On the Nature of audio books and “reading”

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JCarson
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Post by JCarson » June 30th, 2011, 11:33 am

I am fairly new to the world of audio books and very new to reading within Librivox. The bother of keeping track of stacks of CDs, which might scratch if not handled with care, and the equipment one might have to tote to listen to them always kept me at a distance from that activity (shudder the thought of cassette tapes!). About a year ago our library started to offer MP3 audio books, downloadable on the Internet, and so began my journey into listening rather than reading. I now have come to appreciate how lucky I am to be a reader/listener and now so many years later, the enjoyment seems to increase while other things…well, they do not.

From my perspective, the experience of listening to an audio book starts with the intimacy. It is as though the author were speaking to me of secret, often personal things, back from countless years ago, on a one to one level; the author is here now with me, just me, to tell the wonderful story of long, long ago. The teller has no thing to be gained except my enjoyment of the eloquence, of what he or she has to tell me, at my beck and call, day or night. There is a solitude in this intimacy, one soul in touch with another. It is a fine thing to read, but the walls of the chamber are echoic and sometimes not so reliable. When I am listening all is made quiet, but the author speaking to me. I mostly walk in the mornings to listen and eventually start to feel my legs grow heavy, only then to notice that I have been out over two hours and begrudge the need to rest and go back. It is so wonderful to escape the cacophony.

Of course, the reader of an audio book is there and, in my view, their sole occupation should be to interpret the work and become the author for the listener. A digital device, saying each word as the electronic signal is received, can easily accomplish the saying of individual words without interpretation. But the interpretation of the words, including what has passed and what is yet to come in the script, is so far beyond any digital talent as to be unworthy of discussion. Most audio devices are used to listen to music, most times a product that comes forth from a sophisticated studio employing multiple people and the breathless world of electronic enhancement. A reader, on the other hand, stands fairly alone, having to interpret difficult text sometimes and then deliver a fairly accurate rendition without additional explanation. The saying of the words needs to be accomplished, but their meaning has to be presented too. I think this is best done through pace, tone and pause, but only after the reader is acquainted with the message of the passage and of the work. The unstated presence of fear, humor, melancholy, joy, love, hate etc all need to accompany the saying of the words. Unlike the musician, there are few (if any) knobs to adjust in doing this and volume can be used so sparingly as to be pretty useless (unlike some musicians apparently).

I should enjoy hearing from others on these points and if this is all old hat, why, I do hope that I will be excused. One last point: all the above is subject to my 80/20 rule; i.e. this is true only about 80% of the time, and otherwise not!

JCarson

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Post by Hokuspokus » June 30th, 2011, 2:02 pm

What you say is so true and you said it very poetically.

In addition to what you said (and not to contradict you) I'd like to tell you something that happened to me last year.
When I look for a book I could record, I often listen to it read by a computer voice. I listened to Walpurgisnacht by Gustav Meyrink, one of my favourite authors, while ironing clothes. The book is very special and I had already decided to record it. Then I came to one of the last chapters. The situation in the book is comical with a quite some tragedy in it. Then the atmosphere suddenly changes. It becomes very tragic. I had to stop ironing, I was holding my breath, listening to the words (read by a computer voice) and tiers were dropping from my eyes.
When I recorded the book, I was very afraid I would ruin this chapter. Add to much emotion so it become ridiculous, or not enough and the author's wonderful words don't get through to the listener. I couldn't go on recording for several weeks. Finally I pulled all my courage together and did it. I relayed completely on the author's words. Didn't plan anything, not the pace, not the pauses, let the words take control. It worked. A friend told me later, that she burned her dinner when she listened to this section.

A good text can do everything. The reader can do a lot to make a text come alive, but in the end it's the author who speaks.

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Post by RuthieG » July 1st, 2011, 1:26 am

This is an extremely interesting topic, and one I often think about myself.

I found from the very first book of fiction I recorded (which was Lawrence's Women in Love) that the characters got inside me. It wasn't that I got inside them. They were inside me and needed to get out. I think this is why I find it so hard to read fiction without a different voice for each character.

I agonize about what an author intended. I feel that he created these people. I must be true to how he conceived them. I am not sure whether recording books by living authors is more agonizing or not. Less, I think, because they can (and do) tell you if they don't agree with your interpretation (disheartening as that may be).

But the reader must never get in the way. He is not the centre of attention. He is just the pipe through which the story flows. There are many techniques which readers can use. I am just an amateur, and I am learning it all on the fly, having had no training at all. A trained actor could put this all a lot better.

