similar to the adobe of the American South-West. With the help of a cheese spreader, Dr. Chatterboks has inscribed about five hundred of these upside-down, double-hump aitches at varying angles on all four walls and reports a result superior to that of costly professional room treatments. The standing waves have walked. He’s not seen a one since the day he did his walls. As Dr. Chatterboks is hairless, he is less certain that the comb filters have likewise departed. Our Uzistani correspondent tells us that sheetrock and plaster walls lend themselves to this treatment. One simply has to scratch harder.

Correspondent Adolph Grossputz of Peculiar Pond, Minnesota reports talk in the tavern of doing away with the one-cent coin. The dear old penny. Seems they cost more to make than they’re worth. According to Mr. Grossputz, many of us have huge penny collections we’d intended to haul down to some supermarket penny-counter to cash in for dollars. Of course, says Mr. Grossputz, they haven’t made pennies of copper for ages. Some less expensive alloy. Well, he continues, it just so happens that whatever the U.S. cent’s made of resonates audibly when excited by – you guessed it! – loudspeaker output. Says Mr. Grossputz, "I have come up with the most amazing way to create a surround-sound environment on the cheap. If, that is, the listener has a whole lotta pennies. Distribute them in foot-high heaps around the sides and rear of your listening room. You’ll be amazed at the illusion of spaciousness – all those little pennies resonating, jingling…. Simply astonishing! Never mind that the string bass will take on a gamelan quality. You’ll soon adapt to these new timbres and harmonics. And dynamics? Don’t ask!"

Arabella Sinuswad of Awldedd, Norway describes a tweak not many of us would be willing to imitate. Arabella’s father, who dotes on his daughter – that’s important – runs a lumber mill. Arabella has built a listening room the size of a working dairy barn, within which she’s built two speaker enclosures – actually, her boyfriend Fasoldt did the work – of lakeside-cottage dimensions. Many of us prefer to play our sound systems with speaker grilles removed. Not so, Arabella, and you’ll soon know why. The enclosures, floor-standers in a high-gloss cherry finish, are actually empty chambers into which, through a door in the rear, local performers enter and play for Arabella and her guests, most of whom belong to the Awldedd Sonicteers, the prefecture’s audio society. No need to mention that Arabella’s the queen of the long, long, long north Norwegian night. The most discerning of the society’s audiophiles have not seen through her little ruse, though a few have remarked the stereo image’s ping-pong character.

Don’t despair, I shall return.