Voices, a contemplation
A long time ago I used to listen a lot to an album called VOICES by Vangelis. I listened to this album day and night for a while, it brought me peace and tranquility when I first moved to Sweden. I haven't listened to this album in a long time now, but it came to me when I started thinking about my favorite voices this morning.
You see I collect voices, sort of.
This makes me sound like a serial killer, doesn't it? Well, nothing so dire, I assure you.
The word VOICE is loaded with meaning. Most of us have a voice, all of us should have a voice - that is we have voices to speak with, and we should be heard. Those are two things, sometimes one comes without the other. It's important that people are heard, and feel as if they are being heard, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about the actual sound that comes out of people's mouths, throats, bodies.
I am not an expert in tone, music and I know very little about how to describe voices at all, and therefore I have little insight into what I do think conducts a good voice. Do they have anything in common? Are they alike? I don't know anything about base, or - whatever terminology is used to define voices and the sound of voices.
I just know that voices bring something with them, personality, warmth, attitude and a lot of other things. A voice reflects a person.
I remember first listening to Julia Dufvenius reading the story of The Ice People. Since then I sometimes look up the books she reads because I find her voice pleasant to listen to, and her reading works so well for me. I recently listened to REALER which is an up and coming book by David Hewson, read by Gemma Whalen of Game of Thrones fame. She reads it brilliantly, and her voice is so perfect for the story I've rarely heard such a great match. The book is excellent. It's really current, sharp and cunning. Definitely a recommended.
The voices I "collect" are more often than not male voices however. You can sign that off to the patriarchy setting its claws in me. Maybe it's a man/woman thing, though I doubt that's the case. Maybe it's something else? I'm up for a discussion about that.
I listen to quite a few podcasts and voices are important there. Some voices are inherently perfect for audio, others are not. I don't think my voice works particularly well for audio - which may, or may not, be a case of just not liking ones own voice. Since we hear our own voices differently from what it "is" we all tend to think that way.
For a long while I listened to a podcast called THREE GUYS WITH BEARDS (which I'm still hoping will make a comeback). And only noted when I heard an interview with Christopher Golden how much I'd missed hearing his voice. He has a very friendly voice, a nice pace and it seems to ooze kindness. I remember first listening to THE HORROR SHOW with Brian Keene and being very surprised when I learned that co-host Dave Thomas was older than Brian, I'd assumed he was much younger. Dave has the perfect voice for podcasts, I think. Jason in Grindcast has another one of those voices I tend to miss, when he takes time off, and it's not just because he's a Final Fantasy fan. You need to listen to Grindcast if you like playing games, and for the giggles. Jason's voice is fast paced, friendly - with an edge...? Actor Anson Mount has a podcast with Branan Edgens called THE WELL, that I warmly recommend. They both have voices that I find friendly and soothing. easy to listen to and create a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Another voice I love is the voice of actor Christopher Judge, who played T'ealC in the TV series Stargate SG-1 and voiced Kratos in God of War (game). He has one of those film voices, like James Earl Jones. Smooth and deep.
On Twitch it's important to have a facecam, because people want to see your reaction as you play the game. They want a friendly face to keep them company, and I think that is a lot of the lure (at least it is for me) of Twitch. But there are a few Twitch streamers that do well without using a facecam. A lot of that might just have to do with the skill of the gamer, but some of those do have fantastic voices. My personal favorites are @geef and @peeve whose voices are very distinctive, though nothing alike, but both are pleasant to listen to, nice and friendly.
The common denominator when I fail at describing those voices well, or why I find them appealing, is the word friendly. There is so much to a voice, not least the language being spoken, accents - not to mention the vocal aspects, and I'm sure things like choice of words and what people say has an impact as well. The personality comes out through the voice, not so much in the way it makes the air vibrate, but in what people say and how they use their words.
We've all experienced hearing someone's voice and imagining what they may look like, often learning later that we were completely wrong. I love that discovery. That the voice doesn't say so much about what we look like at all - though I'm sure some voice experts could accurately describe a lot about a person by the way they sound, that is not something most of us can do - and I love that. Voices belong to us, they are a tool at our exposal, it is who we are just as much as the way we look - most of us just think very little of it, rarely contemplate it.
How often have I described a person's voice when I'm describing a character? Probably not very often, because, like I said, I'm not very good at knowing how to describe a voice. Maybe it's something to focus on, something new to learn how to do. I certainly think I'll be more aware of it after writing this post.
A talking voice is very different from a singing voice. I could ramp out all my favorite singers, but not be able to tell you that their talking voice gives me the same sensation as the voice of the people on the list of my favorite talking voices. Speaking and singing are two very different things in that aspect, at least to me. Voices keep me company when I'm writing sometimes, and then the voice needs to be soothing, peaceful and not too intrusive. I use Twitch for that, never a podcast or an audiobook. But when I haven't heard a podcast from my favorite voices in a long time I feel a sense of joy when I hear them again.
I don't actually have a list. I just know that some voices are neutral to me. I enjoy a lot of podcast with people with neutral voices. I am rarely able to stand readers, podcasts, or casters, with voices that annoy me, neither do I know why some (very few) voices annoy me. Most people who listen a lot to audiobooks know how much of the reading depends on the voice. It can make or break an audiobook.
I don't have a point with this. It was just something that came to me this morning after reading a post from Christopher Fowler on accents.
Voice matters, not only what we say, but how we say it. It matters how we use our words, but also how we say them, how we pronounce them, how our voice peaks (or not) when we say them. It's all a part of our personality, and personality shines through the voice. It's not all in the eyes.