Dr Niamh On The Plum Tree

Childhood Imagination Sows Seeds of Future Brilliance

The Narrator’s Voice With Daniel H. Vimont

This week, on the narrator’s voice, I share a real delight with Daniel’s post in which he narrates “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius… Being a narrator and singer myself, I appreciate all that Daniel speaks about.  Narration is also about the timbre in a voice, and Daniel has loads of that!

The Challenges Of Audiobook Narration, Part 2: Developing One’s Prosody skills.

By Daniel H. Vimont.

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What exactly is prosody? That’s a tough question to answer succinctly, but if pressed for an answer, I would say that “prosody” is roughly synonymous to what we otherwise call “expressiveness” in oral reading. Or to analogize — prosody is to reading aloud as musicianship is to musical performance. But it might be better to break prosody down to its component aspects, which include rhythm, intonation, phrasing, stress, tempo, and volume.

These components represent some of the tools of expressiveness that are available to a storyteller to engage and entertain an audience. It is neither accident nor coincidence that the expressive tools of the storyteller are almost exactly the same as those that a musician uses. In my mind, there is NO distinction between prosody and musicality: prosodic expression in storytelling is merely a specific *kind* of music-making, and all of my past experiences as a classical musician directly inform and shape my work in the creation of audiobooks.

Musicians actively develop their musical expressiveness every time they pick up their instrument, and likewise, good storytellers are constantly cognizant of improving their prosody in the midst of each reading. But musicians and storytellers alike usually feel a need to take things further, to persistently work in a very focused way to develop specific aspects of their expressiveness. A pianist might choose a few pieces from Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” to use as the basis of their personal expressive studies, working with them rigorously in a practice room to hone their craft. The equivalent for me over the past year has been to utilize a modern English verse translation of “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius, the lengthy Roman-era exposition on the fundamental tenets of Epicureanism that was so influential to the predominant figures of the Enlightenment.

There are very few pages of “On the Nature of Things” that fail to provide numerous prosodic challenges — considerably greater challenges than I generally encounter in the modern literature that constitutes the bulk of my regular work. I particularly get a workout with phrasing and stress, since I’m reading English poetry that has been translated from Latin poetry, making for some of the most awkward (yet often, strangely beautiful) phrases and sentences that I’ve ever had to utter. And I’m striving always to make it comprehensible to the listener, because I am giving all of my recordings of “On the Nature of Things” to the Librivox project, to be made part of their public domain collection of audiobooks.

To give you an idea of what it’s all about, here are the opening stanzas of Book 1 of “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius.

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com

12 comments on “The Narrator’s Voice With Daniel H. Vimont

  1. scillagrace
    January 24, 2014

    Excellent example! A Vocal Performance major myself, I appreciate the artistry. I always chided myself a bit for being a slow reader; I tend to read aloud in my head and can’t seem to let my eyes run swiftly over the text. Ah well.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      January 24, 2014

      I always read aloud to hear how the piece of writing sounds. It’s the best way to edit! Thank you, Priscilla for dropping by.

      Like

    • Daniel Vimont
      January 24, 2014

      Of all of the aspects of prosody, tempo (or pacing) is one that I’m always grappling with in my narration work. The most noted coaches in the narration world generically instruct their students to slow it down, slow it down, slow it down. And often, we DO need to go slower (except, of course, when the text dictates that we should go faster).

      Like

      • ontheplumtree
        January 25, 2014

        I have to admit, I always slow it down as I hate to hear something garbled but also, I think a listener’s brain needs time to assimilate images and story-line. But it’s important not to slow it down too much or it drags and a listerner forgets the story-line.Again, I agree Daniel, sometimes the story-line, (as for example a chase) needs to speed up and give the feeling of urgency.

        Like

  2. Patricia Tilton
    January 24, 2014

    I am always in awe of really excellent narrators that keep you spellbound with their artistry. I was not familiar with the term of prosody. Likening a narrator developing his expressiveness to a musician was beautiful. I will always think of storytellers in a different way. Very informative and lovely post. And, I enjoyed listening to “The Hymn of Venus.” Daniel has a beautiful gift/talent.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      January 24, 2014

      Patricia, he will be delighted with your lovely comments.

      Like

    • Daniel Vimont
      January 24, 2014

      Thanks very much, Patricia! It’s gratifying to know that I expanded your horizons a bit with this posting.

      Like

  3. thiskidreviewsbooks
    January 26, 2014

    Thanks! I learned a couple of new words! Woo! 😀 Great post!

    Like

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2014 by in Guest Authors, Narrator's Voice and tagged , , , , , .
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