It’s unfortunate (and frustrating) when brilliant artistic decisions don’t translate into other media, so today’s production notes are basically an apology to Eliezer for my failings as an audio producer.
Dumbledore’s office has a musical theme. It is the janglings and auditory punctuations of all his flibberty-widgets, and in the original text this is represented thusly: “Whirr, bzzzt, tick; ding, puff, splat“. When this is used in Chapter 39 it appears first at the top of the chapter as the introduction to Dumbledore’s office. Every time thereafter it is used during a surprised pause in Harry and Dumbledore’s conversation, starting off the action after a scene-break. The scene-break itself is a device to punctuate the last action and start us off on a new mental track, since the scene didn’t actually change.
On the page, this works very well. In audio format, it sounded a bit weird, at least to me. If I had more experience at the time perhaps I could have made it work. But many chapters back, in Harry’s first visit to Dumbledore’s office, I used Mystic Mysidia as background music to Dumbledore’s office. So I thought “Ah ha! I’ll use it again, and it will take the place of the narration of “Whirr, bzzzt, etc”! This works extra well, because all those audio cues are right after scene-breaks, which are natural points to reintroduce background music.” And it did seem to work well enough. Until we got to Chapter 119.
Having already established in our minds the link between a line of sound effect noises and a pause in the action, Eliezer uses it to full effect here. When a bomb is dropped in the conversation and everyone needs a minute to stop and absorb it, Eliezer doesn’t need to point that out specifically. He simply puts in “Beep. Tick. Whirr. Ding. Poot.” This tells us that a silence has descended over the human participants, so sudden and complete that the background sounds of the office are suddenly thrust into everyone’s awareness by contrast. And as those sounds are so firmly linked to Dumbledore himself, it also serves to remind us of the Headmaster’s absence in his former sanctum. And after that touch of sound effects Eliezer can launch right back into the dialog without missing a beat. It’s a masterful move, and I loved reading it.
But, having excised those lines of text in my audio version, there is no connection in the minds of my listeners between those sounds and shocked silences in the middle of conversations. There isn’t even a connection between those sound effect words and Dumbledore’s office. I had inadvertently destroyed what made those lines so fantastic. ARGH!!!! I couldn’t just have the Mystic Mysidia music come back in as a substitute, because background music does not call attention to itself like a line of “Beep. Tick. Whirr. Ding. Poot.” does, and therefore doesn’t associate itself to the specific action happening at that exact point in the text. If I just used the music it would sound like background music coming in again for no particular reason, rather than “Everyone fell silent in shock.” If I narrated the words “Beep. Tick. Whirr. Ding. Poot.” it wouldn’t mean anything to the listener, because I hadn’t done so when the device was first used and so no association was made. It would just be random words without meaning or emotional context. There was no way for me to recreate what Eliezer had written.
Instead I simply said out loud what those words were meant to signify. But dammit, that doesn’t even remotely compare to the artistry of the original text. So, to everyone listening, and Eliezer especially, I apologize for failing in my adaptation here. I wish it was better.