Adding sound to fury, signifying everything . . . ahem

Americans like to make a fuss about a writer’s ‘voice,’ or distinctive style of writing. Well, let’s say that I think the locution is more popular in North America than anywhere else — and I could be mistaken.

What interests me is speaking voices – not just the way they can sound exactly as you’d expect, after reading someone’s words, but for being, in my experience, far more revealing about the essential who-ness of someone than looks, facial expressions or certainly, accents.

For all sorts of reasons, I’ve often had to make instant decisions about trusting strangers in risky circumstances. Thinking about this one day, it occurred to me that the cases in which I’d guessed right and wrong about trustworthiness naturally sorted themselves into classes to which voices were a pretty good – if not infallible – guide. Had I paid closer attention to them, I might have made fewer mistakes. . . .This is of course a thoroughly unscientific suspicion and not for five seconds do I expect anyone else to take it seriously.

I only mention it to explain why it was such a particular treat to find the recording I’m going to try and upload here for a four-minute diversion for any night-owl — or lark — checking in: 02-now-is-the-winter-of-our-discontent-8t1

What I’ve most longed to know about some of you comrades is not what you look like but how you sound. So. . . 3p4/drop-in-bucket/Nicholas, you’re a prince among bloggers for giving me permission to use this audio clip. Everyone else: see if you could compete with ‘enry ‘iggins – not as a ‘ ‘tec, tekkin’ me down,’ as Eliza Doolittle put it, but for guessing about our comrade’s provenance, occupation, . . . or anything else that interests you. I won’t be able to confirm your accuracy, and don’t know if 3p4 will – but if his delightfully unexpected entertainment makes you chuckle, as it did me, you might prefer to interrogate him about that.

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22 Comments

Filed under The sound of blogging

22 responses to “Adding sound to fury, signifying everything . . . ahem

  1. 3p4

    hey dude,, very cool,,,:) i just dropped by in the middle of your night,,prime time for me,, love your
    use of the found object,, great art,,color me impressed,,oowww too much fun,,it will be great if we get other voices to sherlock over,,

  2. wordnerd7

    So glad that you seem to approve, @3p4, . . . and thank you for keeping up your end of the discussion about the mysterious CommunityModeration post I don’t think I ever saw. I’m glad @alarming mentioned it . . . Yes, I’m looking forward to hearing other voices. Impossible for gender-neutrals to submit clips, of course — because that would leave nowhere to hide. 😉 . . .

  3. BaronCharlus

    Good topic, Wordn

    3p4 was kind enough to send me his recording a couple of weeks back; I confess I listened to it more as a reading of Richard than anything else (I also didn’t know, you will recall 3p4, if it was your voice or not). Will listen again.

    The only near-spoken word recoding I have of myself is rather old and would tell you very little about me (I hope) and tell you everything about white British 27-year-olds trying to rap.

    I’m getting a cold, so today would be a good time to record a clip as I’d probably sound like Orson Welles.

    Wordn, I’m intrigued by this ‘trusting strangers in risky circumstances’…do you have a recording of yourself elaborating on this in more detail?

    It’s an interesting point in general; I think when I started to contribute to poster poems etc I vaguely imagined everyone being roughly the same age/social background as myself (don’t know what that says about me. Actually I do, I just don’t want to think about it). Slowly, as I learned, for example, that Melton is prvately educated, Freep 63, Des – well, I could write a brief biog on Des, now – I was quite shocked to realise I was communicating on a democratic footing with those I would otherwise, I suspect, have been too nervous to address directly. I guess the more you get to know about others online, the more that freedom diminishes and familiar social rules re-establish themselves.

    With the CommunityMod posts, I seem to remember that the first – the warning about not addressing the ‘banned user Desmond Swords’ stayerd up a lot longer than the second, which it was obviously Des. Doesn’t seem to be there any more, though.

  4. Don’t have time to make and add a sound clip of my voice but interestingly enough ( or perhaps not! ) when I used to phone people up in the pre-mobile phone era (when you couldn’t see the number of those ringing you ) some could recognise it was me before I said a word. It was down to the timing just before the words came out and an imperceptible smacking of the lips apparently.

    It made me realise that a job in MI5/MI6 was beyond my ken as people would know who I was on tape without the voice giving the game away. So I’m recognisable just by being there. I’m wondering if I exude an aura on-line as well?

