Behind the Scenes: How to Become Young Again (in an Audiobook)

A Favorite Son by Uvi Poznansky

Uvi Poznansky posted what I thought was a really interesting article about a part of our process in putting together the audiobook for A Favorite Son

Every book has its own challenges — to the writer, to the editor, and to the audiobook producer. In A Favorite Son, Uvi told a story from a single point of view, but in two separate timeframes: first, of Yonkle (Jacob) as an old man, talking to his own eldest son, Reuben, which was told in the past tense; and second, of young Jacob, as he confronts first his brother Esav (Esau) and then his father Isaac.  

As always, I had a blast creating the two distinct-yet-related voices (as well as voices for Esav the Hunter and the other characters). The challenge that Uvi and I worked on was how to meld the two — how to create transitions that made it clear what was happening. I’ll let Uvi narrate the process: 

Behind the Scenes Look: How To Become Young Again

When I sculpt a figure, such as here, in one of my earliest pieces, I let it age and become young again, adding and reducing wrinkles as the piece is being formed. For me, working on the audiobook of A Favorite Son is no different, and let me tell you why…

My work was lucky enough to attract the attention of an amazingly gifted voice actor, David Kudler. He is a man of a thousand voices. He says, “It’s nice to let them out of my head from time to time.” This story provides a great challenge for him, because it starts in the voice of Old Jacob, then as he plunges into the depth of his memories about a crime he committed in his youth, it continues in the voice of the young Jacob. Listen to ‘take 1’:

 

Problem is, the transition between the two voices, the old and the young. Because it happens ‘turning on a dime’, the listener may think that a new character has just stepped onto the scene. So, here is a different transition, where the voice of old Jacob trails off to a whisper, at the same time that the voice of young Jacob comes in from a whisper to full volume. Listen to ‘Take 2: 

 

Maybe I’m too picky, but I felt uneasy with ‘take 2’. I figured, it is crucial we arrive at a good solution, one that does not jar the ear, one that invites the listener to the journey, so she takes a plunge into the past or rises out of it into the present, together with the character. It is also crucial because we will have more transitions coming up in the next three chapters of the book, so the same solution will apply. It will, in fact, become an audio motive of sorts. 

What i envisioned in my mind was this: with no technological ‘gimmick’ (such as the double track of voices in ‘Take 2’), David will start the transition being old, and gradually, word by word, become young! This may be a great acting challenge, because all the listener has to go on is your voice–there is no visual clue such as the incredible hulk changing color to green, and bursting out of a body of a small little guy, whose clothes hang in tatters by the end of the transition. Take a listen to ‘take 3’, which is the final take, and let me know what you think:

I agree with Uvi: I think we made the right choice. What do you think?

Sometimes, the human machine is the best technology there is. 😉

 

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A Favorite Son

 

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