A great performer makes it look easy, don’t they? When an audience deliver themselves into the hands of a great professional artist they can relax. They can allow themselves to be taken to whatever place the writer/painter/musician/actor wants them to go. They are all happy to suspend their disbelief and go on a journey. That’s why we all need art. Art takes us to those parts of humanity not touched in our own lives. It’s exciting, it’s horrifying, it’s hilarious, it’s harrowing. Above all, art is life affirming and human.
I was very happy with how the recording went that day. The challenge was to render a scene from World War II. A group of Wehrmacht soldiers were attempting to escape their pursuers on the frozen wastelands of the Eastern Front. In addition to narrating the scene in 1stperson I was also portraying 5 different characters all gripped in their own way by the immediacy of death. To play such a scene in one take all by yourself is no mean feat. Doing this sort of thing is why audiobook narration is so fiendishly difficult to do well.
There is a saying in business that goes: “if you try to sell to everybody, you’re really selling to nobody.” The implication of this phrase is that you can’t be all things to all customers. In traditional businesses this is absolutely true. If Coca-Cola tried to sell fruit and veg and sheet metal alongside offering telecommunications training, it’s unlikely they would have maintained their position as a leading soft drinks maker. Laser focus on a single brilliantly made product has carried thousands of businesses to success.
To many laypeople and, dare I say it a few actors who should know better, reading and speaking are the same thing. One is a synonym for the other. I freely admit that when I was 21, I thought exactly the same thing. Reading or narrating a text was about accuracy and clarity. You might vary your pace or tone a bit to keep it lively and intelligible and of course you would be sure to project (darling!) But speaking?
A few weeks ago, I was involved in a fascinating discussion about corrections and preparation in audiobook narration. Some excellent colleagues of mine didn’t entirely agree with my point of view over the role of the proofer. Some of my colleagues expressed a dislike of overly detailed prep, preferring instead to focus on their sight-reading virtuosity and a meticulous 1st Pass Edit before sending their work to a proofer. For me, this doesn’t work.