A technique that I find useful is the change of voice tone/pitch, as a narrative moves between, say, what is going on in a character's head, and actual action in the story. This is very subtle but makes a huge difference, in my opinion. Tiny example of what I mean here: http://upload.librivox.org/share/uploads/rg/toneexample.mp3

So there are similarities with music, as well as differences. Mood, tone, pitch, tempo, and yes, volume, can all play their part. A whisper can still be a whisper, a shout can still be a shout, even if you are restricted by the actual decibel limit.

Listen, listen, listen to yourself. Did you say that part the way it sounded in your head when you first read it? Is the story flowing through you on to the recording? To some lucky people this comes naturally - others need to work hard at it. It's worth it, for the results. :) And, oh, yes, the enjoyment does continue to increase, by an order of magnitude, as your skill as a story-teller increases.

Ruth
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Post by Starlite » July 1st, 2011, 4:20 am

JCarson wrote:I am fairly new to the world of audio books .....<snip>

JCarson
Oh I would so like to see this on the LV front page! It sums up many of my thoughts and I am sure, the thoughts of many volunteers here.

Would you like to 'tweak' it for the Home Page? I'd include a link to this thread too as the comments are great. (this is me asking in ab awkward way for your permission)

I'd title it "Thoughts of a Reader" or something like that.

Esther :)
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

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Post by RuthieG » July 1st, 2011, 5:01 am

I say, what a good idea, Esther. And maybe we could do a podcast soon. With all the hoo-ha recently, we haven't had a podcast for ages.

I'd be willing to put it together.

EDITED TO ADD: I see that Esther was thinking of an anniversary podcast. Wouldn't this be a great subject for it?

Ruth
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JCarson
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Post by JCarson » July 1st, 2011, 5:44 am

All these coments are so interesting to read, especially the thought that the reader needs to disappear. And by all means I certainly have no objection to relocating the discussion to a more appropriate place.

JCarson

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Post by Starlite » July 1st, 2011, 6:06 am

No no, not relocating it; make your first post a 'blog post' on the LV home page.

It'd be right above the "Adventurous July" post under the 'news' heading.

You know...
Thoughts of a Reader

I am fairly new to the world of audio books and very new to reading within Librivox. The bother of keeping track of stacks of CDs, which might scratch if not handled with care, and the equipment one might have to tote to listen to them always kept me at a distance from that activity (shudder the thought of cassette tapes!). About a year ago our library started to offer MP3 audio books, downloadable on the Internet, and so began my journey into listening rather than reading. I now have come to appreciate how lucky I am to be a reader/listener and now so many years later, the enjoyment seems to increase while other things…well, they do not.....
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

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Post by Availle » July 1st, 2011, 7:45 am

Could we leave the Adventurous July for a week or so please...?

I have the impression noone reads the suggestions anymore... :P
Cheers, Ava.
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Post by Starlite » July 1st, 2011, 9:00 am

Ava, it sits at the top and only becomes second when another gets posted. There hasn't been much good to report on lately and this would help bring the 'bad' posts lower down. No hurry to make another post though.

Oh I always read your suggestions. In fact the month my solo was featured it was downloaded 475 times! This is much more then it usually gets in a month. People do read it!

Esther :)
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

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Post by Availle » July 1st, 2011, 11:33 am

Starlite wrote:Ava, it sits at the top and only becomes second when another gets posted. There hasn't been much good to report on lately and this would help bring the 'bad' posts lower down. No hurry to make another post though.
I know that :wink: Guess I got a bit annoyed last month when I put so much work into the staff picks and a week later it was drowned with all the negativity... :roll:

Feel free to post the "thoughts of a reader", I like the idea (and the post above!). It may also be suitable for the 6th anniversary podcast...
Oh I always read your suggestions. In fact the month my solo was featured it was downloaded 475 times! This is much more then it usually gets in a month. People do read it!

Esther :)
Oh, you kept count yourself? :wink: I usually do it also, but I only note the total downloads of all 10 pieces. I don't like the idea of "This solo got downloaded so many times, whereas the other one only so much less..." But you are right, there are a few thousend downloads for the presented books each month, so I like to think that at least some of them have visited the site. I'd do anything not to feel useless... :wink:
Cheers, Ava.
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Granny Weatherwax: "I ain't Nice."

