Brian Price comes from audio drama with experience in writing, producing, directing audio theater, editing audiobooks, and reviewing for AudioFile magazine.
Please join me in welcoming Brian to the VOX Daily community by reading his article and commenting with your thoughts!
Sonorous and the Highway
By Brian Price
When I first started writing book-on-tape reviews somewhere towards the end of the last century, I must’ve run into the word sonorous a couple dozen times in the first six months. Sounding more like a description of coffee than vocal quality, every richly toned, full-bodied, darkly hued narrative voice was described as sonorous. These sonorous voices were serious and trustworthy, resonant, and easy on the ears. They were delightful.
But what deep, bassy voices really do is cut through the crap — the white noise, office hum and blaring background sounds of everyday life. These days we are constantly listening in louder, noisier, lawn-mowing decibel rumbling environments with smaller and smaller little buds stuck in our ears. The program you’re listening to has to be able to get above and through all that. That’s why most AM and FM deejays have those good old blaring, overly reverbed low voices — you can hear them driving 70 mph down the highway with the top down.
You can’t hear subtle, theatrical, nuanced performances driving 70 mph down the highway with the top down. You can’t hear children’s reading voices at 70 mph. You can’t hear an oboe solo at 70 mph. Deep voices and sounds get heard.
It’s physics: high notes, high tones, soprano voices are very directional. In other words, when a high tone comes out of a radio or CD speaker, the tone goes in the one direction that it is pointed toward. Bass tones come out of the speaker in an all-around, omni-directional path. Just like those annoying bass thumps from a boom-box car, lower tones can be heard in all directions.
The sounds and recordings of history are so different to our ears. I was listening to the British Library: Voices of History series the other day and it is amazing how nasally, mid-range and Midwestern P.T. Barum and Charles Lindbergh sounded. Great orators like Abraham Lincoln (whose voice was never recorded), Grover Cleveland and William Jennings Bryant (who were recorded) had high or mid-range voices. Their voices could be heard and would resonate just fine in a good lecture hall, in a barn yard, or sitting in front of the radio, but not at 70 mph with the top down.
Recently, a Harvard study concluded that women of certain third-world tribes are more attracted to men with deeper voices and believe they are better hunters, better providers and better mates. Oh well, now I’m even more jealous of those who are sonorous than ever before.
Great Northern Audio Theatre
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