Please bear with me, readers, I’m on a daily post streak at the moment… thanks to weekly instalments of BS, new interviews, and miscellanea – such as today’s doodle post that mashes a mini review with some silly fun. You see, I’ve been feeling paranoid recently… It started harmlessly enough, when I finally took the plunge and subscribed to Audible last week.
1) The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
My first download: Richard Armitage’s latest audiobook, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In typical Guylty fashion, it was a fairly spontaneous purchase, conducted literally minutes before getting on the airport bus for a trip back home. And despite my audio reluctance, the audiobook has really met my approval – a fascinating and immersive listening experience, thanks to Armitage’s capabilities as a narrator.
Or let me rephrase that – he doesn’t just narrate a book. He orally *acts* it. Or as it says on the cover: “performs”. That is an adequate description of what sets Armitage apart from other narrators: Rather than just reading aloud a text much like a reader, Armitage simultaneously acts as narrator and cast of characters. He narrates the plot, but acts the direct speech of the various characters.
Fans of the actor have always known that Armitage’s voice is one of his greatest assets. For the narration of J&H takes his voice half-way down to the basement, lowering it to a shiver-inducing pitch that suits Stevenson’s gothic novel. For instance, he voices Utterson with a somewhat warm, yet “naive” undertone which makes us identify with the lawyer. Jekyll receives a crisp, almost arrogant and clear accent that contrasts even more heavily with the rougher, dark-accented alter ego Hyde. And Armitage doesn’t just reserve his voice acting for the main characters, but even minor figures come to life thanks to the Armitage magic. Take for instance the newsboy in chapter 5 – with a dulcet pitch, the boy comes alive (and made me think of young Kenneth from LLL). How he actually keeps up with applying the right kind of voice to the respective characters, always astounds me. It is easy enough to distinguish two voices in direct contrast. But if you have to return to a previously voiced character after several sentences/chapters, it is actually very difficult to hit *exactly* the same pitch again. (This is actually something which I observed in a former job as a producer of audio material: When a speaker/reader stumbles over a word and makes a mistake during an audio recording, you always ask them to repeat the *whole* sentence, never just the individual word they stumbled over. Reason being that you can usually detect a minute pitch difference within that “patched-up” sentence. Such a patch is less obvious when it occurs after a full stop.)
And of course Armitage’s treatment of the characters does not end with different accents and tones of voice. His real power lies in “playing” the direct speech of his characters. An exclamation of astonishment sounds surprised; a character who has just been in a fight sounds out of breath; a deathly sick character sounds weak and frail. Thus the characters come to life, and an audiobook becomes a performance. In case of J&H this is particularly obvious in the two eponymous characters. When Jekyll recounts the story of him becoming Hyde, Armitage does an amazing job of contrasting the two voices. As a listener, you have no doubt when you are listening to Jekyll and when to Hyde. He even manages to represent the gradual transformation from Hyde back to Jekyll.
In conclusion: Even an old story whose punch line is known to almost everyone, becomes exciting and new, given the Armitage treatment. The man has got audio performance down to a tee. Nonetheless, a little niggle from my side: The piece could have benefitted from a little more editing. Even super-narrator Armitage occasionally slips up and stumbles over a word, and that is fine because such little stammers are usually edited out. However, a few such glitches were audible in the recording. For the hefty price of £43 or $59 for the Monster Collection, I would have expected a little more attention to detail! That has cost you a star, Audible! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(
2) The Strange Case of My Digital Paranoia
But how does J&H feed into paranoia? Well, it *is* a classic gothic story – just like paranoia is classic horror material. But my paranoia was actually digital. So, picking up the thread I started in the introductory paragraph… I had downloaded J&H. Guylty was absorbed in the audiobook, all was well. Then, the next day, I was carrying out my usual work (even on holiday!), when I suddenly noticed Mr Armitage smiling non-committally at me from the side bar of my favourite translation site.
A welcome sight, no doubt. I’ll take that distraction any day, thank you very much.
But boy, I felt slightly haunted when Mr A kept popping up all over the shop! After my translation site, his vignetted portrait appeared in the middle of a BS review. Watching some crafting videos on Youtube, I did a double take when the unmistakable eye/nose area of a certain actor, half obstructed by Audible-orange, flashed at me from the ad space on the right. Jaysis, gave me a fright. And he just kept on coming… on the landing page of my e-mail provider, even as a banner ad on the RTE Player where I attempted to
cheat Armitage listen to an interview with Cillian Murphy.
Creepy? Nah. Not when it’s Armitage 😉. And it is easily explained. That is actually what is called “retargeting” – ads following you around after you have engaged with a particular type of commercial content on a given website. Welcome to the wonderful world of programmatic advertising!
Full disclosure: That is actually my area of specialisation as a journalist… Before you shoot me: I’m not responsible for this kind of advertising. I merely write about the industry and its technological evolution. And I can tell you one thing: My experience with the Armitage/Audible retargeting is the prime example of programmatic crap. Essentially Audible have wasted their advertising dollars on me because they retargeted me with irrelevant ad content. Not that Mr A is irrelevant – far from it. But with making a sale being advertising’s prime objective, there was little point in showing me an ad for something I had already purchased… #fail. And from a professional perspective, this is actually an interesting experience for me. I hardly ever notice ads (I am what is called “ad blind” – I simply never look there), but thanks to RA’s fetching forehead and handsome hairline, I have now had the full ad experience…