About Tim Noonan
“Just. Fascinating. @TimNoonan on voice at #sibsyd including insightful exercises to teach us to find our 'true note'” - Allison Hornery
You can read details of my professional experience resume style: Tim Noonan’s past professional experience, education and projects.
But if you want to hear a little of my voice journey, and why I am so passionate about voice, please read on …
Rather than get too sidetracked in this post into my many interests besides voice, I have decided to share some selections from my personal life story which may give you an understanding of where my absolute love and fascination for the human voice stems from. It also sheds some light on how I came to appreciate and develop the foundational principles that underpin my Vocal Consciousness work and of course the deeper theory behind Vocal Branding.
My Early Years
In hindsight, it is very difficult for me to know when I first started to realize that my sensory ‘view port’ out into the world around me was substantially different to the five-senses experience of everyone else I knew and encountered. As a baby, you are just you. A bundle of sensations, emotions and the inquisitiveness and wonder of discovery. You are the centre of Your world.
In fact, in my case, it was my parents in the mid 1960s, who slowly came to the realization that their third child was not reacting to visual stimuli in the ways normally expected of a young baby. While it seemed I was sensitive to light, I did not visually track people or objects as they moved through my field of view. In time they came to the resounding realisation that – to all intents and purposes – I was blind. I can only imagine how distressing this realization must have been for them at the time, and their concern for how significantly this set of circumstances would impact my development and life experience.
So, almost inevitably, from a very young age, voices and sound were a central part of my early life experience – though it took me many years to appreciate just how significant sound and vocal interpretation was to my survival and (I suppose) even to my success, however one interprets success.
As a blind child growing up in a largely visually-oriented world I heard people’s voices, and I subsequently experienced their actions. Quite often I would observe seemingly contradictions between what people said, what others said about them, and particularly what they did. And… over time, I started to notice recurring vocal patterns associated with these apparent discrepancies between what people said, how they said it and what they then did. It developed into an almost unconscious kind of tell-tale hunch that the way someone said something was often a good indicator of their subsequent behaviour. For a very long time I didn’t trust these hunches and it is only in recent years that I have really examined and tried to understand what is actually going on with the richness of vocal language.
It was therefore with a great sense of excitement, at the age of 40, that I read “‘And There Was Light’ Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance” , translated from the French by Elizabeth R. Cameron. His life story is extraordinary, and the things he said about the richness and significance of information encoded in the human voice struck a resounding chord of understanding in me.
Hear what Jacques said about the voices he heard
“The human voice forces its way into us. It is really inside ourselves that we hear it. To hear it properly we must allow it to vibrate in our heads and our chests, in our throats as if, for the moment, it really belonged to us. That is surely the reason why voices never deceive us.” - And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance
These hunches about subtle vocal indicators of a person’s values and behaviour slowly awakened my reflections on voice, personality and authenticity, and what I sometimes term ‘Vocology’, the vocal expression of a person’s psychology that is expressed when they speak. I thought (wrongly) that I had invented the term ‘Vocology’, but it later became evident that it is also used in Speech Pathology academia.
At Age Seven
It was at the very impressionable age of 7 that I first heard the sound of my own voice played back to me via a poor quality cassette recorder – I was so disappointed! I never realized I sounded so immature, plaintive, and unsure of myself.
Thoroughly frustrated with a visiting grandchild who wasn’t confident to go play in the paddock with the cows, Granny (my Grandmother who incidentally turns 90 today as I write this) had the wonderful brainwave of setting me up in her dark quiet dining room, with the new cassette recorder my uncle had just brought back following his posting in the Vietnam War.
And that painful, but also exciting auditory experience was really the start of my voice journey; a profound, though at-the-time unconscious recognition at the age of seven, that our voice actually Tells the world how we perceive ourselves to be. I certainly wasn’t the first to learn this truth, but neither was I told nor taught it. It was a kernel of wisdom which has been the seed of my seemingly boundless passion for greater understanding of my own voice, and the voices around me.
