#JIAM Day 6 Paul Alan Ruben

A Grammy award-winning audiobook producer/director celebrates the most incredible instrument of all, the human voice, in his blog Audio Book Narrators. June is Audiobook Month, and a perfect time to add Paul Alan Ruben’s blog to your required reading. His detailed reflections on the art & craft of narrating books is a virtual master class for those who sit behind the mic, and a fascinating expert’s tour of the inner workings of the recording studio for audiobook listeners. Although he’s only been blogging since March, he has covered so much in just seven posts. Here’s his goal for the blog:

I begin with what I hope will be a series of thoughts on what  performance characteristics distinguish those narrators I’d refer to as storytellers from those I’d characterize as readers, or more pejoratively, as your Aunt Mary? Said differently, what qualities create a performance I’d prefer to listen to from one I’d likely turn off?
This blog, if it’s successful, will encourage a conversation between talent, industry professionals and consumers as well. Even Aunt Mary, so long as she promises to stick to reading to her kids at night while keeping her day job.
My blog’s devotion is to discovering, and subsequently discussing, the discrete performance elements that, when blended together, create a compelling narrator. And to looking at the other side of the coin as well: What it is about that performance that can turn the best book sour?

This Aunt Mary knows great narration where I hear it, and Ruben has given me some concrete terms for describing top-notch talent (and the not-so-hot) in future audiobook reviews. For example, any audiobook aficionado has had the experience of listening to a recording that is so engaging that you are compelled to lean close to the speaker (if only metaphorically). And I’m sure you’ve heard a reader move into the anti-intimacy zone, causing you to back off from the story. Here’s another terrific quote from Ruben’s blog about this effect:

Audio book narration is an intimate medium. You can’t fight the booth. Excessive volume fights the booth. It’s anti-intimacy. Given that you can’t scream, or even talk loudly, how do you address, let’s say, an emotionally heightened scene? Narrating in a stage whisper – literally using less voice – not only creates intimacy between storyteller and listener, it allows for maximum emotional impact. Because this is an intimate experience and because the listener intuitively understands the narrator can’t shout, they will buy into you screaming, so long as it’s done intimately, that is, at the top of your stage-whispery range. The result: great energy. Unlimited emotional commitment.

Fine out more about Ruben on his website http://www.tribecaaudio.com/,

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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