Vocal Impressions

By Beacon Staff

As a photographer, I live in a very visual world. With the advancements of technology, I am learning to use another sense when I make photos – sound.

I’m really falling in love with sound. I’ve always loved music, loud movies and things like that, but I have never really stopped to just listen to things. Now I find as I cruise around making photos, sometimes I just stop and record some sound. The wind, the birds, the water, the crickets, shoes on gravel, a squeaking swing set – sure, it’s kind of cliché to fall in love with these sounds, but when amplified in my headphones I hear it in a totally different way.

Nobody records clear sound better than NPR and they do a great job telling stories in imaginative ways. While cruising around their site I found a little gem I would love to pass on. It’s called Vocal Impressions.

The premise is simple – listen to four famous voices and describe them. It’s kind of backwards from the way we usually understand the world. Normally we describe something (concepts, emotions, ideas) through sounds. Commentator Brian McConnachie asks us to paint a picture of a sound – someone’s voice – with concepts, ideas and emotions.

Currently “Vocal Impressions: Hearing Voices” is on round six. The voices to describe are Rodney Dangerfield, ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, Samuel L. Jackson and Paul Robeson. I urge you to listen to these voices and try and come up with your own descriptions. Then listen to the voices around you. Each one is different. How would you describe them? How would people describe yours?
It’s just fun.

Here are some of my favorites from the past five rounds from NPR’s Web site.

Elvis Presley:
The sand in your bikini you don’t want to wash out – Sara McElwain

Celine Dion:
A Siamese cat stretched immodestly over a black leather couch – Markus Schafer

Mick Jagger:
A fire in the street no one wants to put out – Ken Peters

Barry White:
Satin sheets caressing a velvet leisure suit on a waterbed – Angus Vail

Mae West:
It’s the air escaping a flotation devise – Mark Cucinic

Bob Dylan:
Dice rolling on a busy market street – Aimee Rickman

Jack Nicholson:
What’s left of a grin when you take the smile away – Jeff Lonsdale

Morgan Freeman:
A wet velvet suit drying in the sun – Jesse Levy

Marilyn Monroe:
The slow folding and unfolding of a pink cashmere sweater – Andrea Huske

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