Hear or Download what the brilliantly insightful poet and writer David Whyte says about the human voice Source: [The Heart Aroused](http://davidwhyte.stores.yahoo.net/hearpoprofso.html).
Worthy of a post all of its own, is the fascinating paradox that the voice We hear when we speak is heard/felt/experienced so dramatically differently by Us than how it is heard/felt/experienced by everyone else. It is really a form of auditory blindspot. Perhaps it developed as a kind of self-protection mechanism.
My Early Teenage Years
As a teenager, I studied singing for a few years. When I was about 15, I was encouraged to sing at a school concert in front of 1500 schoolmates and parents. However, I didn’t know or anticipate that the sheet music given to the band was actually in a key – a whole musical third higher than I had practiced with – and well above my upper vocal range and ability.
The shock and distress of being placed in a situation where failure was all-but inevitable, subsequently confirmed by a strained and embarrassing performance in front of all my schoolmates, lead my singing voice to go into hiding, officially going on strike for many years to follow. I determined I was never going to place myself in that kind of humiliating and powerless vocal situation again.
We all have a voice story to tell, usually this is a distressing experience when we were younger where we were called upon to use our voice, and it seemed to let us down, or we were given cruel or careless feedback about our speaking or singing voice. Whatever our experience, the scars can go very deep, sometimes even below our conscious recollection.
It was this experience that taught me the intrinsic linkages voice has to our sense of self, self-confidence, safety and ultimately, trust.
As Don Campbell, the author of the Mozart Effect so aptly puts it: “The voice is an incredibly vulnerable instrument!”
Indeed, on so many levels, the voice is a metaphor for the self, so attacks on our voice are usually internalized as personal attacks to oneself.
The one-on-one “Vocal Consciousness” voice work I do with individuals often involves a component where we revisit early voice wounds, so they can be explored, reinterpreted, and – to a large degree – released.
When I was 15 I was very fortunate to do a week’s work experience at Sydney Radio Station 2SM. I mostly worked with the audio production guys, who were responsible for creating promos and advertisements from scripts.
I learnt a lot in this brief apprenticeship about just how significant optimal word choice is to the flow and the feel of an ad. Conversely, I particularly learnt how hard it is for even the most talented voice actors to get a good read from poor copy. I also found out just how much difference it makes to the naturalness and realness of an ad, when you match the ‘right’ voice talent with the right job (that is, a compatible voice for that Brand).
My Late Teens
From a young child, I had always been fascinated about hypnosis! When I was about 16, I obtained a copy of a classic text called Medical and Dental Hypnosis, by John F. Heartland. I read this book several times from cover-to-cover and became extraordinarily effective at hypnotizing my friends at school. I had to modify many of the induction techniques, because most used visual observation to assess the level of relaxation/depth the subject had achieved, which, in my case, being blind, were not suitable. This redesign of techniques required me to carefully study and deconstruct the methods covered in the text, so I could effectively devise alternative approaches which were in most cases nearly as effective.
In a gross simplification, it could be said that hypnosis is the action of by-passing the conscious (rational) mind in order to convey ideas directly to the unconscious mind (the part of the mind which does not question ideas or search for proof before accepting a notion)
Principally, this is done by way of controlling the rhythm and prosody of the voice of the hypnotist, as well as developing ‘patter’ made up of meticulously selected words and phrases.
This study and application of hypnosis gave me a rich understanding of how voice can be employed to convey an idea to a person without excessive triggering of the usual questioning reactions of the rational part of the mind. Conversely, it also taught me what vocal styles and word choices elicit the rejection of an idea by the rational mind.
I think the biggest “Aha” insight for me – and something which is absolutely core to Vocal Branding – coming out of this experimentation with hypnosis, was that incongruency between the words a person utters and the way they actually deliver those words through tone-of-voice leads to cognitive dissonance. The result for the listener is undermined trust in the integrity of the speaker.
Hypnosis is also about one person (the hypnotist) using his Will to influence another principally via use of his voice, since the eyes of the subject are usually closed.
