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Gang Banged by Sound

Sound. As I type to the hum of traffic, the cross-hatch of MTM’s pen, the pulse of keys, I sob and wish sound weren’t a thing.

I know people who are virtually deaf. I don’t wish for that fate or mean to diminish their disability.

But I am waterboarded by the sound of my own voice. People want to hear me read my memoir.

Or they *think* they do.

They don’t know a theater critic once eviscerated my speaking voice in a review. “Etched in acid,” he crowed.

A seminal theater teacher, the one who taught me to cry on a dime, once stood inches from my face in a room full of people. Her spittle fireworked across my face as she forced me to put my voice in the body, while I sobbed.

And people think this writing thing’s hard?

But the sound requirement makes it so.

I love to read aloud. Always have. Ask any child in my life. They adore me, because they know when I read them a story, their parents won’t be able to calm them down until the following afternoon. Every picture book is a theatrical production; every character a soul worthy of life.

I’m trapped in a morass of knowing what I want. How I wish my reading sounded. What I want my new website to look like. Why I need certain video.

But I only know how to make words. I don’t know design. Technology is my foil. I can record raw footage, but I can’t do a clean take. I always stumble over a word or two, and I don’t know how to fix it.

I wish the solution were to pay someone, but I only have so much money. It’s all claimed.

After ten takes of one NWMF chapter (and several temper tantrums), I decamped to another place. A less claustrophobic room. One of my hallowed places. And I listened.

Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet. Sound sculpture, juxtaposed against Renzo Piano’s vision of heaven. Stick figures with speaker heads. Ellsworth Kelly on a wall.

I wish I could pour my voice into a microphone and use techno-voodoo to make a sound sculpture worth hearing.

53 Comments Post a comment
  1. Why do you want everything to be a “sound sculpture”? Just for the record: I have a CD of James Galway, a flautist I admire (I play the flute. Kind of). It is a “sound sculpture” that has been “sound-shopped” to perfection like a musical equivalent of Madonna. I don’t listen to it anymore because I end up suffocating – they have edited out the breathing.
    What I’m trying to say is that reading your book aloud should be an experience just like the one you describe when you read to children – the real you. Forget the “critic” – critics are there to criticize. You’ll never see them again. Be you, Andra – not what you think others want you to be. ‘Cos that’s the Andra we want. Hugs xx

    December 10, 2014
    • My biggest problem right now is not knowing how to use the program. I can read, but I can’t do it without mistakes. I don’t know how to fix the mistakes, so I do another take. Worry about mistakes breeds more mistakes. I googled how to do something specific in this program and got over a thousand hits. I don’t have time to read/watch that many possibilities to find the one that contains the answer to the actual question I asked. My recording will never be perfect, but I want to be proud of it. I can’t stand technology. Yet pretty much everything I’m doing right now requires me to learn. I have to know how the metal plate inside MTM’s shoulder works, because the doctor thinks it will help me help him. I have to mess with PhotoShop and InDesign, two programs that must come from the seventh circle of hell, in order to finish my new website. And this recording of my own voice with a program that seems simple to everybody but me. It’s progress. I’m here. I try to focus on that, but after ten takes yesterday, I’d pretty much had it.

      December 10, 2014
  2. Your voice is just as unique as you are. Embrace that uniqueness. It is that special quality that will make the audio version of NWMF a smashing sucess. Put me down for one.

    December 10, 2014
    • My voice will never get out there if I can’t figure out how to use this #%€¥#$&@^%# program, though………I know I wrote this like I don’t like the sound of my own voice, and I don’t, but really I just wish I could pay someone to make this happen. And I can’t.

      December 10, 2014
  3. The single best piece of advice I ever received came from a mediocre theater professor in college. Over his desk, in place of pride, he had written: “It’s not the vision I had”. When asked about it he would simply say that “it is never going to be what you saw in your head, it won’t sound or look as good as you know it can be. So, the choices are, accept and get as close to your vision as you can, work on it forever and never show it, or give up.”
    Andra, this is no harder than the writing. Go back and read some of those blog posts when you were frustrated about the words. I think you will agree that the frustration is part of the process and pushing through was damn worthwhile.

    December 10, 2014
    • I think one of my acting teachers had the same saying. And technology, for me, is way harder than the writing. Everything I’m doing right now is stuff I don’t know how to do, and it’s making me very grumpy. So, a few days of solitary writing are in my immediate future.

      December 10, 2014
  4. I would suggest that the sound of your voice is simply the tinkle of a bell in a symphony. Substance, my friend, is what lasts – Delivery is transitory.

    December 10, 2014
    • I’m sure I’ll figure all that out eventually. I always have to melt down to learn anything.

      December 10, 2014
  5. You know, you worry too much. Go ahead and smack me, but you do. I know it is that drive for perfection, but sometimes perfection is the enemy of the good.

    December 10, 2014
    • If I can’t figure out how to use the program, the rest is moot.

      December 10, 2014
      • I can help you with that. Be glad to sit down with you for a bit and go over it.

