Tuesday, August 07, 2012

You try talking for eight hours

I may not be the voice of my generation, but I am the voice of ME generation. No, I'm not turning into Popeye.  I just completed recording the audiobook for THE ME GENERATION… BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE ‘60s). You can order it here. And also listen to a sample chapter. (It's also available at Amazon and the iTunes store.)

This was a new experience for me – recording eight hours worth of text. But I had it easy compared to my engineer, Don May (pictured below), who had to listen to me record it, then go through and edit out all the bobbles. (Some days I was truly Porky Pig.)

There’s a lot to think about when recording an entire unabridged book. Your pace, your energy. You have to sound consistent throughout. It’s easy at the beginning of a session to be all revved up and two hours later you’re Ben Stein.

Not losing your voice is also preferred.

Pronunciation becomes important (who knew?). Confession: there are a couple of long words in the book that look funny on the page but are a bitch.  I couldn't say Anna Karenina.  I just kept screwing it up.  So I just swapped out War & Peace.  Fuck it.  Of course I couldn’t do that with names. I couldn’t take Satan Xerxes Carnacki LeVey and call him Skippy Smith. I have no idea if I came even close to pronouncing his name correctly.

In preparation I went to Audible.com and sampled some other samples. I was amazed by how many just droned. They were like an Army briefing on how to use an entrenching tool. Other books sounded like they were recorded in the bottom of a trash can. Mostly these were by authors who, like myself, recorded their own books. Especially for a memoir that’s very personal, I believe it’s a big advantage to hear it in the author’s own voice. As long as it’s professionally produced. I swear, some of these guys recorded their books on microphones normally reserved for: “Number twelve, your pizza’s ready!”

And I’m always aware that sometimes it’s better when someone else does your work. Carole King is a great songwriter and God bless her, but her tunes always sound better to me when real singers sing them. I once heard a recording of RHAPSODY IN BLUE with the great George Gershwin playing piano and it sounded rushed. Obviously he played it the way he intended it, and I just imagine if it were today he’d get a network note to slow it down. And if Gilbert Godfried ever writes his autobiography, please let someone else do the narration. Anyone. Even Kathy Griffin.

But I’m proud of my final result. And I think hearing my book in my voice adds a whole new dimension. Plus, you know how some books were just meant to be read at night in front of a roaring fire? Mine was meant to be heard in rush hour traffic.

Again, here's where you go.  Thanks much.

And I'm making final preparations for a book signing in Seattle.  Hope to have it nailed down later today.  So please check back for the announcement. 

18 comments:

Richard Y said...

Congradualtions on the audio, good job.

Johnny Walker said...

Ken is absolutely right that listening to him talk about his life is more engaging than reading about it. I was very surprised when I switched over.

Also, Audible has a great offer where new users get one free audiobook when they sign up:

http://www.audible.com/wtf

Anonymous said...

before I read the rest of this, I'd like to note that I read Paul Reiser's Couplehood, from a paper book. Then I heard him read it for an audiobook. Now, granted, I don't listen to you speak often, so I don't know your rhythms - but I know Paul's and, honestly, I could hear them better in my head than when they were coming out of his mouth! He was "reading." It showed.
Darn.
Hope yours came out better :-)
--pamelajaye

Anonymous said...

and now that I *have* read it (the post) I have hope :-)
Just don't listen to Couplehood. Though it sounds like you've listened to similar things already.

-Pam
I'd sign in, but this connection is worse than dialup

Tom Quigley said...

Sadly, I've been disappointed in most audiobooks I've listened to, for the exact reasons you mentioned above; so here's an option for your next audio book, Ken: Patrick Stewart. Would love to hear your comic stories done by an actor trained in Shakespeare.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, did you give no thought at all to having Rick Rizzs alternate chapters with you?

Charlie O'Brien said...

Don May is one of the good guys - so you were in great hands.

RCP said...

I was turned off of audiobooks after purchasing Tallulah Morehead's - between the slurring, slurping, and clinking of glasses, I couldn't catch half of it.

But you sound great, Ken. Really nice voice and clear enunciation - you've restored my faith in audiobooks!

D. McEwan said...

Once, many years ago, I had to record the narration for a documentary film - in Persian! It was all written out phonetically for me, but I had no idea what I was saying (Hope it wasn't state secrets) or if I was saying it even remotely correctly.

And I still had it easy. The engineer who had to edit out my bobbles spoke no more Persian than I did.

D. McEwan said...

Actually, RCP, casting is the main reason I haven't done a Tallulah Morehead talking book done. Since Carrie Nye died, I just don't know a voice that is right for her. We may still do one on Tallyho, Tallulah! if there's sufficient demand.

Phillip B said...

Congratulations on becoming even more mult-media!

BTW -- The most amazing audio performance by an author IMHO, was Gore Vidal doing the unabridged "Lincoln." He may have only dabbled in acting, but it was a great listening experience...

John said...

Now I'm picturing a Kathy Griffin audio book read by Gilbert Godfried.

Pat Reeder said...

The Gershwin you heard might have sounded rushed because of the recording limitations of the 78. He had to cut "Rhapsody In Blue" up into about 8 pieces and fit each part onto a 78 in under 3 minutes. Of course, he did like to show off his virtuosity, so playing fast might have had something to do with that, too.

I highly recommend the recent CDs that put Gershwin's piano rolls through new recorder-type player pianos to catch every nuance of the performance. Listening to him play some of his lesser-known songs, sounding as if he's right in the room with you, is an amazing experience.

Paul Duca said...

Ken, I think by now you should have heard of the passing of Marvin Hamlisch. He composed the music for the stage version of SMILE...and I understand he did a few other things, as well. Lesley Gore sang his songs "California Nights" on BATMAN and "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" in the film SKI PARTY.

ump902a said...

Perhaps Gilbert Gottfried's autobiography could be read by Rosanne Barr. BTW, for real excellence in audio book listening, try Rob Lowe's autobiography. He does great imitations of many of the celebrities he has worked with and known

RCP said...

D. McEwan said...

"...Since Carrie Nye died, I just don't know a voice that is right for her. We may still do one on Tallyho, Tallulah! if there's sufficient demand."

I checked out Carrie's voice on Youtube - wonderful choice - pretty much what I imagined Tallulah to sound like (though I had imagined a bit more raspiness.) I'll certainly buy an audiobook if one's available.

ump902a said...

"Perhaps Gilbert Gottfried's autobiography could be read by Rosanne Barr."

Or they could read alternate pages together - creating a new category of torture.

Ken Levine said...

A big thanks to everyone who took the time to write in and recommend OTHER audiobooks instead of mine.

RCP said...

Ken Levine said...

"A big thanks to everyone who took the time to write in and recommend OTHER audiobooks instead of mine."

Oh that's right, you've got one too, don't you?