Saturday, July 29, 2017

Build a Cathedral With the Sound of Your Own Voice

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City
In our video age, what’s the most underappreciated communications medium?

It’s the powerful magic inherent in the sound of our own voices.

This, according to Vivian Schiller, an accomplished and respected strategist who recently spoke at Verizon’s campus in Basking Ridge, NJ, about the intersection of journalism, media and technology.

She shared insights about fake news and other vital topics, but when asked about emerging trends, she had a surprising observation.

Vivian noted a resurgence in the form and popularity of “podcasts” (for want of a better word). That is, short-form audio that can be streamed or downloaded, as an effective tool of modern communications.

“After print, audio is the oldest form of media,” she said. “It’s the only form of media you can consume while you’re doing something else. You don’t need to look at it.”

Vivian Schiller
She continued, “There’s something magic about audio. It’s deeply personal.”


Think about it. Is there anything more intimate than someone whispering in your ear?

This is primal. Images left to our imagination can be much more powerful than images presented to us, and filtered, for our appreciation or entertainment.

Words are symbols representing something based in reality. Strung together – adding a human voice, either in song or spoken word, with flow and melody and meaning – mere words become something more than reality. They become the bricks and mortar we can use to build our own cathedrals.

Think of the Bible story of Elijah, who went to look for God on top of Mount Horeb:
A strong wind ripped through the trees and sent large rocks crashing like pebbles against the side of the mountain. But God was not in the wind. When the wind stopped, an earthquake nearly toppled the mountain. But God was not in the earthquake. When the earth settled, a fire spread through the uprooted trees.
Elijah sighed wearily, unmoved by all the destruction. He returned to his cave, content to wait for the fire to burn itself out because he knew God was not in the fire.
The next morning, waking from a dream, he heard a close but barely perceptible sound. The prophet staggered to his feet then fell to his knees and hid his face in the sleeve of his coat. He was shaking with fear, because he knew God was in the whispering voice.
In my own life, I consider how I am spending more and more time these days listening to audio books, which has reignited my love of literature and sparked my curiosity about many topics outside the scope of my career.

I also think of my continued fascination with poetry.

Experimenting with audio a few months ago, I posted about how I had recorded an Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet my late Dad used to recite to my mother, so that Mom could listen to it today on her Amazon Echo.

Today, I'm trying another experiment, to share with a wider audience: In an 8-second-attention-span world, I’m inviting you to listen to a spoken-word, 8-minute excerpt from something I wrote a long time ago.

The scene is set is the grandeur of the very real St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. It’s about an ordinary man’s dreams and a lost love named Virginia. In all the thousands of words I’ve ever written, these 1,200 are perhaps my favorite.

So, inspired by Vivian and summoning the gods of underappreciated magic, I invite you to listen to my story. It begins, “After a fitful night...

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