40 Voices Challenge #12

Old Man #2 – Young and Old

An unexpected song!

This poem was written by Charles Kingsley
(1819-1875).  It actually appeared at the
end of Chapter 2 of Kingsley’s novel, The Water Babies.  You can tell that it is sung by someone
elderly describing how things are to one much younger.  As one reader commented, the
“speech” given serves to inform the lad of the wonders of youth, but
will most likely be ignored. Thus the case is a relatable one.

I was intrigued to see how it was used in the story of
the The Water Babies.  It was sung by the
school mistress, an ‘old dame’, who lamented the death of a boy (the main
character is mistakenly thought to have drowned).  The little children helped bedecked the
tombstone with garlands every Sunday and although they couldn’t understand it,
liked it nonetheless ‘for it was very sweet and very sad; and that was enough
for them’.

The emotion is summarised by the author after the poem is

‘Those are the words: but they are only the body of it:
the soul of the song was the dear old woman’s sweet face, and sweet voice, and
the sweet old air to which she sang; and that, alas! one cannot put on paper.’

And so, this challenge is suddenly musical too;  To create a sad but beautiful ballad.  Accent-wise, I am unsure where the book is
set, except ‘a great town in the North country’, so perhaps Manchester or
Sheffield.  I decided to create the song
but sung by an elderly man.

The poem:

40 Voices Challenge #11

Middle-aged Man #2 – The Land of Counterpane

This poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The poem is short and speaks for itself of an
child’s imagination running wild whilst laying sick in bed.

It is such a personal, touching poem, that I decided to
make this a challenge by attempting the author’s own voice.  I thought, what if the grown-up poet, Robert
Louis Stevenson was reading this poem aloud…

The author is from Edinburgh.  This is a rich, Scottish accent, where the Ts
are often dropped in place of glottal-stops and the Rs are rarely if ever
rolled.  It’s more common to roll the R
just once (a tapped R).  Some other
points worth noting:

“Oo” sounds is the
same as “u” sound, unlike with many English accents.
“O” sound in words like such as “coupon” would be almost
“Ea” sound in words such as ‘Head’ are pronounced “ee”.
“I” sound in words such as ‘if’ become “eh” and are very
Some heavy articulation on consonants such as ‘B’s and ‘G’s
(e.g. Burgular, Beautiful).

Finally, there is very little mouth movement,
really.  The words generally have a quick
attack to start but a soft ending.

The poem (text):



40 Voices Challenge #10

Man #2 – Lazy Jack

This is a fable collected by James Halliwell Orchard
Phillips.  It came from Yorkshire, and so
for this challenge I’ve decided to narrate with a yorkshire accent.  See what you think about Jack.  I’m not sure ‘lazy’ is quite the word for

The Yorkshire Accent:
In preparing for this role, I learned that:
“u” sounds in such words as “Chuffed” is pronounced “o”.
Words ending in an “ee” sound like ‘butty’ sound like
“Oh” sound in words such as ‘know’ is pronounced “oeh”
“Our” becames “aar”

One really good tip was from Amy Walker, who said it really
helped her accent if she tightened her lower lip.  As she points out there is often a mouth
posture to unlock many of the sounds.  The
lower lip does far less of the work.

For Yorkshire, the tone goes up and down quite like the
hills.  Also, like the hills, the tone is
never too harsh, but is rounded and wide.
The tongue also doesn’t come to the front of the mouth as much as
Southern accents.

Here are my references from this challenge:
The fable (text)
Fletcher, Accent Tips

Walker, Accent Tips

Accent Tag

Accent Tag

of Yorkshire Dialect, recorded in 1989

Post-recording thoughts – I’m pleased with the overall
narration, but some elements were still tricky, such as the word ‘head’, which
never quite fell into place.  Also, I’m
discovering that when I do character voices, I fall out of the accent.  Something to work on, then.

40 Voices Challenge #9

Boy #2 – A Child’s Dream of a Star

This story was written by Charles Dickens in 1850.  According to Bartleby.com Dickens told a
biographer that as a child he used to wander at night about a churchyard near
their home, with his sister.  This sister
died only two years before this story was written.

