What is it that helps you identify a person by the sound of his or her voice?
Sure the first and probably best answer would be “familiarity.” That one’s the easiest to remember.
If you chat with a person often enough, you most likely will be able to recognize their sound after just hearing a word or two. We all have our own distinctive voice print. High or low, fast talker or slow, or maybe as clear as a bell; maybe too darn soft, or way too loud most of the time. Some of us even might sound like they need to be oiled to help get rid of that damn squeaky sound. Or there are people like da harv who have that “lived-in” sound that some describe as whiskey, or dry, or used. Voice recognition. For sure it’s the same process as identifying a musical instrument. I mean a musical instrument that’s not plugged into a wall socket. I’m referring to the sound of a violin, or a guitar, or a trumpet. We’ve all grown up listening to these and similar musical instruments as well as listening to an enormous variety of sounds that emanate from the human instrument.
Just as there are many people who are very adept musicians, there are also many actors who are extremely good readers and, in addition to that, have a magnificent sounding instrument.
The very same may be said about singers.
What we’re getting at now is not a question of whether or not they have a recognizable sound, or how pretty that sound may be. What I’m moving towards is what we listen for as casting directors. What magic do these seemingly special people have? The people who manage to get the work. The “demand players,” regardless of what art form they have chosen to pursue. Why do they manage to excel in the most subjective art form of all: The Voice Over. The verbal Picasso’s; each of these wonderful artists has developed their own comfort zone. We choose to call it their own “signature.”
Imagine that we have a Stradivarius at our disposal. Arguably the best crafted and best sounding musical instrument known to man. Along with our Stradivarius, we are miraculously able to assemble the three most renowned violin virtuosos in the world. Each of our violinists will be playing the same piece of music on our Stradivarius. It’s the classical piece: “Schubert’s Serenade.” As each of our musicians concludes their rendering, we find ourselves emotionally moved by the individuality of their musical interpretations.
Here’s the point. All three used the same instrument and played the same piece of music. We found ourselves completely entertained and spiritually moved by their performances. Yet, despite the similarities, there was noticeably a masterful difference that stood out. Each of our players had their own way of telling the truth. Each had an individual signature. When we examine the instant replay and slow down the tape, more of their differences can be observed without even listening to the sound. Each of our musicians handles their instrument with a different form of obvious care. Their appearance on stage is dissimilar; their stances have individuality, as do their facial displays. So what makes them different? What gives one a more dramatic feel than the others? What makes one sound as if only pleasantness has surrounded their lifetime?
The answer to all of these questions surely must be qualified as being subjective. Our experience with many years within the creative world has taught us, if nothing else, that methods for creating emotion can not be manufactured. Our proven method can only help bring out what was already there for you to either share or hide from the world.
Our musicians displayed honest emotions. What they had in common was two-fold. On one hand there were all the mechanical moves for making themselves comfortable. I refer to their setup. Their own way of coming on stage and with a nod, allowing that they were ready to perform. That was the obvious.
But in that singular instant of what appeared to be nothing more than setup time, something else occurred. In an instant almost too minimal to notice, the three of them in their own way displayed a calm and a confidence that emanated from their total and absolute belief: “I belong here. I am entitled.” Every odor, every site line, every audience murmur was a reinstitution of personal joy. They reeked of belonging. And what in the name of hell does all or any of this have to do with voice over? The “what’s missing” is the fact that these professionals all were able to consistently visualize there past images of success. All this accomplished in an instant. And all attributed to one simple word: Reflection.
I’ll admit that what I’m about to share with you was said by a kid with a very high IQ. The fact that it was a five year old kid makes the simplicity and depth of what follows a touch on the over-powering side. Trust me for a moment more, I do have a reason for relating a poignant incident.
It happened on a warm and sunny day during a summer school break. The schoolyard on this Saturday afternoon was a bustle with a bunch of kids as busy as you could possibly be, doing what kids are supposed to do: Having fun. You all know how five-year-old little boys play. They go all out until they drop. Then and only then, they know that it might be time to stop. Mom might be calling them home to eat, or dad is there to put his own boy on his shoulders for the ride home.
One of the dads, as he helped to tie his son’s shoe, asked the little guy playfully what was keeping that big smile stamped on his face. “I’m thinking about what a great day I had today, and what a good time I’m going to have tomorrow,” was the reply to his father’s question.
Well, you might be under the impression that my story is over. I don’t blame you. That was pretty powerful stuff coming from a five year old. I mean, the kid was able to reflect in order to feel happiness. But remember, I began by saying the kid had a very high IQ. Hold on… it gets better. Since they only lived a couple of blocks from the neighborhood school yard, our young group arrived home in no more than a few short minutes.
Our little boy’s closest friend managed to make it home first. When our father and son approached their front door they found the friend sitting on the front porch with tears in his eyes. It didn’t take long to find out that the friend’s little dog was nowhere to be found. It was one of those times when a kid knows that an end had come. The two boys sat there on the porch, asking about the dog. In a few minutes, Dad returned to the front porch and found the two boys once again in a good mood. That night after dinner, he asked his boy what had made his little friend happy again. “I don’t know, Dad. All I did was remind him of how great a time we had today, and how we were going to do the same thing tomorrow.” Wow. A promise of future happiness based on a five year old’s reflection of the past.
While the afternoon was a fleeting moment in the day of a five year old, it never the less served as a lesson learned. Emotion shared freely brings a purity that can not be challenged. Here we have an incident when a five year old was able to bring comfort to his friend by reminding his friend of what happiness they had shared. Need I use the term “reflection” again? While it might not be necessary, I’m going to end this little sermon with a reminder: The most important commodity we might have been endowed with is a brain that gives us all the ability to recall a pleasant moment. Again, we’re back with my favorite tool for comprehension. The ability to recall honestly.
Emotion shared freely brings a purity that cannot be challenged.
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