  5. wordnerd7

    === ‘trusting strangers in risky circumstances’…do you have a recording of yourself elaborating on this in more detail? ===

    Not yet, @BaronC, and the idea of listening to myself, if that had to be part of the bargain, would quickly extinguish all my enthusiasm for adding sound to our communal conversations. . . Just think of someone who has enjoyed travelling solo and long-distance, now and then, for an extra edge and alertness, and lived abroad as a stranger to everyone for miles around. . . @suzanabrams, Gu’s greatest crosser of continents, would know exactly what I mean. Only a few months ago, she was telling us about trekking into the bush somewhere a week earlier, . . . could it have been Kenya, . . . and having to trust her life to the man guiding the small group of which she was part.

    . . . I’ve been trying to blog, these last few days, in spite of such gigantic distractions as a trip of a few hundred driving miles (which hasn’t ended: no, not what I’d call an adventure). So I’m afraid I’ve been reading in part and answering in part — I meant to tell you that I was only referring to A Perfect Spy, the other day, not the whole of Le Carre’s oeuvre.

    Why are you and 3p4 so interested in Richard?

  6. wordnerd7

    === before I said a word. It was down to the timing just before the words came out and an imperceptible smacking of the lips apparently. ===

    At last I understand your choice of screen name! 🙂

  7. wordnerd7

    I forgot to add, @Baron, . . . about,

    === and tell you everything about white British 27-year-olds trying to rap.

    I’m getting a cold, so today would be a good time to record a clip as I’d probably sound like Orson Welles. ===

    To be rid of the nasty sniffles as fast as possible — as I hope you are — please would you consider giving us your best imitation of that 27 year-old self in echt Wellesian tones.

  8. Hi Wordy,

    Des has told me about your blog and I’ve just seen this for the first time. Really glad.

    Incidentally, although it may not interest you as much with regards to writers’ voices, I found a very interesting link about a Filipino novelist – living in Australia – who published a paper on the subject of a writer’s individual identity and writing voice; these thoughts stemmed from the various mixed heritages that tend to grip the Asian diaspora these days.
    Here’s the link:

    http://64.233.183.132/search?q=cache:YMues2MJkoAJ:www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-November-2008/bobis.html+malaysia+novels+published+UK+2009&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=171&gl=ie

    *******

    About travel. Yes, Wordy indeed and what exhilaration indeed flying into the night…changing the personality of the hours to suits yours, living for yourself and you alone…that sort of thing. In a way, it helps you draw on an inner voice as a strength, ally and best friend.
    Incidentally, I’m off to Jordan next week.

    And that recording by 3potato4…
    Talk about ‘sexy’. 🙂

  9. John Cage writes very well about the different sorts of silence ( anticipatory, fearful, tense etc. ) so I guess I’m just part of a tradition.

  10. wordnerd7

    @3p4, our newest commenter should have made your day. What a compliment. You’ll want to know that this post with you reciting Will has set a record – it’s had the most hits in the shortest interval in the two weeks since acciaccatura was born. . . Très grand merci.

    @alarming, too often I tease before I think . . . a [big sigh of] relief to see proof that you understand that. Do you have a John Cage cd to recommend, as a demonstration?

    @Suzan, _welcome_, and I can’t thank you enough for your link to Merlinda Bobis’s essay. It is superb, it is incisive, and an education in surviving the shoals of contemporary publishing. @Baron, do please read her quotations of Octavia Paz — eg.,

    === According to Mexican poet and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, ‘The market has no soul.’ He writes:
    ‘Today literature and the arts are exposed to a different danger: they are threatened not by a doctrine or a political party but by a faceless, soulless and directionless economic process. The market is circular, impersonal, impartial, inflexible. Some will tell me that this is as it should be. Perhaps. But the market, blind and deaf, is not fond of literature or of risk, and it does not know how to choose. Its censorship is not ideological: it has no ideas. It knows all about prices but nothing about values.’ ===

    Bobis’s definition of ‘voice’ makes mine look witless. I’m pasting in a few extracts for readers too busy to read all the way through:

    (i) === In my short story White Turtle, a Filipina chanter performing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival conjures a white turtle in her poetry, and a real leatherback materialises in the festival room. The chanter and the giant turtle sing in a voice frighteningly alien to the audience, and eventually the turtle is taken away by the police. At this point, the story makes a case for migrant writers in Australia:

