THE BLOG
11/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Presidential Timbre

When you hear the sound of Barack Obama's voice, how does it make you feel? How about the sound of John McCain's voice?

Musicians talk a lot about 'timbre,' the overall quality of a sound, be it vocal or instrumental. And if pressed, most musicians will admit that the entire purpose of music, all music, is to evoke emotion.

We fuss endlessly about the words and logic our politicians use. Sometimes -- especially if the politicians are women -- we take note of their attire.

But close your eyes for a moment, and forget about the red, blue or gold power ties or the Tina Fey glasses; pay no attention to what the candidates are saying. Shut off your logical left brain and simply attend to how you feel when you hear their voices.

Pull up any video from YouTube or the candidates' official websites, look away from the screen, and just listen. Do you feel hopeful? Angry? Inspired? Depressed? Bored? Frustrated?

There was a time, pre-television, when voice mattered more in politics. In a 1939 Time Magazine article of the same title -- Presidential Timbre -- radio critics judged the vocal power of the presidential front runners of the day. Thomas Dewey was rated "Resonant, effective, his short staccato sentences ending with a punch you know is in the man himself."

One kicker the McCain campaign might want to consider: about FDR, the critic wrote, "Only other noticeable blemish: the phrase 'My friends,' which now seems like a radio trick."