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November 20th, 2009


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02:14 pm - Voices on audio
I have been listening to audio books for about three years now. I think in all that time there have only been three where the reading spoiled my enjoyment. The overall quality of modern voice work is excellent. Nowadays actors are really good at tailoring their voices. Voice coaching has become a science - linguists understand the way vowels change, and tutors can coach actors until they can reproduce any voice, it seems.

I've also enjoyed books read by their authors. I've listened to books read by John Crowley, Junot Diaz, and Richard Dawkins for example. Without exception they were effective, and Diaz did some brilliant accents. Perhaps an author is so well entered into his or her words that they don't need to be specially trained to make the book live.

The three where the reading spoiled the story were read by people without modern voice training, who were also not the authors. This is Water by David Foster Wallace was read by his wife, as he had died. I also listened to a fairly poor autobiography of a criminal psychologist (Helen Morrison) - she read her 'own' words, but the book had been ghost-written for her, and you could tell by the clumsy way she read the sentences, not knowing where to put the stresses.

And the third book, which I have come to a halt mid-way through this week, is The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes. I think it's an old recording, made many years ago. The book is set in Jack the Ripper's London, so the characters are lower class cockney types. The reader is a cultivated American lady. This is absolutely not a criticism 'Americans can't do British accents'. Most can, some brilliantly. I think however this recording was made before modern communications made it commonplace for us to converse internationally, and before modern voice coaching was in place. She mixes up lots of different accents, such as Yorkshire vowels and Cockney inflections. Honestly, it makes Dick Van Dyke sound like Meryl Streep.

But anyway - only three failures in three years isn't bad is it? I certainly would continue to get books read by their authors, and books read by modern trained actors are always well delivered.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:altariel
Date:November 20th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
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Have you heard a good recording of Paradise Lost?
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From:communicator
Date:November 20th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
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Yes, one of my all time favourite audio books is Paradise Lost read by Anton Lesser. I have never managed to sit and read it through in text, but I thought this version was utterly brilliant. Lesser isn't too outgoing or Brian-Blessedy if you know what I mean.
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From:altariel
Date:November 21st, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I think I'm going to treat myself to that, because I'm never going to manage to sit and read through it.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:November 20th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
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Some people just don't know how to read aloud. I run into this at biblestudies where the practice is for members of the group to read a section of the passage we're studying, and then it's the turn of the next person. Some are better than others, and some people are just painful in the way they stumble over the words; and I don't just mean the biblical names; almost everyone stumbles over them.

Then there was the difficulty I had in finding a decent version of the Bible on tape; practically all of the versions I sampled were so lacklustre that they might as well have been read by a computer as a human being. Oh, all the words were there, but they had no meaning; it wasn't a narrative at all, just a memory-aid.

I wonder if part of the problem is that people don't know how to read aloud because they haven't had enough good examples of reading aloud when they were children? My father was very good at reading aloud to us (hence, I heard the Narnia stories before I could read).
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From:communicator
Date:November 20th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Yes. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who read in a very stilted way, for example stressing the wrong words, are so nervous that they aren't able to concentrate on the meaning at all.

BTW audible have got a selection of MP3 audio bibles, both whole and individual books, for sale. I am not sure if they can be purchased from Australia.

Edited at 2009-11-21 08:21 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:November 21st, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure if one can purchase from Audible if one uses Linux; they appear to require special download software, which of course won't run on Linux.
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From:emeraldsedai
Date:November 20th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Honestly, it makes Dick Van Dyke sound like Meryl Streep

Hee! Classically bad voice work, that.

I distinctly remember being astonished at Kenneth Branagh's near-perfect American accent in "Dead Again," because I had never to that time heard a British actor do it. Now it's commonplace.

I'm less able to judge the reverse, but clearly, as you say, voice coaching has changed fundamentally.

Podfic is getting better, too!

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 20th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
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The old couple in The Lodger are called Mr and Mrs Bunting. In London that would be pronounced a bit like Bantin or possibly even more like Baan'in, but she pronounces it BoontinG, which is maybe North Midlands. I mean - who would know if they'd never been to England? But a voice coach would know, so nowadays you don't get that kind of thing.

As you say, I only can tell when it's people doing British accents wrong, not the other way round. I've heard a lot of Americans say they didn't realise Idris Elba and Dominic West were Brits, so things must have improved.

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