    [The chanter] wanted to explain to the men in blue that it did not mean to cause harm or any trouble . She wanted to plead with them to be gentle with it. It was very tired after a long, long swim. But how to be understood, how to be heard in one’s own tongue? ===

    (ii) === My Filipino voice, written in English, is peculiar to many Australian readers, and was once critiqued as ‘Not English!’ […]I wonder if the danger sometimes for the monolingual speaker is that hearing can become just as impregnably monolithic as speaking. Sometimes I also sense an Australian wariness about my ‘big emotions’. Years ago, an Australian poet explained that Australian readers are suspicious of emotion; he advised that I should keep ‘training their ear’ to my different voice. The worst comment was from someone editing my work, which afterwards bled with endless marks from his red pen. He asked, ‘Who wrote this shit?’ This, of course, reduced me to tears. So what did he want me to do? Write with Australian inflections, phraseologies, or with a British stiff-upper lip in ‘The Queen’s English’? ===

    (iii) I wanted to say something exactly like this to @Des, about his Baraka essay, to explain that it’s impossible for us to see what he does in that poet’s work because we haven’t heard B in performance:

    === In the 90s I built my niche, not by changing my voice but by performing it-bringing to my audience the body with the text. A body-to-body encounter. They ‘tune’ their ear to my tongue in a direct and immediate process. The sensory impact of a performed text is sudden and surprising. At the moment of delivery the audience has a more immediate surrender. ===

    A safe journey to Jordan, Suzan, if I forget to say that later. About a month ago, I read that it’s one of the only countries that’s been prospering in the financial chaos – wonder if that’s still true.

  11. wordnerd7

    This is MB’s definition of ‘voice’:

    === VOICE is the timbre of the text that is created by the writer’s style. Style is how the writer writes what literary theorist Frederic Jameson describes as ‘a certain type of sentence’. ===

  12. Hi again Wordy, will write later on tomorrow but Abu Dhabi is the richest arab nation presently – not hit by the crash at all or hardly; this followed by the other united arab emirate states and yes, Jordan also. Their currency is presently stronger than the euro.

  13. BaronCharlus

    I remember hearing a recording of Joyce at the British Library; it was on one of those wall-mounted listening posts, like being at HMV. I was rather disappointed by the declamatory, strident tone. It was so different to the wry, musical voice that had read Ulysses aloud to me inside my head.

    I’ve several times confessed my ignorance and (I think) tone-deafness to most forms of poetry on Poster Poems. On the few occasions in the past that I’ve found a way into a poem it’s either been through narrative (Ted Hughes’ Ovid) or voice – Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf has narrative, true, but it’s his own recording that revealed to me so much of the nuance and impact of small moments that would have been lost to me otherwise.

    Wordn, will get back to you on the pubishing point you make above via Paz.

    Happy day, all

  14. wn7 I think the CD of his silences would be, well silent. I read his stuff a long time ago so can’t remember where I read his musings on the 4 minutes 33 seconds piece of silence.

    But a few year’s ago when Radio 3 re-staged the silence piece and various other Cage compositions in London Richard & Judy invited the conductor on, principally to mock him I think but interestingly they sent a “comedy” interviewer onto the streets to ask the public about silence in music. Of the 6 people they interviewed on a high street 4 spoke very intelligently about its use in rhythm and tension. Didn’t stop them mocking the conductor though!

    If you can, get some recordings of Kurt Schwitters intoning his assemblage poems – quite extraordinary. Like a budgie wrestling with a wolf in front of a microphone. When I was a student 30 years ago a friend had a huge record collection of writers and poets reading their work – it had the Joyce mentioned above.

  15. wordnerd7

    @BaronCharlus, I hope you are close to symptom-free today and astonishing all about you with the speed of your recovery.

    === It was so different to the wry, musical voice that had read Ulysses aloud to me inside my head.===

    ‘Twas like that for me listening to Yeats read Innisfree . . . but Frost reading several poems in a raspy voice couldn’t have been more perfect. . . I’ll look forward to your thoughts on Paz.

    Okay, @alarming, Schwitters, here I come . . . thank you, and how I wish I could watch that interviewer at work. . .