        December 10, 2014
      • That’s a kind offer……..and I’m basically not going to be home again until Dec 30. This has to be done by then. My publicist needs it to pitch me to some podcasts.

        December 10, 2014
      • Well, the offer is there. And since you are gone, Merry Christmas!

        December 10, 2014
      • I’ll be able to tell you Merry Christmas on Christmas.

        I think another thing that’s contributing to this is my eye. I still have that issue. I’ve had it for more than a year now. I’m having a massive episode of floaters and ribbons in my vision and basically feel seasick all the time. It’s just part of processing this thing, but it doesn’t help with the reading, either. I haven’t talked about that in ages, because everybody has problems. Mine are nothing special.

        December 10, 2014
      • Maybe Carnell and I can get together with you and do a Google hangout (they have that screenshare option) and we can see what you’re doing and maybe we can help somehow.

        December 10, 2014
      • I’ll have reliable internet starting tomorrow, so thank you. That’s an option. I’m recording with Audacity. I figured out how to equalize, but I don’t know how to insert a re-do for a flubbed line. I tried it several ways and ended up with this symphony of Andras saying the word “proclamation,” which was funny and weirdly creative but NOT what I was going for. I’m recording the book by chapter, each chapter a separate file, which I *think* from everything I’ve read I can merge into one long file at the end.

        December 10, 2014
      • Ouch, I was hoping the eye thing was gone. I know when Nancy had a similar type problem it took years for her floaters to go away. She eventually did return to her earlier vision though. Just takes time.

        And… what Kenneth said.

        December 10, 2014
      • I could do a round of antibiotics, but that could take a year, too. I decided to tough it out, but these past couple of weeks have been challenging. I’m sure stress aggravates this problem, and I’ve had plenty.

        December 10, 2014
      • “because everybody has problems. Mine are nothing special.”

        That is true from an objective standpoint. Unfortunately for you we consider ourselves your friends. So subjectively speaking, your problems are more important.

        December 10, 2014
      • I appreciate that. I don’t like to whine, but dang, I’m tired.

        On the upside, I’ve gotten several encouraging yeses for the book, with several more pending. The press for this thing is again not going to be what I wanted, but it’s going to be better than the first one.

        December 10, 2014
  6. I didn’t think it possible for me to say this, but, Carnell is right….ouch, that evene hurt my head to type.
    Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

    December 10, 2014
  7. Um, I agree with Carnell too. But I can understand how you feel. When someone makes a criticism we think it’s true. Comments are subjective. That doesn’t mean that all people will feel the same way. I enjoyed your Natchez Trace videos. You can totally do this reading.

    December 10, 2014
    • I can do the reading. I can’t use the program.

      December 10, 2014
      • Sigh. I understand. I read some of your comments above. What a pain!!!

        December 11, 2014
  8. You CAN pour your voice into the microphone and have it work. You’ve convinced yourself that you can’t. I’ve been recording stuff since I was knee-high to a tall boot. I have temper tantrums too. But I don’t try to perform AND run the recording. Motto: if you want professional results, hire a professional. Simple. That way, when you pitch that tantrum because you’ve just screwed up a take, the professional can pick you up, put you back in the mix seamlessly, and you don’t have to start over.

    December 10, 2014
    • I can’t afford a professional. Believe me, if I could, I would.

      December 10, 2014
      • You could probably get it right for less than a hundred bucks. And I’m sure you could find a student or, if nothing else, somebody with a little experience to handle the recording start and stop.

        December 10, 2014
      • There’s a recording school in Charleston where folks go to learn how. With your magic, I’m sure you could work some kind of deal.

        http://www.recordingconnection.com/school-locations/charleston/

        December 10, 2014
  9. Substitute speaking voice for singing voice and I think we might be twins Andra… add in the tech fail tendencies and I’m pretty sure there’s a connection. Also, my usually mild mannered husband has the same eye issues and when it flares up his temper takes on a life of it’s own. Awful! Sometimes an eye patch helps relieve some of the light contrast that can trigger his but I’m sure you’ve tried everything and just desperately want it to go away. 😦 Sorry I can’t help in person but I’ll send virtual support…

    December 10, 2014
    • I sing on the audio version, too. I actually like my singing voice. Maybe that’s the solution…..sing the whole thing. Ha.

      Yeah, the light contrast is awful right now. I’m sorry to hear that your husband has the same thing. It’s miserable when it really flares up. I misjudge distances and run into things all the time, and I get so embarrassed.

      December 10, 2014
      • Oh yeah, the change from your normal depth perception during this really hard. Poor guy, John is already blind in one eye so the anxiety associated with any eye issues makes him absolutely miserable. 😦 A singing memoir though, I love it!

        December 10, 2014
      • And the last thing we need right now is me falling down stairs or getting into an accident. I try to be extra careful, but that only causes more stress for steamroller me. Ha.

        I understand his anxiety. If ever left in a space with no light, I’d go mad in five minutes.

