Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Lentswe (lints'we) is the Setswana word for voice, read differently (lints-wear) it means stone. Where was I when people were studying phonetics (though the same could be said of punctuation class)? I don't know why language works the way it does, why stone and voice might find themselves sharing space in a world of endless - are they infinite?- possible combinations of alphabets but there are men and women whose voices may as well be stones for how well they poleax with this, our first instrument. And even then, with some speakers its the very sound of their voice, with others its the pitch and inflections, accents, clarity (I'm preoccupied with hearing clearly and easily when someone speaks, if their intention is communication) and at best it is all this and more.

I went the other day to a multi-media reading and was distracted by the imagery and music of it all so I instinctively closed my eyes to listen. I also do this when people whisper/don't project adequately across a room but to leave the illusion of politeness intact I only squint and compensate by leaning in. I trust my ear to read people and situations well, of course all my other senses complement this - hair standing on back of neck, eyes seeing a micro expression beneath some thin social veneer etc Theres no magic to this, children are brilliant at it. Our ears are quite experienced if only we would listen to them - I presume they helped immeasurably when as a children most of us had to acquire languages.
They are also a great editing tool. I read everything out loud, before I abandon it to its public fate, to check for musicality and grammar and consistency of the narrator's textual voice, to see if I'm putting on airs - my accent often shifts to try and accommodate this false/other voice - and I can better manage text this way.

But having said that, I also leave the room if I have to hear my own voice on a recording. Obviously you were not meant to hear yourself outside of… yourself/realtime because its quite disconcerting for me to listen to playback of my own voice; misplaced inflections, unheard of things happening with pronunciation cue chalkboard-cringe.

Anyway I love that word lentswe and today I'm doing a quickie list of some of my favorite film voices. I'm quite fickle hearted and so this list grows and morphs with each wardrobe change.

Peter Cullen is amazing. I loved Transformers as a child and was ever so happy (story lines up for debate) when they brought him back as a voice in the movies. Optimus Prime and Iron Hide are hands down my absolute favorite voices in the series.

Sir David Attenborough's voice is inalienable from my childhood Sundays,  I loved dinosaurs and wild animals, and its as calming to me as a lullaby to hear the familiarity of his voice across time and borders. The sound of someone who loves something; sometimes people call it passion if they can also see it in your face.

James Earl Jones. I say Mufasa and raise you Darth Vader and you say what?

Lennie James, I didn't really pay attention until Colombiana and then walla!(Voila!), not unlike hearing Kevin Spacey in House of Cards … bear with me here, its a bit like listening to a (good) Bollywood OST I love that stuff partly because no one in my immediate environment has that particular musical lilt to their speech.

Tom Hiddlestone is growing on me but we'll give him a few decades to shake hands with his tribesmen - Jeremy Irons (the man who killed Mufasa) or Cumberbatch et al before we commit entirely ;-). He did do a wonderful Darwin voice over for the Galapagos documentary I caught on Danish television recently.

Denzel Washington, calmly deliberate half rasp anyone? Also that laugh.

Tom Wilkinson and Sir Anthony Hopkins are good ones for a speech and I do so want to give Sean "Jamesh" Connery a list of words beginning with S to see what happens. What will he do when faced with 'sea' and 'she'?

Paul Robeson - I'm cheating here because I've never really heard him speak at length but as a kid I watched the 1936 movie Showboat (TNT + father who is 4 decades older) and never forgot his Ol' Man River so since its-my-list-I-can-fudge-it if I want to.

Henry Cele as Shaka Zulu, mainly for sentimental reasons. I still remember that other cat trying to feed Shaka some philosophical reasoning and Shaka is on some blood! If you decide to watch the videos online do library/google the historical facts afterward just to gain some context.

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