    . . . Shouldn’t we be giving @3p4 more feedback, though? Only Suzan has, so far.

  16. 3potato4

    What a wonderful voice. Sincere, well-proven, full of high feeling, and humour, jazzy, cosmopoilitan.

    What is the most profound soliloquy in the human language.

    Why Hamlet’s, of course.

    “To be, or not to be–that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
    No more–and by a sleep to say we end
    The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–
    To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause. There’s the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life.
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
    The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
    The insolence of office, and the spurns
    That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus make
    With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death,
    The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
    No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    And enterprise of great pitch and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry
    And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,
    The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
    Be all my sins remembered.”

    I’d like to hear 3p4 do that speech, Wagnerian.

  17. I only mention this because my 98 year old great uncle – who had been an actor on the stage in Germany for 6 decades said to me:

    Phil, there is only one question – “To be or not to be – THAT…is the question.”

    And the lights went on and I understood it for the fisrt time.

  18. It was his emphatic THAT and pause that allowed me to understand what had been a dry text until then. Olivier’s histrionics hadn’t helped me understand, nor Mel Gibson’s wild man act.

    It was so sweet and right. To think that it was my uncle the actor who explained this culminating bit of Shakespeare.

    So “conscience does make cowards of us all,
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    And enterprise of great pitch and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry
    And lose the name of action.”

    Does anyone else get this. I think we all do:

    You understand something. Then you understand it better, and then you really understand it. Like a skien stretching and stretching downwards ’till the membrane of the mind tears and the concept tumbles through and finally embedds itself.

    And suddenly the soliloquy sounds like Shakespeare’s own personal musings. Arising out of the memory of the death of his son and the slings and arrows.

    I remember once, I was in the North of England, bullied at school and as I was doing woodwork, one of the boys asked me. Will you be coming back next term. I thought – I was 15 – and I said. No. But the “no” was a great surprise to me. And yet I had said it.

    Or when people take jobs they hate and then suddenly something happens that makes them stop and they leave everything at their desks and walk out.

    People do that with marriages and whole lives.

    Stop.

    Understand.

    Shuck.

    They shuck off.

  19. BaronCharlus

    Hi Wordn,

    Feeling better thanks. Fought it off with lemons (there’s an image for you).

    I guess it’s hard to argue with the Paz quote, not having my own Nobel prize; and it’s a beautifully constructed argument. The only question I can raise, which I’ve raised before and don’t have the experience to answer myself, is this: was it ever different?

    If Paz were to say

    ‘some will tell me that this how it has always been.’

    instead of

    ‘Some will tell me that this is as it should be.’

    Then I would understand better. But this argument, as others, seems to present an industry that has fallen from a state of meritocratic purity to become ‘blind and deaf’. But I’m not convinced that’s the case.

    I eagerly pick up Suzan’s point about the thrill of bypassing censorship – fascinating story – how can there be a ‘literature or of risk’ when our culture gives us no parameters within which to risk? In terms of content we can write what we want; how do you create risk when everything is permitted? One factor, possibly, of this scenario, is strong creative freedom, which I think we have. Which was the point I raised previously. Just not the opportunity for that freedom to be financially rewarded to the scale of, say, Jordan.

    If artisitic freedom is the most important factor for an artist (like Des, for example) why not ignore an industry for which you have no taste and publish online, or leave your work in a drawer? Not sure this quote addresses that. New work is more accessible than ever, so why aren’t people happy?

    ‘It does not know how to choose.’

    This is a chilling observation and one, I think, that applies to the lives of many people with parents frmo the post-war, smash-down-the-walls generation (as well as many others, I’m sure) and the post-sixties culture in general. The barricades are down, be free, create. But go where, make what?

    ‘Its censorship is not ideological: it has no ideas. It knows all about prices but nothing about values.’

    Again, I’m not sure of the terms here but the same point could apply. If you wish for an industry (and, more important, a culture responding to that industry) where authors of beautiful work are celebrated in prime-time, sell millions and Wayne Rooney has to self-publish then, absolutely, we are at a polar remove from such conditions. But there are many Ian McEwan fans out there who are happy at their idol’s status: he’s very successful. And literary fiction, whilst suffering dwindling sales, is certainly not lacking in the number of titles being published. It’s an avalanche of covers with blurred black and white photos of naked women’s backs. As I’ve said before, literature, I believe, reflects the values of the culture. We get what we deserve. The industry doesn’t know how to choose because we don’t. And here I am, just now, falling into the trap of imagining, with ‘we get what we deserve’, that things have in fact changed for the worse. Even though I can’t back that up. Can you?

