Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Beautiful Noise

This morning I was assisting a young saxophone player and her mother.  They had just had some minor maintenance done and were preparing to settle accounts.  I had said some sentences to them sparingly, as they had spent most of their time chatting with the saxophone technician.  In a tip I learned from dating, if people are involved in a conversation it is often rude to infiltrate myself in a conversation just for the sake of being noticed. 

So after saying "Let me see if I can find your account...", the mother said -- half to me and half to her daughter, "What a great voice!  You should be on the radio or something."
To say I was not flattered would be a lie. 

It's not the first time a passing customer at work has said something to this effect.  One of our regular customers has her husband act as a go-between: he does all the pickup and drop offs.  Accordingly, I speak to her often on the phone to let her know that it's time to give Bob the high sign.  The first time she came out to the shop, she heard me speak and said I must be Andrew, as she'd recognized that melodious voice.

I don't know what I've done differently this year.  To me, it's the same voice I've always had.  Nobody praised it when I was working a the Panera.  Nobody said anything when I was teaching university classes.  Nobody's said anything on dates or at parties.

Have I suddenly "classed up the joint" inadvertently? 

Just as with my trombone playing, I find it impossible to judge myself and my sounds against the utterances of others.  Obviously my voice sounds like me in my head.  It has never NOT sounded like me.  I do occasionally take myself to task when I hear that I've accelerated my words beyond the limit of articulation, but only in the way people do when they catch themselves slouching and spend a second sitting up straight to compensate. 

I have spent a great deal of time in the past two years talking on the telephone.  And nothing annoys me like straining to decipher what someone has said in a message.  There was a hilarious one left on the shop phone months ago -- the sort that gets played again and again trying to understand it.  Meanwhile, it grows more and more humerous the more times you hear it.  It was someone who was giving his name and following it with his wife's name.  His name was something like Scott Michael Shelbywine, and his wife is Rena Aubrey Mater-Shelbywine.  Listening to him say, "My name is Shottmishelshubynine, husband of Remanobrytomatosudsyfine" caused tears of frustration and laughter by the tenth attempt. 

So it could be overcompensation.  I may be inadvertently wishing other people would just speak more clearly.  I often thought it would be fun to take an English diction course, similar to the courses that vocal performance majors take for German and Italian.  But I don't think those courses are supposed to be for native-speakers.  After all, I've been practicing English for 30 years, what's a 4-month course going to teach?  And would it have any lasting effect?

Or maybe it's just another step in the progression of my life to being a father.  I've reached the stage where I'm now modeling behaviors to the children I know to fill a latent need in my own subconscious. 

Or maybe I'm doing an immersive audition process so that the local Shakespeare company will get their instruments fixed and shriek out, "We've found our next Shylock!"

Good thing I've got this last name of mine.

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