Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Narrating Attentive Pianos

I'm almost finished with my second audio book, The Piano Tuner. An interesting thing in reading or evaluating a book in its audio version is that another dimension comes into it. Alongside the usual questions of author, plot, writing quality, etc. we have the narrator. I'm glad to say that Richard Matthews has been doing a fantastic job of reading this book. His default, narrator's voice is pleasant to listen to (and appropriately British for the story) but he also does excellent voices and accents for all the different characters. There are at least a half-dozen of the major characters whose voices I think I could recognize even out of context, and all of the voices in any given scene are always easily distinguishable from each other. I've been very impressed with it. It also makes me want to do more read-alouds.

Something else I've been noticing about listening to audio books is the way in which I pay attention to them. I had thought I might miss a lot more, since when I'm reading, I'm often taking in a lot of words surrounding the ones I'm currently reading at any given second (a remnant of my speed-reading class a few years ago). That means that I absorb it rather less linearly than I do when listening to it, and I thought that I wouldn't be able to follow things quite as well in an audio book. But that doesn't seem to be the case so far, and I think, in this book at least, that my attention to it has been enhanced, if anything. It's probably a combination of two things. One is that the words go by slower, so I have more time to think about them. And another is that I think somehow having my vision free (i.e. not constrained to the pages of a book) frees up my thoughts as well. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems that way. I feel like I spend more time actually thinking about the words that go by and processing them more thoroughly, rather than just pushing them in one eye and out the other, as it were. I'll have to see if this is something I notice in other books as well.

Aside from all this, of course, The Piano Tuner is just a great book. If you've ever wondered why a 19th century piano tuner would be called on a military expedition to tune an Erard grand in the depths of a Burmese jungle (or even if you haven't, really) this is definitely worth a read.

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