A voice is a beautiful thing. People forget all the things you can do to morph and shape it. Voice can be used to reach screeching highs and reverberating bass lows. People think that they have one voice, but in reality, they have thousands. Like a muscle, all it takes is practice. The voice is drastically underutilized, but beautiful nonetheless.
Even from a young age, I remember trying to speak like other people. My brother and I often would incorporate different voices into the stories we would create with Legos or action figures. The voices we took on gave the characters more personality and helped us flesh out the stereotypical aspects of our heroes and villians. Voices helped us better create the stories we wanted to tell.
Accents were the way we did it. The classic British villain spoke with force and anger, while the hero spoke with a stern, but never overbearing American accent. As children we would flub words and the illusion would break, but with time we became better at it as our voices matured. The floodgates were really opened when we realized that the sea of accents was ours for the taking. With so many possibilities, we started to piece together a mental map of accents through similar and dissimilar sounds, syllables, and vocal machinations.
This realization helped me see the world as a bigger place with myriad ways of life. The way that English could be spoken was multifarious and varied throughout the world. In the United States, the different manners of speaking add to the collective air of uniqueness that this country has. And all this is but a microcosm, a subset of English dialects.
It was at this time that the words themselves seemed to adopt different meanings. It really did depend on how you said things, with respect to accents. “Water” could be said “wadder,” “woetuh,” or “watah.” Especially in the world of swearing, the efficacy of swearing depends on from which part of the world the speaker hails.
As I got older, and watched more more film and television, I began to try to emulate the people I heard. Impressions fascinated me, as some of the greatest impressionists were, to my ear, indistinguishable from the actual individual. And my investigations in just how to do that was very interesting. The voice of a person is supported by his experience and his life. To better try to emulate it, the best thing to do was try to think and act like the other person. How would Robert De Niro look at this situation? What posture would he adopt? Speaking in this sense became more of a full body exercise, as every detail was important in influencing what sounds our vocal cords could make.
Impressions bring us closer to people we would not otherwise know. When we try to speak like them, we are really trying to understand them on a more fundamental level. Because of all the factors that influence a voice, trying to deconstruct various components is an enlightening task.
Impressions and accents are a high form of flattery because there is so much that can be said about a person based on how they speak. It gleans insight into culture, the history of language in a region, personal affectations, and so much more.
The voice is a beautiful instrument that can ring many different notes true. It is the key to communication and can help us become closer to others by emulating and understanding a little clearer what makes us people. It is often said that our personalities are an amalgamation of the personalities of those we interact with. If this is true, I would like to believe that there is a little Aussie, Brit, or Scot, and even further, maybe a bit of Nic Cage, De Niro, and George W. Bush in all of us.
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