Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My voice is apparently a commodity...who knew?

A couple weeks ago, I got an email at work asking me if I would be interested in doing something that does not fall at all under my very particular set of skills. In fact it is probably tied with Harlem Globetrotter as things that I am the least likely to be asked to do, which if you know me at all...means I will say yes. [Tangent: As much as I hate being terrible at things, I have too much curiosity in my blood and fear of missing out to turn down an experience (or money).]  Long story short...today for two hours I did voice-over work  for a government agency's training program. Yes. Someone paid me to read and talk. My huffy mumbly ass! [Added Bonus! There was also a green screen partially involved so I could live out that Al Roker fantasy. Now I'm wondering how many people will find my blog by googling "Al Roker Fantasy."]

There are a lot of things I love about myself. My voice is NOT one of them. [Tangent: Before you misconstrue this as a compliment fishing expedition...save it. We all know mine is not the greatest. It's OK. Don't try to convince me otherwise...even though I already know you have the phrase "but it has a Macy Gray quality to it" waiting at the tip of your tongue. I've heard people politely try to convince me otherwise, but I still can't stand hearing myself speak. It's the reason I use a default voicemail message. In my mind, I sound perfectly pleasant and I don't like reality to knock me in the nuts and convince me otherwise.] You know I'm not being hyperbolic if you've ever heard me sing a breathless karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody or Black Hole Sun or have tried very unsuccessfully to talk to me in a crowded place. [Tangent: My tone is a bit on the low end and SUPER monotone, so good luck hearing me at a concert or where a lot of ambient sounds are happening, because tonally I am akin to background noise.] Luckily I have medical backing for my shitty and very unsoothing voice.

When I was 16, I was hospitalized medically for the first time with a gnarly case of pneumonia, which left me intubated for four days. When they pulled that breathing tube out of my throat and up through my mouth, it left one of my vocal cords paralyzed permanently. This meant I was working with one lone cord and my voice sounded like a lifetime smoker who had been gargling with aquarium rocks.   It also made the fact that I speak on the inhale (instead of the exhale like most folks) more noticeable, because I was permanently trying to get breath when I could into my craptastic excuses for lungs, now only more craptastic after pneumonia. Yay!

Trust I tried to rehab that bastard lung. For weeks I want to speech therapy at a voice center in Nashville that housed tons of gold records hanging on the walls. Maybe I would leave sounding like Vince Gill..that might be interesting, right? [Tangent: But I don't love pop country music voices one bit...so I think I would be even more miserable in that scenario. Now if they could make me sound like Johnny Cash, we might have a deal. Wait... I pretty much already did sound like him during his "Hurt" era.]

My main vocal exercise is one I still do (mostly to see what I would sound like if I talked like a normal person): "Say multi-syllabic 'M' words after holding out the mmmmm sound."

"mmmmmmmmmm-motorcycle"
"mmmmmmm-monster mash"
"mmmmmmmmm-medicine."

I SOUNDED CRAZY!

Prompted by the therapists, I also had to read "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish" concentrating hard on my breath control and voice strength. [Tangent: This totally sucked the joy out the complex storytelling in that one.]  I was speaking on the exhale, but it wound up sounding like a straight up robot sex phone operator, which is a really fucked up way to interpret Dr. Seuss. [Tangent: I imagine a lot of ladies behind 1-900 numbers are more "Hop on Pop" kinda gals, anyway.]

Anyone that was around me during that period in my life can vouch that my "new voice" they were trying to train was very off-putting. My best friend refused to talk to me when I was practicing my exercises because it creeped her out so much to hear that bizarro version of me. Sounding like you are awkwardly and unintentionally trying to seduce someone 24/7 is very odd....so I just settled into forever using my old voice incorrectly...and here we are awkward pitchy vocals and all.

Since then, I have had all sorts of stuff try to bring down that lone vocal chord. I've lost my voice dozens of times and even had a trach tube for a week and a half and another lengthly love affair with intubation. In that time, my voice has likely become even worse...but even still I have bamboozled someone with my personality into thinking I should do VO work! SUCKERS! :)

Advanced apologies to speeech therapists for ignoring their teachings, teachers all over Tennessee who might have to hear me on these training videos, and those who have any semblance of vocal training.

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