Sounds Like Titanic
Jessica Chiccehito Hindman
Contributed by Greta Venegas
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Part 3
Summary

This chapter intriguingly kicks off with the narrator’s first National TV performance on PBS. The auditorium is filled to capacity, with nearly a thousand fans who are — as The Composer describes — ‘hardcore’. The Composer’s Ensemble comprises of fourteen musicians: six violinists, one flute player, three cellists, two percussionists, and The Composer at a grand piano. As it was The Composer’s norm, the mics were off, and one sound tech complains that he is not getting anything. He does not seem to figure out why he is not getting anything, but every member of the Ensemble understand what was going on. Hindman goes on to talk about the panic attacks, and specifically describing her first as the one you would feel once the bear has already caught you and begun eating you; the panic of someone with no chance of survival, in the last moments of consciousness, when neither fight nor flight will help (Hindman, 2019, p. 154).

While in the RV driving through Arkansas, the narrator talks about a book she was reading, All the King’s Men. As the book begins, the narrator, Jack Burden, offers his sardonic description of Willie Stark, who pretends to be the politician, Huey Long; it describes how Stark is a master of deceiving his audience, giving a speech about how he is not giving a speech. At the same time, The Composer is reading a book, Master and Commander, and he goes on to talk in excitement about how the Master and Commander can kill anyone he wants.

Hindman talks about how she applied for a job at The New York Times and got employed as an intern. Despite being given a hard task of redoing work she had done initially, the boss compliments her for being an easy person to work with (Hindman, 2019, p. 164), to which she appreciates (as her boss was not the kind of person to give compliments). But as years go by, the narrator realizes that such a statement was more of a warning — realizing that The Composer also praises her in a similar fashion. 

The Composer’s ensemble performs live on the home shopping channel, QVC, and folks at home begin to take notice of her. Again, Hindman describes how — while performing live on QVC — she plays her violin in front of a dead microphone while the CD does the work. After the performance, the RV encounters challenges as The Composer and his ensemble are warned on the insecurity of the area and their need to keep safe.

Next, the narrator delves into a more serious topic: politics. The Composer goes on to ask Hindman about who she thinks will win the presidential elections that would take place in six weeks’ time. As Kim (a pennywhistle star working for The Composer) and Harriet (a violinist) join the conversation, they discuss terrorism in Iraq, which the narrator protests saying there were no terrorists in Iraq. They also talk about the 9/11 attacks and where most of the hijackers were from. The Composer also poses a question about whether it was true that presidents are always on the road. As they proceed with their tour, they criss-cross paths with both campaigns and realize they are selling the same thing as the presidential candidates — that is to “listen to us, we say, and you will feel safer and calmer, more relaxed in a world full of unspeakable dangers” (Hindman, 2019, p. 178). 

The book goes on to describe how music can shape geography. Hindman narrates how she recalls driving with Debbie and Morris, a flutist and violinist working for The Composer’s ensemble. Morris insisted that they listen to sixteenth-century Spanish court music. His favorite track on the CD is a vocal ballad called ‘Rodrigo Martinez’, and he turns it up to full volume and puts it on repeat. Debbie pointed out that the music sounded like they were singing ‘Rodrigo My Penis’, and it made Hindman and Debbie sing in gleeful fake baritones which irk Morris to the point he annoyingly switches the music off.

Hindman also narrates The Composer’s dance with Kim to the Santana song ‘Oye Como Va’ while on the boat. She also goes on to talk about another American Composer, Aaron Copland, who was amused when people told him that they heard the beauty of Appalachia in his music. Like The Composer’s song titles — ‘Atlantic Sunrise’, ‘Starlight of Acadia’, ‘Ocean’s Cliff’ — people thought the music had been composed to fit a specific geographical inspiration, when in fact the music was composed first, and the geographical title being an afterthought. The title’s of The Composer’s compositions shared the same marketing strategy as flavors of herbal tea: Soothing; Energizing; Sleepytime; and Tummy Tamer (Hindman, 2019, p. 183).

The narrator moves onto talking about Nicole, Hindman’s college friend, who teases Hindman about how she should wear an adult diaper due to her frequent bathroom visits during the concert. The conversation irks Hindman, making her feel uncomfortable because Nicole belongs to an elite group of students possessing extreme natural abilities. A few months later, as she visits Nicole, Hindman realizes that even the most-privileged, the most-talented, the most-destined-for-success of your classmates are all, in one way or another, struggling.

After the Hindman’s internship ends, a college friend connects her to a research job, and she gets a position to work at MTV. During this time, she realizes that many young teenage girls in the US are suffering as a result of teenage pregnancies, and their lives are put on-hold so they could provide for their children. In other words, this potentially leads to their dreams and careers being put on-hold, or even shuttered. The narrator holds a conversation with some of them and finds out how privileged she has been, despite her struggles to raise tuition fees. Hindman goes on to narrate her book-reading experience with Kim while in the RV, where a religious argument between the two ensues. Kim believes that the narrator says “Allah is God”, and protests with rage before throwing down the book and stomping to the back of the RV, slamming the door of The Composer’s room behind her.

Analysis

Hindman expounds on the multiple incidences of fakery by The Composer and his ensemble — while bringing this theme to life. She narrates their experience performing on PBS live TV, with mics switched off (as per their norm). Symbolism is used to express the first panic attack she experienced while on-stage, likening it to how one would feel when being eaten by a bear after being caught — the fear. 

The narrator also touches on those serious issues affecting the U.S. at the time — that is, the theme of politics. Hindman brings out this theme and delves further into the events leading to the 9/11 attacks; she believes that a country cannot be invaded by terrorists because of some made-up imaginary reason. It also showcases how the U.S. experienced political instability after the attacks and how the citizens needed change and peace by voting for the right presidential candidate (Hindman, 2019, p. 178). 

The theme of the plight of women has also been covered in this chapter. During her work assignment with MTV, she talks about the struggles young teenage and pregnant girls go through in society. Despite her struggles to raise money for her own tuition fees, she acknowledges that pregnant teens undergo more life challenges as they lack the opportunity she has.

Lastly, Hindman touches on the theme of religion. The narrator uses this theme in her memoir to show the divide that exists, particularly between Christianity and Islam. During Hindman and Kim’s argument, the former believes that acts of terrorism have more to do with politics than religion while Kim reiterates how Muslims do not believe in God; Hindman argues that they do, although they worship Allah. (Hindman, 2019, p. 197). This theme is essential in our current society as there exists a religious divide where everyone believes in his or her own “religion” while disregarding other people’s beliefs.

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