Damp smells, spotlights, and how not to read aloud


A few years ago when I had a bit less sense than I do now, I ended up in Prague looking for work. I found a person (who turned about to be a bit dodgy) who wanted books editing/abridging for ‘students’ and I offered my services.
I cut Jane Eyre – or perhaps that should be savaged – to about 20,000 words if I remember correctly  – and I also edited one of Agatha Christie’s.
I was then asked to narrate and record the Christie novel as well as Frankenstein (the latter was edited in American English- I use British English) without any preparation.
My employer told me he had a recording studio which turned out to be a damp-smelling cellar with his car/gardening things, a table which wobbled with a desk lamp, and a light that hung from a piece of wire in the corner of the room. There was also a persistent strong smell of wet washing the same was left on the floor the end of the corridor for a few days or maybe a week.  And I remember the handle of the door fell off – on the outside. I grew up watching WWII films so I was imagining all sorts of things. I always used to get a headache and for some reason I tried not to breathe while I was reading – that in itself is an achievement. And I was conscious that I hadn’t read aloud since school. I hated the whole experience but I felt I had to finish otherwise I wouldn’t be paid.
Earlier today I was evaluating my lack of internet presence when I found to my embarrassment a recording of the Christie story. Curious to hear what I sounded like I listened to a sample. Ha! I sound bored but more worryingly my voice sounds really different. I don’t know if they’ve ‘stretched’ the sound (that’s a technical term) but the pronunciation, pitch, and, well everything, is weird – as though it isn’t me. The first few sentences are by an American/ Canadian man, then my voice takes over  complete with held breath. It’s also interesting to hear how my regional accent has altered – I only hope it doesn’t come across as pretentious.
If anyone wants a laugh / cure for insomnia / or just a lesson in how not to read aloud, they can listen here https://www.audiolibrix.com/en/Directory/Narrator/2004/sabra-aslam?languages=en

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About S.A. Aslam

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