Politicians, are forever talking; and you know which ones talk loudest; about local businesses and how they are the engine of American prosperity, and how they will not survive without reductions in taxes. Many of the same pols are also much keener on enabling larger corporations to avoid tax or even pay none at all. How this makes those corps. the engines of American prosperity is a mystery to me. But I do support local businesses (Sterry and Sterry is one!) and intend to give them a shout out from time to time. Here is the first.

Home Guardian NW. Claudio Pernisco is a master builder and craftsman. He and his crew built the house I moved into last year and his skill and care is apparent in every detail. Together with his partner and wife, Angela, son Anthony, they have been growing a solid reputation and business. And, as builders do, they are always hiring other local businesses. Plumbers, Electricians, Dry Wall, Painters, Roofers and others. I also know that should I need to make an alteration, move a wall, add a feature here and there that Claudio and Angela will give me an honest appraisal and a polite warning should my idea be just nuts.

This shots shows Juan (muscle), Claudio and Anthony, sitting on the steps of my newly finished deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

..and at the front doorBusiness is not always conducted in suits or casual wear!

You can check their other work at this LINK

At Artichoke Music on Hawthorne Avenue in Portland, my adopted city, there is every other Thursday a songwriters roundup. A simple open mic. where local and visiting musicians can get up and try out a new song. It is a lovely, warm and welcoming place. The sound system is good, the lights flattering and the beer and wine are reasonable. It is a listening room, not a bar with music. People actually sit still and listen to the players. And on some evenings there is extraordinary music when the muse strikes one of the regulars or an out of town wiz takes the stage and lets it go. For the $5 entrance it is a bargain.

Sadly, the lease is up for the ‘Choke. The whole of Hawthorne Ave is being slowly redeveloped, boutiqued, in that hideous boxy, sterile style that local architects are foisting on us. In the same building as the ‘Choke is Crossroads Music, a funky vinyl emporium. And the ‘Choke shares the parking lot with Cubo, a sweet little Cuban food joint. So, the ‘Choke is moving to another part of town and will never be the same.

I started to go because my wife and musical partner became part of the scene there, and one songwriter’s roundup I got up and read one of my poems. I loved it. And after all, what is a songwriter but a poet with music. At least twice I have read poems that I actually wrote while sitting there listening. The deal at the ‘Choke is this. You pay your $5 and if you want to play you write your name on a slip of paper and leave it in a basket on the bar. The MC shuffles the slips, plays an opening song, and reads off the first three players. It can be a long wait and folk often leave at the break and the last player thanks everyone for opening the gig for him and sings to the holdouts.

I write my poems from prompts or ideas I have written in my notebook or fingered into my cell phone. And so it was last week that I had placed my slip in the basket and realized I had nothing to read. Nada. Zip. Zero. I had not even brought my notebook with me! On the table in front of me there was an announcement for one of the ‘Choke’s workshops. Its reverse side was blank. Perfect. On my cell phone some weeks ago I had entered the words ‘yellow cords’, remembering how much I had lusted after a pair long ago in unaffordable, trendy, hip, mod, Carnaby Street, London. The epicenter of cool clothes for the swinging sixties. Like all clothes in London, way out of reach for students like me. While the first three players were doing their thing on stage I wrote this poem and after the break read it to a bemused audience who had no idea where Carnaby Street is or what it was in those far distant days.

I always wanted yellow cords 

Since I saw them in a movie in 1965

Yellow cords

With a purple shirt

And a white man’s afro.

I had the ‘fro…then

Really…

Not now.

And I am truly over purple.

But yellow cords, man!

Deep creamy dreamy yellow cords.

Blue shirt

Sky blue linen shirt.

And red shoes, red shoes, yeah!

Fifty years ago in Carnaby Street

Trendy spendy hip clothing London street

Fifty years ago in Carnaby Street.

But…

Forty years in the corporate suit

Can do a number on you,

And yellow cords had to wait

For no GOOD reason

And for no GOOD reason I remain

Cordless, yellow-wise.

But I did get the red shoes

Oh yeah, dammit, I got the red shoes

Red-Suede-Chukka-Boots.

On line, ninety bucks,

Carnaby Street, eat your f*****g heart out!

 

It could use a little editing, which I will get to. I have to admit on reading it to the crowd I felt a sort of relief. As if I had been bottling up resentment against that street and its pretentiousness for all those years. Well, I wonder who or what is next?