The text can be found on Bartleby.com

For this voice challenge I was going to work on
children’s voices, but once I completed the narration it seemed more natural to
keep the voices in the narrator’s voice.

The story itself is both and beautiful and the narrative
is the most important part.  I also felt
inspired to add some mellow guitar to add an extra layer to the text.

40 Voices Challenge

Round 2

After a little Summer break, it’s time to consider what voices to try to add to the 40 Voices Table.  I’ve decided that Round 2 will be based around the theme of Children’s stories and poems.  There is plenty of material to choose from and I hope you find some to your liking.  I’m certainly looking forward to working on them!  Voice Challenges 9-16 will be as follows:

9.   Boy –

Child’s Dream of a Star, Charles Dickens
10. Young Man – Lazy Jack, Fable
11. Middle-Age Man – The Land of Counterpane, by Robert Louis Stevenson
12. Old Man – Young and Old, by Charles Kingsley
13. Woman – The Old Woman in the Wood, A fairy tale of the
Brothers Grimm
14. Sound Effects – Little Dorothy and Toto, by L. Frank Baum
15. Animals – Cat and Mouse in partnership, A fairy tale of
the Brothers Grimm
16. In Song – A scene from Harry Potter, by JK Rowling

So I’d best get to work!  Stay tuned for more voices challenges.

Vocal Observations

Lyrics for the composition for $30,000 Bequest

For those that are interested, here are the lyrics very much based on Chapter 2 of Mark Twain’s short story.

Sally (joyous tune in Bb):
thousand dollars!
A vast sum, an unthinkable
Aleck:  But how to
invest it?
Sally:   But on what
to spend it?

Narrator:  There was no
romance-reading that night. The children took themselves away early, for their
parents were silent, distraught, and strangely unentertaining.Two pencils had
been busy during that hour—note-making; in the way of plans. It was Sally who
broke the stillness at last… :

Sally (romantic tune):
Ah, it’ll be grand, Aleck!
Out of the first thousand
we’ll have a horse and a buggy
And tools for the winter

Aleck (logic tune):
Out of the capital?
Nothing of the kind.
Not even if it was a million!

Sally (logic tune):
Oh, Aleck!   We’ve always worked so hard.
We’ve scrimped and now we are
rich, it seems…

Aleck (romantic tune):
… We must not spend the
capital, dear,
it would not be wise.
But, out of the income from

Sally (romantic tune, overlapping Aleck’s part):
That will answer, that will
answer, Aleck!
How dear and good you are!
We can spend that noble income

Aleck (logic tune):
Not all of it, dear,
not all of it,
but you can spend a part, –
that is
a reasonable part.
But the whole of the capital
every penny must be
put – right to work,
and – kept at it.
You – see that, don’t you?

Sally (logic tune):
Why, ye-s, of course.

Sally (go west pattern):
But we’ll have to wait so
Six months before interest’s

 Aleck (logic tune):
Yes—maybe longer.

Sally (logic tune):
Longer, Aleck? Why?
Don’t they pay half-yearly?

Aleck (logic tune):
I sha’n’t invest in that way.

Sally (logic tune):
What way, then?

Aleck (logic tune – key change):
For big returns.

Sally (logic tune):
Big. That’s good.
Go on, Aleck.
What is it?

(romantic tune):

Coal. The new mines.
I mean to put in ten thousand.
Ground floor. When we
we’ll get three shares for


By George, but it sounds good,
Then the shares will be worth
How much?
And when?

They’ll pay ten per cent.
about a year.
Worth thirty thousand.
See, in the paper, here.

Sally (speculation, on same note):   
Land, thirty thousand for
ten—in a year?!

Sally (cascade style):
I’ll write and subscribe right
tomorrow it maybe too late.

Don’t lose your head, Sal(ly)
Till we have the money we must

Why, Aleck, we’ll have it, soon, you
I bet they’re digging his grave and
I think we…

How can you, Sally!

Aleck: (minor prog.):
Don’t talk in that way
it is perfectly scandalous.