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Post by bobgon55 » July 1st, 2011, 11:44 am

Availle wrote:
Starlite wrote:Ava, it sits at the top and only becomes second when another gets posted. There hasn't been much good to report on lately and this would help bring the 'bad' posts lower down. No hurry to make another post though.
I know that :wink: Guess I got a bit annoyed last month when I put so much work into the staff picks and a week later it was drowned with all the negativity... :roll:

Feel free to post the "thoughts of a reader", I like the idea (and the post above!). It may also be suitable for the 6th anniversary podcast...
Oh I always read your suggestions. In fact the month my solo was featured it was downloaded 475 times! This is much more then it usually gets in a month. People do read it!

Esther :)
Oh, you kept count yourself? :wink: I usually do it also, but I only note the total downloads of all 10 pieces. I don't like the idea of "This solo got downloaded so many times, whereas the other one only so much less..." But you are right, there are a few thousend downloads for the presented books each month, so I like to think that at least some of them have visited the site. I'd do anything not to feel useless... :wink:
Are the download statistics only available through the Internet Archive catalog or is there a place this shows on the LibriVox site?

Bob
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Post by RuthieG » July 1st, 2011, 12:52 pm

Only through the Internet Archive, Bob. I freely admit that I have a Bookmarks folder comprising every solo I finish, and regularly look to see how they are doing. Not sure if it's a good idea, as one of them roars through over a thousand a week, and one of the others hasn't had a thousand in a whole year.

Ruth
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Post by Starlite » July 2nd, 2011, 2:52 am

Availle wrote:I know that :wink: Guess I got a bit annoyed last month when I put so much work into the staff picks and a week later it was drowned with all the negativity... :roll:

Oh, you kept count yourself? :wink: I usually do it also
Yep, Took the count throughout the month and am keeping an account of the Mounties one now too! :mrgreen:

eta Downloaded 4 times yesterday :P
"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." George Bernard Shaw

JCarson
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Post by JCarson » July 2nd, 2011, 7:10 am

RuthieG wrote:This is an extremely interesting topic, and one I often think about myself.

I agonize about what an author intended. I feel that he created these people. I must be true to how he conceived them.

But the reader must never get in the way. He is not the centre of attention. He is just the pipe through which the story flows. Listen, listen, listen to yourself. Did you say that part the way it sounded in your head when you first read it? Is the story flowing through you on to the recording? To some lucky people this comes naturally - others need to work hard at it. It's worth it, for the results. :) And, oh, yes, the enjoyment does continue to increase, by an order of magnitude, as your skill as a story-teller increases.

Ruth
Ruthie,

I excerpted some of what you said above as I enjoyed it so much. A hackneyed expression is "It's not what you say, but how you say it." And we see that in emails so often because the author's tone and inflection are missing and only the typed words present themselves. And therefore, the meaning/intention is so often lost. We get an email and we misinterpret what was said because we do not get to hear it. The messages are sometimes called "flames" and lead to disagreements. (Those horrid little emoticons are no substitute!) Now we are interpreting for the listener. Sometimes I am recording a page and all of a sudden I am lost because I should have paused there or here and now it makes the entire sentence have no meaning because the subject or verb or antecedent have been misplaced or connected wrongly. And then I struggle with what the author meant here or there, pondering the words and trying not to let myself intrude upon the meaning, but be accepting and the mere conduit.

I often wonder how others prepare for a recording session. I find my voice gives out within 30 minutes, no matter what fluids I have available. Yet I do not want to feel rushed upon, that there is a time limit which needs to be met because of some other pressing appointment. It is the timelessness of recording that makes the listening so luxurious for the listener. There should be no felt need to finish up. It is like floating in a pool with no need to be elsewhere and no preference either.

JCarson

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Post by philchenevert » July 2nd, 2011, 7:35 am

Tangential comment: The enjoyment of letting the story flow through me is indeed the greatest pleasure for me. It doesn't take a lot of work, just pre reading the text, getting the flow and meaning and then it just sort of comes out in an animated way. When something goes awry, like a misplaced verb or convoluted syntax it hits me like a cold rag and stops me cold. I hate that.

I also cannot read for more than 30 minutes no matter what the preparations.

Experimenting with editing a dramatic work is also turning out to be fun. Well, the part where I put the dialog together to make it 'sound' right is fun; adding the parts to start with is just tedious. There is a certain feel that is so satisfying when I get it just right and it sound like it would on stage with the pacing and pauses so natural they flow. Of course that is just me and no one has listened to my product so.....other opinions may differ :?
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