Saturday, March 26, 2011

Language Log » Celebrity voices

Here is a personal reminiscence about recording news for the radio.  The first, not very surprising message is that words written to be read silently can be awkward when read aloud. 

The second message is that the format of the radio station affects how the news reader delivers the words.  In this excerpt, the newsreader is a radio personality who, in her voice-over career, goes by the smart-alecky name “Miss Audix.”

In the first place, she [Miss Audix] explained, newswire stories are not written to be read out loud. As a professional newsreader, she would need to rewrite the stories and mark them up in various ways before reading them.

And in the second place, she insisted, the clash of personas was just too much. Happy secretaries are not newsreaders, nor vice versa. OK, I said, just read them as you would normally.

But that was not a clear enough instruction, because she had worked at several different kinds of radio stations. And she gave a fascinating demonstration of the acting method behind her different ways of reading the same story on a public radio station, on an all-news AM station, or on a top-40 music station.

On an NPR outlet, she explained, her presentation would embody the idea that "This is really complicated stuff, but I'm intelligent, and you're intelligent, so I'm going to lay the ideas out in a way that intelligently reflects their structure, and since you're paying careful and intelligent attention, you'll understand." And her sample exhibited a correspondingly elaborate modulation of amplitude, pitch, and time.

On an all-news AM station, she explained, the idea is "This is really important and you're really busy so just listen for a minute and you'll get all the essential stuff you need to know". And in her sample, she talked fast and loud and urgently, with great but generally uniform emphasis.

And on a music station her message was "You don't want to hear this, and I don't want to read this either, but the FCC makes us do it, so just ignore me for a minute and we'll get back to the tunes." The corresponding was rapid, soothing, unemphatic and easily backgrounded.

Language Log » Celebrity voices

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