You are probably familiar with the Mozart Effect, but have you heard about the Mozart Effect Effect?! We’ve all heard the story: listening to Mozart makes you smarter! You will test better! Your babies will be brilliant! You will smash the SATS! Listening to Mozart every day will give you a leg up above all of the others! My mother was definitely a proponent of this adventure; “if you can play classical music, then how come you can’t do well in math! Mozart is supposed to make you smart”. Thanks, mom. What she- and a lot of other people- missed was that this simply isn’t true. One group of coeds had a slight boost to a spatial temporal task after a few minutes of Mozart, but it had absolutely nothing to do with intelligence as a whole. It became a game of telephone that took over the country – and the world. Hearsay and unscrupulous journalism birthed an ever-endearing myth. People I work with are still telling me that playing classical music for my students is going to “make them behave smarter”. Oof. A former governor of Georgia mandated that all babies born in the state would be given a Mozart recording at birth. People got carried away on the dream of future prosperity; do this simple thing now and reap the benefits for years to come. People were duped, and unwilling to accept the truth.
The Mozart Effect Effect was just one of the many things that I learned about while enjoying Sounds Like Titanic. Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, a twenty-something from West Virginia with a dream to play violin and a crippling need for college tuition, embarked on a delightfully weird journey: she, and several others, toured the country for years “playing” along to pre-recorded muzak-esque backing tracks foisted onto the adoring masses by an enigmatic man known only as “The Conductor”. She does not name names, and it’s a fairly easy search to find out who this man is, but I can say with certainty that I have also come across this man and hooey, her observations are true.
Hindman tackles it all with humor and sincerity. Her voice is clear and sharp; I finished this memoir feeling like I had truly gotten to know her. I only wish that she had read the audio book herself- or at least hired a different performer. This narrator is, no hyperbole, dreadful. She mispronounces dozens of proper nouns (she says Beyonce no less than three different ways), plays fast and loose with attempts at “character voices” once we learn that Hindman is from Appalachia, randomly drops and switches the voices while narrating as the same person, makes a mess of reciting rap lyrics, and-most egregiously- goes on an extended tear in a racist accent that is supposed to be “Chinese”. What would have been a five-star experience was seriously tainted by the horrendous narrator.
Sounds Like Titanic felt familiar; like I was reading my own old journals or commiserating with old friends from my performing days. I eagerly await another piece from Hindman; but for the love of everyone involved- don’t let this narrator take down another great listen!