Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Audio Books

One of my jobs is to record audio books, mostly the unabridged versions which are faithful recordings of the original text every if, and or but. These are usually single voice recordings which involve sitting in a small, airless booth for days on end while the producer tears their hair out, silently, on the other side of the glass. They take quite a lot of preparation for the reader, as they have to be read through and then marked up.

All readers have their own techniques, but I am an avid collector of highlighters. If a book is 400 pages long and a character speaks on p.20 and then again on p.284, the highlighter is your friend. The book must be read through, then again with the highlighters, and again with a pencil to mark up the ends of pages. Every time you turn the page, the sound guys will have to edit the noise out and you have to turn at the beginning or end of a sentence. So the ends of sentences have to be written at the bottom of the page.

Similarly, with descriptions of how the dialogue is spoken, you can get quite far through a passage of dialogue before the author adds "He whispered". These directions need to be brought to your attention as you are embarking on the dialogue, so they all have be ringed or underlined.

Then there are the pronunciations. These can result in hundreds of question marks, consultations with embassies, detours on-line and to the dictionary. If you're lucky the author will be alive and contactable though even their patience can run thin after a week of erratic phone calls on the correct emphasis for an invented petrol company/haunted house/tinpot dictator. One novel had a character who liked to calm themselves by listing the names of every single road they had taken prior to their arrival which wouldn't have been too bad had they not enjoyed long journeys and lived in Sweden.

Some readers are just remarkably talented, they can skip through the pages with hardly any mistakes and are also talented actors with mellifluous voices. Most of us have our strengths and weaknesses as readers. The most difficult books have characters with strong regional accents travelling around the globe and learning new languages. One book I narrated was set in World War II and therefore rquired people from all over eastern Europe congregating frequently. They were all men of a similar age and in order to distinguish between them I resorted to various vocal tics so that they must have sounded like a conference on speech impediments.

This week, I am doing another recording of a series of fairy books for children. They are delightful stories with many characters of an extremely high vocal register. I shall be squeaking with abandon.