Speech, President Barack Obama

We share the gift of music with birds, whales and many animals; however, the level of sophistication in language that we have acquired is unique to the human species. Possibly, a longer evolutionary history with abstract sounds may have made musical rhythm more fundamental and deep seated in our consciousness than the higher level language processing. Hence, it is not surprising that in the past years, research has revealed great intimacy between musical rhythm and language.  I reckon that the rhythmic component of speech may give clues about various subjective and emotional qualities of speech.   

Let us consider the rhythmic aspects of the speech delivered by Barack Obama on being elected as the president of the United States. Firstly, his articulation is clear and strong, and his speed of talking is comfortably intense.  The flow of eloquent sentences laden with vision and inspiration create a sense of momentum. At the same time, the last words of his sentences end at a lower pitch, perhaps signifying stability. While his sentences have an even rhythm, these are also the words on which he lays major stress. This rhythmic structure forms a ‘base pattern’, which helps create the necessary sense of anticipation. However, he bends and shakes the structure through subtle changes to create a greater effect at certain points. Most of these actions are probably subconscious or unconscious. For example, when he refers to the outrageous comments of John Mc Cain, he faintly clips the rhythmic duration of words, as if making a suggestion that they are short-lived, if not downright misplaced. [“Senator Mc Cain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment if you think George Bush has been right 90 percent of the time”]. The rhythm of his one sentence unites with those of its successors and thus, emphasizes them; these words, in turn, reinforce the previous ones.

When I listen to him speak, his accent and his choice of words become secondary – they recede into the background. What stands out is the point he is trying to make. He employs repetitions often, in words that are not of a great importance in themselves (like ‘more’), but form the backbone of a greater idea (‘more Americans have tuition beyond your reach’). Perhaps, he intended us to not distract ourselves with the specific words in his speech, and turn our focus, instead to the spirit of his words. One may observe that compared to John Mc Cain’s oration, every sentence spoken by President Obama systematically traverses a great range of pitches. The flow of his words contains an internal rhythm that radiates steadfastness, hopefulness, passion as well as levelheadedness, diligence, persistence and triumph. When speaking passionately, president Obama projects his voice towards the audience and stays for a longer duration at higher pitches. During these moments, there is also a change in the timbre and intonation of his voice. I believe that the greatness of the speech relies at least partially on the interplay of rhythm and words; the energy of his speech exemplifies his sincere promise of change, he etches the milestones towards the goal with his simple and powerful words.

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5 thoughts on “Speech, President Barack Obama

  1. I see that you’ve been taken in by his reality distortion field; point is that people like him learn to exploit the human sub conscience for their benefit. He carefully plans his speeches in a manner that throws you, the listener off guard. He’ll drive that point home by thinking for you, by answering the doubts that form in your mind while listening you’re to him. The prose is succinct, nothing to distract you; allowing you to concentrate on the keywords which in turn have been picked with extreme care. Oh not to mention the fact that he leaves room for improvisation so that he can judge the audience’s mood and cater to it.

    In short that man is an accomplished liar. I am pretty sure about this as I’e devoted myself to studying & copying people like him.

    see these links;
    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSiQA6KKyJo
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN0SVBCJqLs
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ12vNZ5yMY

    I hope that you’ll enjoy them.

  2. From where I see, reality is relative… it is shaped by one’s experiences and their perception and response to these experiences, past and present. If someone’s reality strike you as a distortion, then you are probably not thinking along the same lines.

    So Prez. Obama thinks for all of his people (not only in the US but across the whole world), taps into ‘their sub-conscience’ for his benefit, and gives speeches that are well-planned with carefully chosen keywords. Personally, I would admire these qualities in any leader.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  3. “So Prez. Obama thinks for all of his people (not only in the US but across the whole world), taps into ‘their sub-conscience’ for his benefit, and gives speeches that are well-planned with carefully chosen keywords. ”

    Ahem, hasn’t someone been drinking the kool aid? Never trust anyone farther than you can throw them. He has a job and a duty to the citizens of his land, and that’s just about it. If he transcends that and works on a truly global level then all’s well and good.

    Never, ever presume anything on what limited input you get about a person. Judge them, trust them after you’ve managed to see inside them and can construct a coherent model detailing how they will react and behave in various situations. I am guessing you think you have that for obama, but trust me honey you don’t; nobody except for the people who interact with him daily.

    All that rhetoric has been carefully framed (like you said) to give a certain picture, how far that picture is real is something that you don’t know. So, please, don’t presume on it.

    I may not be thinking along your lines but I’ve learnt that it’s better in such cases to just sit back and observe.

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