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May 21st, 2009

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02:19 pm - Voice workers
I've just finished listening to James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.

I already know the book, but it was a pleasure to have it read to me. I would recommend it to lovers of high class dark thrillers, but it is extremely bloodthirsty in parts. There's a nice partnership between detectives Blanchard and Bleicherd, Fire and Ice, which reminds me of Philip Marlowe and Terry Lennox in 'The Long Goodbye'.

The book was very well read by an American voice artist called Tom Stechschulte. I hadn't noticed before but Ellroy is very descriptive of voices, and each description is a new challenge to the voice artist of course: the Mexican police chief who speaks without a Mexican accent, the fifteen year old girl run away from a Minnesota Slovak family, the policeman who loses his stutter as he becomes drunker. All, all of these, he did very well with one blasted exception. One of the baddies is a rich LA property developer, who speaks with 'a cultivated Scottish accent' and is revealed to have been born in Aberdeen. Oh dear. He made James Doohan sound dangerously authentic.

emeraldsedai and I were discussing how well voice coaching has developed in the last few years, but to be honest it was as if this guy had seen a Scottish accent written down, but never heard one. A shame because every other voice he did was brilliant.

In general all the voice-work I have heard on audible has been really high class, including two novelists reading their own words (Junot Diaz and John Crowley) both were marvellous.

The two exceptions were people who were neither professional voice artists, nor reading their own words. One was a forensic psychiatrist reading a ghost-written autobiography, and the other was David Foster Wallace's widow reading some of his work. Both were almost unlistenable to, although the content was interesting. It's very distracting when the sense of the words, and the use of emphasis, don't match up. It sounds like this

It's very distracting When. The sense of the WORDS. And the useofemphasis don't: match-up.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)
It's very distracting When. The sense of the WORDS. And the useofemphasis don't: match-up.

I can't help but. Read. That in. William Shatner's voice.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I wonder if he's done any.

(checks) Fifteen - trek novels and various autobiographies - read by and written by the great man himself! Excellent. Probably won't listen to any of them, but excellent.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
I'm of two minds about the use of unique and "accurate" voices for the various characters (don't get me wrong--if you're gonna do Aberdeen, do it right, right?).

A truly excellent voice actor can illuminate the story and characters, as Simon Prebble did so brilliantly in Jonathan Strange, but less-than-brilliant talent might be better off focusing, as you say, on just getting intonation and emphasis right.

I'm listening to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series now, and the publishers made the interesting choice of having a man read the chapters told from the male POV, and a woman read the girl-chapters. The man (Michael Kramer) goes to more trouble with different character voices, but it's not much use because in the narrative parts, he sounds like a newscaster, with weird emphases and intonations. The woman reader (Kate Reading--isn't the appropriate?) makes very minor distinctions between one character and the next, but her narrative reading is much better, and I definitely feel relieved when we come to one of her chapters.

Simon Prebble in JS&MN is, sadly, an extremely hard act to follow!
[User Picture]
Date:May 22nd, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
Yes. Strong voice charactersisation is not the only good way of reading. I think if the readers makes that choice, it's a big challenge, and I admire the skill. But I've really enjoyed readings that are more narrative, like you say. But 'weird emphasis and intonations' - that puts me off, I find myself replaying the sentences in my head, trying to put them right, and it spoils the flow.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
It's very distracting When. The sense of the WORDS. And the useofemphasis don't: match-up.
I ran into something similar when I was looking for the Bible on tape; most of the ones I listened to, the readers were droning on in sing-song voices as if they were reading a telephone book rather than a narrative. But I did manage to find one in which it was being read properly, so I got that one (despite it being not my preferred translation).

I've also found in biblestudy groups, where the practice is for each person to read out a section of the passage we are studying, that most people simply don't know how to read aloud. Me, I think I do a good job, but I was never taught how to read aloud... it just seems obvious to me how one does it. So something irrational in me keeps on being astonished when people don't know how to do it; probably the same something that gets astonished when I come across people who can't sing.
[User Picture]
Date:May 22nd, 2009 08:19 am (UTC)
I don't know whether reading for sense is a matter of skill or will: is it that people who read in a flat or sing-song voice can't read differently from that, or think that's the best way, or can't hear the difference?

And yet, let us say with singing, I can hear what good singing is, I love to hear it, I regret I can't do it, but at the end of the day I just can't do it, and I never will. So perhaps it's like that.

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