Monday, August 13, 2012

The Sound of the Voice

When I was a little girl I was drawn to the sound of the British English voice. My earliest memory of this occurrence is listening and reading along to the story of Hansel and Gretel on my red Raggedy Ann record player. I would listen to the story again and again as the soothing voice washed over me.

My mother used to take me to restaurants often after her doctor’s appointment or an early morning ice skating lesson. I would order a cup of tea and a Danish or other similar pastry heated with a pat of butter. As I look back on this ritual, I do not recall how this young seven or eight year old—I can’t recall the exact age—came to order this instead of milk or oatmeal or pancakes. It was the same each time. I would whisper to my mother what I wanted and she would place my order. This time together with my mother was one of the few peaceful memories that I can recall having with her, where she had no worries, where life was grand, just her and her girl.

I had several ice skating instructors and would practice and take lessons at different ice rinks. The name of the instructor that has always stayed in my thoughts was Grace. She wasn’t British, but I recall her voice and how kind she was to me. It’s possible that she was Canadian. She spoke regular American English, though the way she sounded was like a beautiful white swan; she was the embodiment of her name.

As I continue looking back on memory, I can see myself—a little girl looking in the mirror and talking to herself in a British English accent. This little girl would then giggle, run over to the side table and take a sip of her tea in the most proper way. She would only do this when no one was looking. The giggling part probably wasn’t so proper.

I’ve come to realize or maybe—not realize—rather, I’ve wondered did I like my voice better when it was this way…when I was pretending? And is this possibly one of the reasons that I don’t like hearing my voice when I speak unless it’s raspy from a cold or in small bits of Spanish?

This has led me back to a piece that I wrote a few years back simply called, “The Voice.” I wrote it out in my notebook and I’ve wanted to type it up for all these years and to read it aloud and post the audio along with my blog. From the moment I wrote the piece, it felt as if it were meant to be read aloud by the speaker of the piece; I am the speaker of course, then again, perhaps I am not. In any case, I feel that I must detach from it. I fear that if too much more time passes, I either will not ever post it or “The Voice” will become irrelevant to me.

I recognize and enjoy my voice on the printed page when my self esteem is above the red line. Now I must learn to appreciate the verbal sound of my voice, the sound bytes that do not feel as though they convey the depths of my being.

I will post it eventually. It’s inevitable. This is my prelude—my commitment to myself.

I cannot be afraid of the spoken sound of my voice any longer—or of sharing that voice.


Vincent said...

I would love to hear your spoken voice reading out that piece. If you have a microphone, you can record it and process for YouTube, just the sound. But you would have to do it in your impression of a British English voice!

There is a vast spectrum of British voices with quite extreme regional variations. This of course was the theme of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which became the musical My Fair Lady: that a pretty Cockney girl could go anywhere in society if she were taught to speak “properly”, that is, in the manner of educated people.

I wonder if you refer to the accent which is only acquired from going to a very good private school, followed by Oxford or Cambridge? I have two favourite examples: Bridget Kendall, a BBC foreign correspondent (try this clip); and Brian Sewell, whose accent - try this - sounds like a parody of the real thing.

Rebb said...

In due time, I will post my voice, Vincent, but for my piece it will have to be in my American voice. : )
I have a recorder that can connect to my computer and the file transferred, but I will have to originate it at the othe spot I blog and the provide the long. That's the easiest way I've found. YouTube has become so clunky; I don't have the patience.

Ah...I do remember seeing bits of My Fair Lady. Thanks for sharing the two clips. Yes, the second one does sound like a parody.

These first two were shared by someone else. I love Alan Rickman's voice.

Opening scene from the movie, Rebecca. First three minutes after about one minute of credits. I don't know exactly where her accent falls.

I got a kick out of this clip of Peter Seller's attempt to show a small range of British accents.