Oh, well, make it a halo,
if you like,
I don’t care for him,
I was only just talking.
Can’t you let a person talk?

But why should you talk in that way?
How would you feel if it was

Not likely for a while
and I wouldn’t be so vile
to try and hurt someone

Sally (building up tune):
but never mind, Tilbury,
Let’s talk about something
Shall we write out a cheque
To the mine for all thirty?

Too risky —that’s
the objection.

All right, if you say so.
What about the other twenty?
Oh Aleck, where will that go?

Aleck (calming):
There is
no hurry;
I am going to look around
before I do anything with it.

Sally (resolution):
right, if your mind’s made up…

Sally (logic):
There’ll be twenty thou- sand
profit coming from the ten
about a year from now.
We can spend that, then?

No, dear, it won’t sell high
Not at first, so you can spend
a part of that

only that
and a whole year to wait!
Confound it!

(logic tune):

Oh, do be patient!
It might even be declared
in three months—it’s quite possible.

Sally (building):
jolly! oh, thanks!
It’ll be three thousand—three
whole thousand!
how much of it can we spend,
Make it liberal!
do, dear,
Make it liberal!
Do, that’s a good fellow.

Narrator:  Aleck was pleased; so
pleased that she yielded to the pressure and conceded a sum which her judgment
told her was a foolish extravagance—a thousand dollars. Sally kissed her half a
dozen times and even in that way could not express all his joy and
thankfulness. This new access of gratitude and affection carried Aleck quite
beyond the bounds of prudence, and before she could restrain herself she had
made her darling another grant:

Sally (romantic tune):
I want to hug you!

The Nightmare
Before Christmas-style dialogue

Sally (listing in one note)
church-pew—stem-winder—new teeth—say, Aleck!


Are you Ciphering away?
Will the other twenty thousand be invested today?

Not right now, we’ve time there’s
no need to knee-jerk
First we’ll pull all the profits
from the coal mines to work!

Scott, what a head!
I never thought of that.
How are you getting along?
What have you arrived at?

Not very far;
two years or three.
I’ve turned it over twice;
once in oil and once in wheat.

Why, Aleck, it’s splendid! How
does it aggregate?

Well, to be on the safe side, about a hundred and eigh –
-ty thousand clear, though it will probably be more.

My! Isn’t it wonderful? Luck has come to our door,
And you know, in return, we ought to dispense
Three hundred to the missionaries
And damn the expense!

Aleck (cascade,
slow, weepy tune):

That noble thing, will bring so much
You couldn’t do better, my
unselfish boy.

(Logic background
tune but in a major scale)

40 Voices Challenge #8

Musical #1 – $30,000 Bequest

Characters: Saladin (Sally) and Electra (Aleck) from Mark
Twain‘s short story, The $30,000 Bequest.
The story is part of a collection called $30,000 Bequest and Other
Stories published in 1906.  According to Buffalo
, the title story was written in 1904.  In it the author is not only playing with the
influence of money, but probing the dynamics of a marriage.

In terms of voice-work, the town the couple are from,
Lakeside, is a small rural community in the far west of the USA.  Musically, I decided to adapt the characters’
lines from Chapter 2 as this is where the couple have found out about the money
they are to inherit from Uncle Tilbury and are getting ahead of themselves in
planning how to best spend or invest it.
The energy as the characters bounce off each other was very appealing.  There are a few different tunes going on in
this piece; one is the pencil-tapping melody I call the ‘logic’ tune, but there
is also a ‘romantic’ tune, which is when the couple throw caution to the wind.

I’ll publish the lyrics in a separate post for those who are interested.

40 Voices Challenge #7

Animal #1 – The Raven

From classic writing, I thought I’d go with The Raven, by
Edgar Allan Poe.

So why this poem for the first animal challenge?  Because it is another classic piece (written
in 1845) and combines an audiobook style with the chance to enhance it with the
sounds of a raven.

The text can be found on Bartleby.com, whilst an audio recording read by Christopher Walken can be heard on SoundCloud.

