Things Jane Says: The Voice Edition

I was too busy looking at your hair.
Publish date:
December 16, 2012
memory, change, voice

1) "Oh my God, you're clean shaven! I didn't even notice, I was too busy looking at your hair."—Jane (note: this quote is taken out of context ... aren't all?)

You know how it often takes a while to fit a person's voice into their body, their face, in that at first not everything seems to gel, and then suddenly said person cannot be separated because they really are that voice, in that body? I realize this is a loaded question, but it sprung to mind because sometimes, even if rarely, I find that I simply don't recognize a friend because of a change—be it small or drastic—in their appearance, a change that makes me have to re-learn the person, in a way, in how their voice is part of their body, vice versa. By recognize, I don't mean that I don't know who they are, but that their recent alteration is enough to make me almost hear and see them for the first time again—their voice becomes more specific and intricate in its pitch or catch, their demeanor more slowly unravels in a layered and particularized manner—and because of this I feel tricked by my own vision and even knowledge of what it is that we actually see, if it matches what we hear, or even expect.

Think about the times you've developed a relationship with someone where it started with just voice—never mind the old days of contained and passionate epistolary exchange—when you spoke on the phone, whether professionally, platonically, or romantically, and then you saw a picture of that person or met in person. What happened, what was your initial feeling; did it take a while to piece it together? I have a close friend who often calls me protean. For years I thought that the types of changes I make, in both appearance and attitude, were just part of understanding myself. This was about the same time I first heard the George Bernard Shaw quote, "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." This better assisted me in knowing that physical change, though not as drastic in our everyday culture, is often just as imperative a movement as the internal elements of change. I'm not even going to even get into why it is we don't see manifestations of this more often, but it is certainly a compilation of the effort it would take physically, and the inherent fear of what we are seen as by others, via both characteristics and fashion.

Perhaps it's the result of spending years in theatre, where taking on a role meant (especially if one is training in Meisner or Method) that you fully become that character, in and out of rehearsal, but I often feel compelled to make a physical change and couple it with a more minor physical change, almost like a challenge to the self to then administer a mental change. Physical change clears the head, opening up some new avenue for both brain and body. For instance, I recently removed a beard and then waited a few days and trimmed my hair. This compulsion, though some could argue it’s just an aspect ascribed to minds both manic and/or hyperactive, has become a common attribute in the ongoingness of life for me, and I welcome it each time it arrives; and, to add to how I sometimes cannot recognize a friend when this happens, linked to my own urge to change a physical trait is the desire to get to know the self again, in that we can actually fit into different physical shapes, despite how we might not mentally believe ourselves capable of doing so, and for this I find both excitement and solace, a belief that we were perhaps born found, and that each step is toward creation of the self. And you?


A few days ago, Jane had me listen to a song that her now 10 year-old daughter Charlotte likes and was going to make a video of with her friends. The “enjoy” preface is, in case the CAPS and exclamation don’t give it away, a ruffle of sarcasm, and is due to the fact that in addition to listening to the song I was going to transcribe the lyrics of it, meaning that I would be listening to it no less than ten times. Let me begin by saying that Jane’s first description of this rendition I was to transcribe was, “it’s really quite bad, really bad.”

As much as I want to talk about songs getting stuck in our heads again, I’m thinking right now about transcriptions and memorizations. For over a year I worked as the creative coordinator for a media and design enterprise that elected me as the sole interviewer for the moguls it worked toward promoting and getting in line with, a list that, by the time the enterprise changed paths/dismantled, grew to over 70 interviews. Part of my very-freelance work involved writing to philosophers, inventors, architects, and anyone my employers deemed famous or cool enough to then build a marvelously electric and freshly designed online visual accompaniment for; what I had to do was find the voices, track them down, get them to agree to be interviewed, travel to see them, interview them and then transcribe what were often four hour long interviews into a presentable sized text that could be well quoted from. Without further explanation, the part that became the most grueling but also most invigorating was the act of transcribing, of really hearing these brilliant minds articulate, in the moment, their visions. This relates fully to what I speak about above, in that once I had to listen to these recordings, over and over, I felt as though I could picture them perfectly, solely based on their voice, not to mention how much I felt that I was learning in receiving their voice again, in order to then dish it out to the populace.

I’m drawn toward speaking about transcription because it’s a time-freeze in a way, and it takes that dosage of time and lends it slowly to a future. Recently, a close friend revealed to me that he’d saved every voicemail I’ve sent him the last three years and that he was transcribing them. Because of this, things I forgot about now exist. Whether or not I want to remember them is a different story, the point lies in how permanent and pronounced voice can be when captured in a moment that is enmeshed in the arch of a now expired articulation—a moment we can relive, perhaps.

A lot of this ties into memorization. I am an advocate for it, in that I think we should be able to memorize quotes, poems, dictums, moments of essays, speeches, and the things that inspire or provoke us because when they stay in the head they build a more engrossing passage for the self and even for others we might be wanting to connect with. And our memories are much stronger than we give them credit for, much more capable of learning and keeping through repetition.

There are a lot of possible tangents to explore here, but I’d like most to pry into your take(s) on some of the things discussed above. If you could memorize any text what would it be? Do you have many things memorized? Are there friends of yours who always seem to be changing, both physically and mentally? Do you ever listen to an audio recording and transcribe it in order to hear more fully into it?

As always, many questions, but I’m eager to find out more from everyone.

Cheers, Tyler