Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Podcast Episode 2: Is He Living or Is He Dead?

Is He Living or Is He Dead? by Mark Twain

This episode is a short story from the America's greatest satirical writer, Mark Twain. If you have ever been or are planning on being a starving artist, this story will speak to you. It's got a really dry, sardonic take on the fate of the great artist in his or her lifetime.

I never fully came down on a great model for introducing episodes of the podcast. In this one, I tried to be moderately informative and fun; instead, it comes off as pretty scattered and silly, what with the tossed-off analysis of the tone of the story and the goofy echo-effect for the book title. Also, I made it sound like I actually read the late-period Mark Twain novel I sort of recommended, which is a lie; we read like a two-page excerpt from it in an English class once. I later pretty much abandoned introductions of any sort and focused on telling the story, which was probably for the best.

My vocal abilities are pretty sorely lacking in this reading. My voice is shaky and muddy, and I strike the wrong tone at the beginning of the story; you don't get the sense that what follows is going to be at all funny, or even particularly interesting, from my gentle, mellow, nasal intonations. It gets a bit better after the first couple minutes, fortunately. I think maybe I was trying to avoid the big puffs of air that come with "p" sounds in English and which are so time-consuming to edit out. Note also that I'm more or less guessing at how to pronounce all the French names for things. Thank goodness I didn't try a French accent for anybody. Though that might have served to distinguish the various characters, who I failed to develop separate voices for.

On the positive side: I think there's some good energy in the reading here, and occasional notes of real enjoyment in my voice as I read the story. I really do like this story a great deal. It's a silly idea, sure, but well executed and fun. I think the piano music at the start and end blends fairly well with the story; it sounds like the kind of thing old men might have on in the background while sitting around telling each other stories in a lounge somewhere.

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