By Stephanie Ciccarelli
April 13, 2011
What do you do when you need to voice a historical figure but there are no known recordings of their voice to reference?
1877 marked the first audio recording, therefore persons of note at or before that time were likely not captured on phonograph cylinders, on wax records in the 1890s or even through electronic recording in the 1920s.
So, how do you create a voice using clues from the past?
Learn how to start thinking like a vocal detective in today's VOX Daily.
One of my friends is in the midst of a quandary. She needs to cast someone to voice a role where there is no recorded sample of the subject's voice. While some suggestions have come along regarding geography, ethnicity and character traits, ultimately this one appears to be an "I'll know it when I hear it," casting call based upon more than just what the voice might sound like but also how the role and lines are interpreted.
The role she is casting for happens to be Jesus Christ which presents its own unique set of challenges. It's not easy to take on a role that calls for being both fully God and fully man but many actors have risen to the occasion and given the role their best effort as we've seen in film, television, stage and audio drama.
That being said, regardless of who the individual you're casting for is, trying to put a voice to someone who lived long ago is difficult, especially if there are no recordings of their voice, video footage, or photographs to base an interpretation upon. Even so, casting for roles like this happens all the time when epic films are made or documentaries are produced featuring people who lived in a time before multimedia.
Here are some tools that you can use along the way when building a character sketch and a case for how someone might sound.
à¹ Study personal accounts and follow patterns in their transcribed speech / writing style
à¹ Go back to the text for clues regarding their age, demeanor, physicality and vocal timbre
à¹ Observe their physical appearance as depicted in photographs or paintings for details that might be telling of their speech (missing teeth, clenched jaw, broken nose, foreign object in their mouth such as a cigar, etc.)
à¹ Identify where they came from and consider known speech characteristics / accents
à¹ Read accounts made by people who knew or interacted with the person in question
à¹ Collect adjectives that have been used to describe their personality and temperament
You might find that the tools above can also be applied when creating voices for character roles in cartoons, audiobooks and more.
When you find yourself in a situation where you need to design the voice of a person who lived centuries ago, perhaps even thousands of years ago, what do you do?
Looking forward to hearing your answer!
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