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The Living Room Me and society The sound of your own voice
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The sound of your own voice
Robin's post about all the different voices inside every person got me thinking. I won't say I hate the way I sound to other people, but it sure doesn't sound like me. I get so accustomed to the voice I hear in my head that I forget the other one exists and that the one I hear is my little secret. So at once I wish other people could hear what I hear, but also I want it to remain mine.

So what's in a voice? Well, vibrations and such, pitch and tones traveling through the larynx and what not. When we speak what we hear is our voice going through the normal soundwaves in the air around our head and through our ears, but we also hear our voice traveling through the brain tissue to the ear which explains the difference of what we hear and everyone else hears.

Maybe it's because of this distinction that our voices have always been symbols for individuality. The way it changes as we do, grows as we do. One of my favorite Shakespeare lines from As you like it
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Is it any wonder Shakespeare gives every age a distinct voice? The child mews, the schoolboy whines, the lover sighs, the soldier has strange oaths, the justice full of sayings, the aging with a big manly voice, and then the child again with a treble and whistles in his sound.

So maybe you're right Robin, maybe we are all filled with so many voices, each to fill the air of the moment. And maybe we need that one voice, our private one, to unite them all.
How do poets consider voice? It's one thing of course to read a poem word by word through the meter, but when you hear it out-loud it's another sensation completely. When a poet reads her poetry out loud she is able to give it whatever voice the moment calls for. With tone and pitch she can make certain words and ideas sing louder than others, and with each reading give a wholly different meaning. 

These momentary voices agree with your sentiments Hanna about all the different people and names inside of us. One of the most magical things about our voices is how temporary they are, as soon as we let them free from the seat of our vocal boxes they disappear into the fragments of memory. Sometimes when I'm only half listening I'll hear a passing word dissolve its meaning and sink back into formless noise, just sounds playing in the air. 

So maybe our ears are just as important as our voices; mustn't we listen first if we want to speak sensibly? 
I met a girl from Barbados recently who actively works to erase any sign of her accent. It comes out when she lets her guard down and gets worked up either happily or not. It's great when she breaks down because it's almost like an initiation. It's an indication that she is comfortable enough in your presence to be more herself. And her accent is great. It's a great fusion sound of Creole and British and Americana. It's almost like a shorthand accent, it moves quite quick and fits her personality beautifully. But in conversation it sounds as if she is almost ashamed of it, ashamed of what puts her apart. She says that she began masking it when she came to America and realized people treated her as backwards. I wanted to tell her that she should let it fly all the time and not be ashamed of it, but she brought up the case of a job interview. It's horrible, but I bet she's right, that she stands to not get a job because of her voice which sets her apart. So she hides it and keeps it as her own little secret, shows it to the right people sometimes and other times keeps it locked up in a closet in her mouth.

The worst part about her story is that she is scared to use her voice. Because she is afraid to speak with her adopted accent her entire character changes. It's perfectly reasonable to assume that she is an entirely different person in her native home. She could be outgoing and loud and even gregarious. But here she is timid and quiet, not confident to completely be herself because of whatever reason. She might be afraid people will think she is less intelligent (she is quite smart) if she uses her home accent or maybe she is afraid to be identified as different. Either way I found it extraordinarily sad that she can't use her natural voice.

Voices aren't necessarily something heard. We have writing voices and singing voices and hidden voices that the world doesn't know. Voices are just the manifestation of an individual. They are the sound by which we know each other and know our family and friends. I like to think we only have one voice though, one which grows with us as we travel through life, one that changes for others but never for us. I'm glad for my voice not because it sets me apart but because it brings me together. Humans are animals and like squaking birds we find like-minded people through our voice. It is our tool to express ourselves to other people, it's less about how it sounds so much as what is being said. The voice is just the tool of our brain, an offshoot of our personality, the messenger of our thoughts. Working in tandem with our hands, our voice allows us to act. It is the vehicle which can turn billowy and non-physical ideas into a reality.
So what do you do if you hate the sound of your own voice?
I just heard myself recorded, and couldn't stop thinking: "Who is this idiot."
How can one change one's voice, if you can't actually ever hear it? Are recordings good witnesses? The discussion on the technological divide suggests otherwise.

I now believe one can learn to sing, but can we improve the sound of our voice? I don't care about accents, but my "recorded" voice is awful.
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Latest Post: April 9, 2010 at 1:18 PM
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