“Once in Royal David’s city, stood a lowly cattle shed” are the opening lines of a well known Anglican Christmas carol. One which I knew by heart by the time was eight or nine. I had little idea who this David was. My youngest brother, David, had just been born, and I knew the song was not about him. This other David, apart from having a royal city was chiefly famous for having killed (slain, actually) a very large man with an exceedingly lucky hit from a slingshot. Amongst my urban savage friends there was a lively discussion of how he could have pulled this off. We doubted it could be done. We thought slingshots a very inaccurate and slow loading weapon. We all had our own hand made catapults, and argued that if this David had had any sense he would have had one and used it. Later on in our English Anglican education we learned that Jesus was distantly related to this giant killer, and this was supposed to be a good thing. We could not figure out why this was so and our teachers were superbly vague on the subject. Knowing what ultimately happened to Jesus we young cynics became ever more doubtful that being related to improperly armed minor royalty of any age could possibly be a good thing.

Fast forward many decades to a less cynical but very analytical man sitting in a recording booth narrating a book about King David into a microphone. ‘The Edge of Revolt’ by Uvi Posnanksy. One of a series of historical novels by her about this leader of Israel. Late in life I am learning a lot about King David and the history of an ancient land. I am also getting a geography lesson. The history and geography lessons are one of the pleasant parts of recording a book for Audible or any other audio-book service. The less easy challenges in this task are several if not multiple.

Imagine that you are reading the same book I am recording. As you read you will automatically construct an ambiance, an atmosphere of the locations in the book. You will create voices for each of the characters. Readers have no difficulty in returning to a book at any time and recreating these characters and feelings. For an audiobook narrator, he too must create that ambiance, those characters, in his mind, and then deliver them to you using only his voice. He has also to be utterly consistent in his delivery. He has to create a distinctive voice for each of the characters. He has to try and understand the authors intention as well or even better than they did when writing the book so as to be able to communicate every nuance of feeling, every subtle hint, every change of emotion the text contains, and then perhaps add some not foreseen or anticipated by the author. He is in fact a one-man theater. Playing all the characters, changing the scenery, the lighting, the mood, the pace, to an invisible and utterly silent audience. He is the theater. A virtual theater.

But narrator beware! Strongly emoting, acting, is not always appreciated by listeners. Many remain interested in populating the drama, the story, the scene, with their own interior voices and emotions. They are not always interested in your interpretation of the text, only needing the reading of the text as a prompt for their own imaginations. They don’t want much theatricality. It is a fine balance and the narrator needs to listen to the author and use his own experience before turning the microphone on.

What this means is that the selection of a narrator by an author has to be a carefully considered process. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley, as talented as they are, are not suited for every book. Not to mention their cost! I myself have to think very carefully about what books I can genuinely and honestly produce and achieve that balance. However, this does not prevent me from accepting challenges that stretch my own perception of my strengths and skills. Authors may hear something in a narrators voice and style they themselves did not know or even suspect they possessed, and want it for their book.

In recording Uvi Posnanzky’s book ‘The Edge of Revolt’ about the mid-life and final moments of King David, I avoided none of these challenges, and faced a few additions. Uvi found my voice on the Amazon managed site, Audible Creative Exchange. Narrators can create a profile, including samples of their voice, and authors can post a summary of their book and the narrator they are looking for. It’s a literary dating site!

Male narrators are often called to produce recordings with both male and female voices. In ‘The Edge of Revolt’ there are more than a few female voices and they are of differing ages and temperament. For some of these voices I dip into my family history and find the voices of my aunts, with their London accents. And for others the comic genius of Monty Pythons Flying Circus is a rich source. The same was useful for the variety of male characters; my relatives, theatre and broadcast personalities. And in doing so I find a special challenge. If a narrator uses an immediately recognizable character voice he may run the risk of distracting the listener from the flow of the story. It has to be done with care. Using the voice of Richard Nixon for King David, whilst amusing, is just not going to work.

I had to find at least three voices for King David. The first is that of a proud and confident man. A man enjoying his power and status. The next is of the same man but humbled and frustrated by the unfolding of events he himself has caused. A man at the mercy of the complications of reconciling paternal love, succession, and national unity. And another is of the man breathily composing or reciting poetry and psalms he regards as his legacy. Finally, I have to make him into an older, tired man, waiting on death.

And of course, the names of all the characters in the book are pronounced not as I grew up thinking they should be! And there are Hebrew names I have never seen or heard before. This is when I am grateful for the patience and attention to detail that Uvi Posnansky shows. I can rely on her to send me guidance and corrections very quickly. This is important. It makes editing so much simpler when the context is still fresh in the mind, echoing. Editing sound tracks with edits sent much later one can easily lose the continuity of expression and pace needed for a good recording. For every hour of recording there is usually at least thirty minutes of editing to be done, and keeping it from encroaching on recording time is always on my mind.

And as I wrote earlier the balance to be found between over and under emoting was always present in recording this work. Again, I found Uvi Posnansky to be the kind of author a narrator needs, providing enough guidance to correct mistakes but not so much as to prevent creativity on my part. And now I must go and practice my seductive Bathsheba voice. All in a days work for a narrator of audio books.