I’m in the studio this week, laying tracks for the audible recording of And Life Comes Back.
I’m kind of having a crazy great time with this process.
And it’s a wholly separate something, this business of listening to myself tell the story. It’s one thing to see it on the screen, another to see it in the bound book, and a third other thing to tell it in a conversation. But it’s yet another process to read my own words aloud in a sound booth with technology that makes me sound like a real, live professional.
I’m working with a team of two men who are seriously brilliant and know their stuff.
Trey is my project director through Merge Media. He reads along with me and stops me when I say things like ipad instead of ipod, stiffness instead of stillness, or the present tense of read instead of the past tense (which I think we should all agree is a general flaw in the creation of the English language). It’s fascinating to me the little tricks my mind plays, the words it reads differently when it’s all right there in front of me in black and white and my own words.
Jeff is our audio engineer, and he listens and corrects any interference from things I didn’t know made noise in an otherwise soundless vacuum, like the cellular data mode on my phone even though I’m not using it and it’s in another room. And he can also do magical things like erasing the sound of a tiny spit bubble popping in my throat in the middle of a word.
(Step inside a sound booth to become intimately acquainted with your own mouth noises, my friends.)
There has been the potential for my own emotional breakdown at any given point in the recording studio, particularly as I read (past tense) Part I, the scenes of my life’s very unraveling. Or the retelling of a panic attack on the plane. Or conversations with Robb that happened so long ago, words I haven't read since I spent a year writing them and another year editing them. And so it is no small thing to revisit these moments and tell the story again, to somehow stay emotionally engaged enough to tell the story well, and yet to remain distant enough to keep myself from losing the next three days in a valley of grief and remembering.
I can’t really tell you how much I love the guys I’m working with, how thankful I am for these men who keep an eye on my heart, anticipate when momentum is good and when a break is better, and who stop to pray with me as we enter a scene that will be taxing for my heart. There’s no way I could do this without the right people on my team.
There have been some laughable moments, like when we had to rerecord a sentence where I had written the phrase “nor should he have had.” It turns out that’s a degree of grammatical correctness that’s only necessary on the page, and it’s not something a normal person would actually say verbally. Saying it sounds unnatural.
“Nor should he have had.” Try it.
We recorded it several ways…“Nor should he have HAD.” "Nor should he HAVE had." “Nor should he have. Had.” "Nor should-he’ve had.” That one sounded too much like “shitty-of-head,” which gave me the giggles and slowed down the recording all together.
You know what else means the same thing? “Nor should he.”
And then there’s The Great Poinsettia Debate. Nothing has made me more aware of what I don’t know how to say than the promise to immortalize the wrong pronunciation n my own voice.
I stopped mid-sentence, and my pause is recorded somewhere in the digital tracks: “How fitting as well that Robb’s memorial service would be decorated with… wait. Can you guys tell me how to say that word?”
The guys referenced their iPhones and Google and Siri. My choices were ‘poin-setta’ or ‘poyn-sett-eeya,” or oddly “point-set-uh,” which I promptly nixed since there’s no t in the first syllable of the word, people. No t. But don’t feel bad if you pronounce the t. It’s come to my attention that I say poe-in-setta, for some reason. Do you see the debates I’ve subjected myself to?
You know what else means the same thing? “Red Christmas flower.”