Have you ever noticed what an easy, resonant speaking voice Roger Federer has? OK, I’m really stretching here to make a reference to one of my guys, but doesn’t his voice convey something like attractive self-confidence to you?
I wonder if the times they are a-changin’ in terms of the idealized broadcast voice. World War II newsreels featured highly-inflected bari-tenor voices. TV news anchors in the 60s were fatherly bass-baritones. The first woman newsperson that made any kind of aural impression on me was Barbara Walters, who has a low, almost matronly voice.
I spent a couple of hours listening to NPR yesterday on my drive up to and back from Burlington, and based on my familiarity with NPR from over 30+ years of listening, I am confident in saying that 1) NPR has made a deliberate decision to expand the number of voice types it hires and promotes as announcers, 2) men’s and women’s voices on NPR are rising slightly from the ubiquitous deep ideal of a generation ago and, 3) most interestingly and unexpectedly, non-resonant voices are increasingly prominent.
On the way up to Burlington yesterday for the first rehearsal of the Burlington Choral Society I listened to Melissa Block on All Things Considered. She has been co-anchor of ATC since 2003. Her voice is much higher than Barbara Walters’ and has a very slightly gravelly quality that would have, I believe, disqualified her for an anchor position a generation ago. On the way back from the rehearsal I listened to the TED Radio Hour, which is hosted by Guy Raz, a former anchor on Weekend All Thing Considered, whose crackly, super-conversational voice seems almost a parody of unintimidating friendliness. This American Life’s Ira Glass has a kind of whiny, hipster voice that used to drive me crazy (and still would were it not for the quality of his journalism).
Perhaps even more significant is that NPR has recently turned over the responsibility of reading the funding credits from Frank Tavares, who had been obsessively pronouncing ev-e-ry syl-la-ble of the word op-por-tu-ni-ties in his perfect middle-of-the-road voice for 30 years, to Sabrina Farhi, who has a relatively high-pitched, soft, über-friendly voice.
From this I conclude that my voice, which is relatively high-pitched and filled with gravelly lack of resonance, is becoming “hot.” The fact that it is the result of a vocal injury that was partially mitigated by surgery is interesting. Maybe everyone who wants to get into broadcasting will now opt to have a pre-emptive surgery on their vocal cords to get just the right kind of rasp the way young pitchers in baseball are now deciding to have Tommy John surgery before they blow out their elbows.