Let’s look at the words first.  According to the Wikipedia entry, the raven ‘visits a distraught lover, tracing man’s slow
fall into madness’.  The story itself is
a supernatural journey of torment.  Add
to this its complex rhythm and meter combined with with internal rhymes, there’s
a lot to work on here.

The other part is of course, the animal noises.  Not only is the raven ever-present, it speaks
in human tongue, crying out “Nevermore”.  You can hear how different the raven sound is compared to the caw of the crow.  They are in fact incredibly talented at producing voices,
which I wasn’t expecting!  There’s even a clip of a Raven saying “Nevermore”!

So, with this background, it’s time to combine the animal
sounds with the musical rhymes of Poe’s poem.

40 Voices Challenge #6  – part 2

Sound Effect #1 – Scripted and Alternative Takes

Last time I introduced the Human Sound Effects recording,
in other words, the various noises and changes in sound based on human
behaviours.  Using a scene from the movie
You’ve Got Mail, I recorded a straight take based on the script.  Now we will add the suggested human sound
effects listed in The Voice Over for Animation book (by Jean Ann Wright and MJ
Lallo).  I will then provide comments on
my recording experiences.

The scene is on YouTube (0-46 seconds).

Take 1:  Play it straight, off the script.

Take 2: Character1 is choking, Joe is laughing, Kathleen is whimpering,
Character2 is smoking a cigar.

With the laughing, I was getting a big contrast in
volume.  To equalise it I found laughing
to one side helped and it still sounded natural.  Laughing with an “ooo” sound carried
incredibly well, so I had to really turn my head for that.  The cigar smoking was the opposite
problem.  I had to exaggerate the sound
(sucking on a pen) to make it audible.

Take 3:  Character1 is sneezing, Joe is in ecstacy, Kathleen is
coughing, Character2 is grunting (as if lifting something heavy).

Sneezes can be both bassy and explosive!  In terms of equalising this was
difficult.  Interestingly, I found
sneezing above the mic and facing up kept the volume down most.  The worst part about the cough was technique
and damaging the throat a little.


Character1 is slurping, Joe is eating an apple, Kathleen
is yawning, Character2 is out of breath.

It was very easy to overdo the slurping.  So unlike the cigar effect, this one needed
to be toned down.  I decided on live
props for both the drink and apple in this instance.  The heavy breathing was extra-bassy so needed
a less direct positioning.

Take 5: 

is lisping, Joe is stuttering, Kathleen is just waking up, Character2 is

The hardest thing about stuttering is timing, because it
simply wouldn’t sync with the pre-existing video clip.  Stuttering was also hard to do effectively
for a character and it was hard to not tense the body and sometimes the
completed words would be harsher and louder after the effort of producing them.  

40 Voices Challenge #6 – part 1

Sound Effect #1 (the scripted version)

Sound Effects is such a big area, so I’m going to try and
cover what I can.  The Voice Over for
Animation book (by Jean Ann Wright and MJ Lallo) that I am using suggests the
following exercise – to watch a DVD scene with the sound down and improvising
using your own voices but with a different twist each time.  The twists will be the added sound effects.

The point of the exercise it to work with the microphone
and experiment, changing the position of the mic and modulating the voice
whilst keeping it a consistent level.  I’ll
put the results and my thoughts about the experience of performing each take iin the next blog entry (part 2).

The scene I am going to use for this exercise is from the
movie, You’ve Got Mail (0-46 seconds) as it uses a few different characters and
I don’t know the movie all that well, so I won’t feel quite so inhibited.

Champagne please.

JOE:  Absolut on the rocks with a fresh glass,

KATHLEEN:  A white wine, please.


KATHLEEN:  (very friendly)   Oh,

 JOE:  Hi.

KATHLEEN:  Remember me, from the bookstore?

JOE:  Of course I remember you.

KATHLEEN:  How’s your aunt?

JOE:  Good.
She’s good.  (gets his drink)  I have to deliver this.  I have a very     thirsty date.  She’s part

Kathleen laughs.

It’s Joe, isn’t it?

JOE:  And you’re Kathleen.

Joe vanishes into the party.

KATHLEEN:  Kathleen Kelly.

2:  Two white wines, please.