This research and experimentation gave me an extraordinary insight into the role our voice plays in expressing our will, and the capacity of the voice to be employed as an instrument of guidance, or alternatively, a tool of manipulation and control.
When someone grants you permission to hypnotise them, they are handing over great trust and confidence in you. The granting of this trust served me very well as it taught me the fundamental understanding that our voice is our true centre of will and power. It was one way I learnt as a teenager that every single utterance we make in life is a reflection of our personal choice to either use our voice constructively, respectfully and invitationally, or a destructive choice to wield our voice as a tool of weakening, coercion or domination. In essence, whether we choose to use our voice to Add to, or use it to Take away from another. Gifting or Stealing.
When I finished school I decided to get some more hands-on radio experience and work for a year to make some money and to put off the inevitability of more study at Uni.
In December 1983 I started volunteering at Sydney Radio Station 2RPH (Radio for the Print Handicapped). The station reads newspapers and other periodicals on the air for people who have difficulties reading standard print.
Being blind, I wasn’t really that well suited to become a ‘reader’, but with a mentor – Matt Ponsenby, my old guitar teacher and a very successful blind radio DJ who was also doing some work for 2RPH, I soon became the Thursday morning and then the Sunday station announcer and panel operator.
Unlike most radio stations, though, we would read the morning papers and record the session, and the recording would then be re-played that evening. This meant I did my shift in the morning, and I listened to my shift that night, critiqueing and assessing my on-air performance. Painful, but very instructive.
Now, more than a quarter of a decade on, I am a director on the 2RPH board, observing Station happenings from the other side. We are currently steering the station into the 21st century of digital broadcasting, podcasting, streaming coupled with and ageing listenership.
But back to then … This volunteer role wasn’t going to pay the bills, though, and I soon ended up working as a telephonist/receptionist for a building materials manufacturer and supplier.
Speaking with countless people, 8 hours a day, five days a week, gave me a great understanding of the diversity of spoken communication styles we use. It also showed me the subtle, and not so subtle, ways that people communicate over the phone – different to the way they speak face-to-face.
Also that year I purchased my first talking computer. From that point on, almost every word I ‘read’ (other than recorded books) has been verbalized by machine in a robotic or half-human-sounding voice. Unlike human speech, synthetic speech is actually just words machine-translated into spoken form. It is verbal communication, not vocal communication, because no real meaning, intent, purpose or emotions are conveyed through the computer-generated utterances. This is because a computer is unaware of the actual meaning or significance of the words it speaks.
Hear some great voice advice from Heather Forest read aloud by Lee, a synthetic computer voice. Synthetic speech produced from the closing paragraph from a [great voice article by Heather Forest.](http://www.storyarts.org/articles/voice.html)
You may be asking yourself why I am explaining this in such detail? Primarily, because for the first time in human history, it was possible to contrast and compare two distinct forms of speech– human speech which is the blend of words and vocal expression, and robotic computer speech, which is essentially just verbal – words – completely devoid of real vocal expression.
It taught me two skills:
First, it allowed me to learn to completely filter out the computer’s poor and often wrong superficial patterning, and replace it with my own interpretation of the writer’s intent;
Hear the DECTalk voice synthesiser ‘reading’ a newspaper article Source: output from the Today’s News Now automated telephone-based Newspaper reading system I developed for Vision Australia in the late 90′s.
And second, this almost continuous exposure to synthesised speech primed my ear and brain to listen to human speech for the most subtle nuances of vocal expression, whether that was listening to people when they spoke to me, or when I listened to countless thousands of hours of recordings of books read by humans, both novice volunteer readers and professional paid narrators.
It was about this time that I started to get a greater sense that there was a correlation between the speaker’s values and beliefs and the way they sounded as they spoke. This idea lead me to pay greater conscious attention to whether particular vocal qualities by a speaker were indicators of their personal values.
Hear the way Arthur Joseph considers the human voice
This understanding of voice and values is central to the proprietary Brand Values and Voice matching service we offer to clients of Vocal Branding Australia.
To be continued ….Tweet