    Sorry, want to carry on but must work…

  20. BaronCharlus

    (write this b4 the post above. still working)

    isa,

    An impassioned reading. I think Harold Bloom steps very close to placing Hamlet, and that soliloquy, as the birth moment of modern consciousness. Not sure I agree but it certainly is, as a tutor of mine once said, a ‘vortex’. We all, those of us who choose to look, find ourselves in there. Sometimes for the first time.

    My favourite ‘reading’ of Hamlet is Stephen Greenblatt’s in Hamlet in Purgatory; he persuades that the text is a product of the death-grip between the old religion and the new in which, if current biographical trends convince, Shakespreare’s family – his father in particular – were deeply embedded. But we must remember, as another tutor observed, Hamlet is ‘two archetypes and a sponge…there ain’t no Hamlet’. It is this open-endedness, perhaps, that allows these texts to be so alive. As Bloom also said, and I do agree with this (although I crudely paraphrase) ‘we can be post-modern, post this and that, but we’re yet to be post-Shakespearean. He’s still out ahead somewhere’.

    Sorry Wordn, bit of a ramble. You may want to move that to longueurs.

  21. But good rambling. Bloom is very illuminating. I am also enjoying A. L. Rowse on Shakespeare. The picture of Shakespeare come through very clearly. He’s much more readable than Peter Ackroyd.

  22. wordnerd7

    And yet, @ISA, Ackroyd can make history so vivid that if you think of historical biography as a fish dinner, you can still taste exuberant backflips and wriggling in his — whereas most of the competition reads like dried Ocean Catch nuggets, ‘guaranteed 30% fish protein,’ that I’d feel guilty about serving to any cat of mine. It’s been years since I nibbled at the the AL Rowse ‘required reading’ of a close relation, so this is no criticism of him, specifically. . . I come only to praise Peter A. — who never seems to use the same recipe twice, and whose seasoning can be original and bizarrely spot-on. (Would you seriously disagree?)

    @Des, I see that you’re on top form and of course I want you to be my prophet, o great Ooooolmaaaah, why should you even have to ask.

    Yes I’ve noticed that the PotW in particular has been like a mausoleum without atf — though it has to be said that I almost never go there, so am hardly the most reliable judge. . . But she did bring many a thread to life for Gu above-the-liners lucky enough to have her help — even if that was sometimes done by sounding off . . . boomboomBOOM! . . . about fireworks and iPod boomboomboom. . . Read me as agreeing with you: they badly need her help at Gu.

    I read you as you intended, when you asked your question about traffic stats for Gu-blogs. Alas, as shamelessly as I bribed my moles in the Towers, they refused to answer your question directly… Have tried again, and this time all they will reveal is that there’s a pitched battle at Gu between the sub-prime post/comment-bankers (SCBs) and the editor-mods (EMs).

    The highlight of a PowerPoint presentation by the SCBs is said to be a set of charts labelled The Swords-bin-L Effect (confirming your intuition, yet again.. . phew!) . . . A more-or-less accurate summary of what they show: the day after an SbL appearance, in whatever guise, books blog traffic has a little bounce of about 10%. Then, after slow-on-the-uptake bloggers read BillyM unveiling ‘ComMod’ or ‘Joan’ etc., with a subtle ‘Is that you Des?’ query, the numbers go screaming upwards & traffic remains at 50% above normal for the next two days or so — until the EMs get to work with their poison pills, hatchets, etc.). . . . after which frenzied posts from bloggers protesting about your, sorry I mean, S-b-Laden’s removal, lift the totals (in the pattern of the last two years) to a giddy 150 % of the normal hit-count . . . until it’s clear that EMs are going to persist in their obtuseness. Then the charts typically record a slump to between -10% and -50% of normal for the next few weeks.

    Now Des, I hope you’ll agree that these are tastier leaks than the ones you asked for.

    @Baron, if you are here today, please don’t give up on me. I’ve been trying to shrink my answer to your wonderfully thoughtful posts to digestible proportions.

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