It’s really quite fascinating the way digital publishing is moving ever forward. Although I suppose I’m very much still an amateur writer I publish a blog post every weekend just like this one. I can also be found in various videos over on YouTube and many of my blog posts can be listened to as a podcast. I say many although in fact there are only nine podcasts available at the present time. I could make more I suppose, after all, I’m now retired and I’ve got plenty of time to make them as well as owning that special essential, a top quality microphone. The thing is I’m not really sure how I feel about my podcasts. I’m not a trained actor or public speaker and I’ve never been that keen on my voice. Someone once told me I sounded a lot like Terry Christian. You may not have heard of him but he’s a Manchester DJ and minor TV personality and he sounds a lot like a very northern working-class Mancunian which is pretty much how you might describe me.
A few years ago I wrote a poem about the way I sound over on Writeoutloud. I won’t reproduce it here because it wasn’t that good (although feel free to click that Writeoutloud link) but it did get a lot of comments. In the poem I mentioned that I wanted to sound like Richard Burton. I’ve always admired Burton’s rich speaking voice. He made many films and I listen to him from time to time on my CD recording of Under Milk Wood. Of course, Burton’s voice didn’t come naturally. He was a miner’s son from Wales and was born Richard Jenkins. He spent many years perfecting that wonderful voice under the tuition of his teacher Philip Burton.
To improve my podcasts and voice-overs I have subscribed to a couple of YouTube channels which explain the rudiments of public speaking and voice control but even so, I still reckon I sound pretty much the same.
I’ve mentioned many times that one of my favourite writers is Dylan Thomas. Dylan had a wonderful voice and made many recordings of his poems and plays. In fact quite a lot of his plays were written for the radio. One of the keys to appreciating Dylan’s work is his love of words, particularly the sound of words, which is at the heart of all Dylan’s work, especially his poetry. If you think about it, there must be a connection between the sound of a word and its meaning, a deep organic connection. After all, how did words begin? Imagine some ancient caveman, just wanting to get some concept over to his mate. What are the deepest and strongest feelings for a human being? Well, for a caveman food must be one, and love too. Surely love was present in those primordial days when every caveman went out on Saturday with his club looking for his mate. There must have been a moment when ancient man strived to say something to his mate, tried to express his feeling and a sound that was the precursor to the word love slipped uneasily from his lips.
I make great use in my video voice-overs and podcasts of one particular program on my laptop, my Magix sound mixer. I’m able, to a great extent, to cut out my mumbles and ums and ahs, add some bass and make myself sound just a little bit better than I actually do.
On one of my short videos, I once tried to dub my own voice with a new recording. You’ve probably seen on TV and films how this can be done. There are some amazing over dubs in the Bond films for instance. In Goldfinger, Gert Frobe played the eponymous villain but the actor was German and spoke poor English. His voice was dubbed by an actor called Michael Collins. Many films in the 60’s, particularly European films were made with a fully dubbed soundtrack so how hard could it be?
I got set up with my video, the text of what I was saying and my microphone and off I went. About two weeks later having got about ten seconds of useable video and having come pretty close to smashing my laptop to pieces, I finally realised that audio dubbing wasn’t as easy as I thought it was and made the video in a different way.
Over on Anchor where I produce my podcasts, they have the facility to take one of my blogs and convert it into a podcast by having it spoken by an electronic voice so none of the recording and editing that goes into making a podcast would in theory be necessary. Some of the voices available actually sound pretty real but they all fall down in things like pronunciation of odd words or names or sometimes when I’ve tried to render a particular accent into the text. Yes, I think I’ll stick to my own voice for the time being.
I’ve always found it fascinating how a particular sound can jog our memory. Some time ago I wrote a blog about Mr Todd’s projector. Mr Todd was a teacher from my junior school and every Christmas he set up his projector and screen in the hall and put on a film show for the school. The films were mostly cartoon shorts like Sylvester the cat, Daffy Duck and even some of Disney’s wildlife films. I loved those Christmas film shows and what brought back the memory was that wonderful sound of the projector, that clickety click sound of the film running through the machine.
One year, I think it must have been my last at the school, Mr Todd retired and there was no final Christmas film show. Instead, we were treated to some dreary school choir or something which was such a disappointment. Of course, there had been a final film show. It had been the one the previous year, only at the time, like many things in life, we didn’t know it would be the last.
Here’s one final thing about sound. Music. I do love my music and like most people I associate various songs and music tracks to various times in my life. The very first vinyl singles I ever bought were by Olivia Newton John and since then I’ve amassed quite a collection of records, tapes and CDs. My record collection fills a small corner in the spare room in my mother’s house but these days, youngsters have even bigger collections than mine kept either on a small device or in cyberspace. I have to say I do like to have physical versions of music. I like my record and CD covers. I like the sleeve notes and I like to see the small notes I have made myself on my own records, things like the date of purchase and so on.
Many years ago one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday afternoon was to sift through racks of records in the music shops in Manchester. It’s hard to even find a record shop these days. I was a big music fan and back in the seventies and eighties singles were marked down in price as soon as they dropped out of the charts and vultures like me were there to buy up cheap records. I started buying singles in 1973 and the last one I bought must have been in the late eighties or early nineties. I wish I knew which record it was. In the eighties I started buying picture singles which were singles in clear vinyl with a picture running through. My favourite is probably Alexi Sayle singing ‘Hello John, got a new motor’ which comes in the shape of a Ford Cortina With Alexi Sayle on the bonnet.
The day came, probably sometime in the nineties, when the pop charts became a mystery to me, singers and bands were in there that I’d never heard of with records I had no interest in buying. Just then, almost like a thief in the night, vinyl disappeared and the CD era began.
In the box room at my Mum’s house are four or five boxes of my singles, another box of LP’s and two boxes of 12 inch singles which started out in the eighties as a single but with a longer or different mix or sometimes with an extra track. I like my vinyl records, I like the smoothness of the plastic, the static electricity, the album covers, the sleeve notes (can anyone really read the sleeve notes on CDs written in that tiny writing?) and the inserts. I still have all the booklets that came with Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and I so wish I’d written the lyrics to that Cliff Richard song, ‘Wired for Sound’; power from the needle to the plastic.
I’m not much of a downloader but I do have a shedload of CD’s I’ve picked up over the years and I’ve gradually started to use my MP3 player, especially on holiday. I even have fun making up playlists on Spotify just like in the old days when I’d copy my vinyl singles onto cassette tapes.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve really changed at all from the teenager I used to be.