        December 10, 2014
  10. Devote just a little, separate time to figuring out the program, and THEN do the recording? Or, let Carnell and Kenneth do whatever they can from a distance to help put it into perspective? I, too, have no patience with “techie stuff” (or anything else for that matter) when I can’t make it function.

    I am SO sorry to hear that your eye issue is giving you so much grief in addition to everything else. Lordy, how I can identify with that out-of-balance, off-kilter feeling right now. Hopefully, my issues will simply require eyeglasses now to get final resolution — seeing the optometrist tomorrow.

    Keep plugging. I know you’ll figure it out, and I know we’re going to love the ultimate results.

    December 10, 2014
    • I never know what I don’t know until I come across something I can’t do.

      I’m glad your surgeries have yielded improvement, Karen. I hope you’ll post pics of your new glasses.

      December 10, 2014
  11. tarakianwarrior #

    Andra, every time you did a little video I jumped for joy because I got to hear your voice. I love your expressive voice.

    December 10, 2014
    • I’m glad someone does. Ha.

      December 10, 2014
      • tarakianwarrior #

        Um, did you get the Idaho gift I sent you? It was supposed to have been delivered Monday and it says it was – but I’m just hopeful I had the correct address…

        December 10, 2014
      • I got it but didn’t want to send an electronic acknowledgement. It’s perfect. I have a thing for port. But I will reserve my effusive comments for the note….

        December 10, 2014
  12. That has got to be very frustrating — I could never do it – besides the obvious reasons. You should have a rest and have some soup or something. Here’s a recipe I found that made me think of you.
    http://www.nutrientsyoufools.com/peruvian-cilantro-chicken-soup/
    Yeah, I know, I’m pure, concentrated evil.

    December 10, 2014
  13. Audacity can be a challenge. I’ve used it for many, many projects. Is there no default sound recorder in your Mac? The trick is to read in small segments. And to do so in sittings when your tone quality and pace will be similar. You may want to practice (which obviously you’ve had if you’ve recorded numerous takes.) Read more slowly than you speak. And as you’ve indicated, try to calm your mind and focus on only the reading. Harder than it sounds, I know.

    December 10, 2014
  14. I used to work in Radio and can understand your frustration. Radio folks correct mistakes by saying rather after the correction. Example: He stepped on a line. Crack rather. and then go on. No one cares except you and the listener will fall in love with your imperfections. Having said all that I know what you are thinking. I always should mind my own business.

    December 10, 2014
  15. I’m really sorry for such a significant frustration. No need for me to say more! I don’t know a thing about the program you’re using, and I’ve been so impressed with your abilities thus far this has to be a real corker! I hope someone will come forward and supply the missing information components. You’re capable of doing this, I know, but sometimes wended a little kickstart in the right direction. ox

    December 11, 2014
  16. I can sympathize with your conundrum, Andra. It once took me two whole evenings to record a children’s book of “Andy and the Lion”. 40 years later, we still laugh, and I still cringe, at the taping of the first line. Andy and the lion. Tom can mimic me saying it and we, now, both burst out laughing. It wasn’t a pretty picture, though, 40 years ago, BUT, at least then I could just hit the erase button and start all over again. Hope that by now, as I’m late in commenting, you will have the program conquered. Good luck.

    December 11, 2014
  17. Kir Piccini #

    Well I’ve heard your voice, spent a few hours just listening to the music and melody of it as we ate and laughed. I can’t think of another voice that would be more perfect to tell the story of your walk, your father’s tales, the life changing moments within your words.

    You do worry too much, I love your voice.

    December 11, 2014
  18. Hi Andra,
    Just for the record, I love your voice 🙂 And so does my daughter. We’re both audiobook connoisseurs.
    Regarding paying someone to read: I’m sure you already know about ACX, the audiobook narrators/producers exchange, where you can put your book up for auditions; some authors will produce the book for no outlay, only a percentage of the royalties. It’s all done properly with contracts and schedules, and it’s how I rack up a CV before approaching audiobook companies. It’s well worth putting it up and waiting to see what auditions you get, especially with the sales your book is expecting. A note of caution though: it would be a very special narrator who could produce the book exactly to your preferences under the system. You get to ok the first 15 minutes and then have to let the producer do the rest.
    Worth looking at, though:
    They’re at https://www.acx.com

    December 11, 2014
  19. PS: you are always welcome to come over and use my little studio. Small but perfectly formed!

    December 11, 2014
  20. I feel your pain on the technology. I always feel victimized by it.

    December 13, 2014
  21. You have had a tremendous amount of stress lately, and now you’re having to figure out this new program while under time pressure to get the audio book done, all while you’re dealing with the eye issue. You’ve earned as many tantrums as you’re throwing. xoxo

    December 15, 2014
  22. Can you tap into a college nearby to get a techie to help you for free, perhaps? Or a high school student? You could barter and offer cookies or chocolate or one of your books. Or you could just continue sobbing. 😦 😦 I wish I could help! Besos! xo

    December 15, 2014
  23. Oh, you’ve got a nice voice. Kind of interestingly twangy. Not acid drippy at all. If that were the case, Hollywood would be calling:

    December 22, 2014

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