Tuesday, September 8, 2015

'Share a Memory': Preserving your family history and genealogy

Inspiration in Sepia: Although they speak to us through images,
it would be lovely if we could hear the sound of their voices.
This post is inspired by DearMyrtle, a.k.a. Pat Richley-Erickson, who has created the series '#30 ways in 30 days, Share a Memory'.  In addition to writing my blog, a favourite ‘Share a Memory’ idea I have for preserving my Irish family history and genealogy is my ongoing and ever evolving project of creating audio files.

After the death of my mother, one of the things I missed most was the sound of my mom’s voice, with her lovely Dublin accent gently touching her words. Although I am sometimes visited by the sound of my dad's voice, it breaks my heart that my mother's is now lost to me. I long to hear Mom call me 'Jenn', as only she could do. I struggle to remember the intonations in her voice, the sounds of happiness playing on her words, the sounds of sadness too, and the timbre of her laughter. On rare occasions, just for an instant I hear my mother's voice in my own, when I am talking about certain subjects, or laughing at a good story, and it is a comfort to me.

When I began to consider the special impact the voices of those we love can have on us, my feelings prompted me to create a series of audio files. Essentially, the files comprise an audiobook in which I read aloud stories which hold special meaning for our family, as well as share family history and genealogy, and favourite blog posts. Once I have created the audio files, I can save them on my computer, post them on iTunes, send them in an email as an mp3, or burn the recordings onto a disc or discs so they can be shared.

The GarageBand software on my Mac works well for creating audio because it enables me to work with a number of aspects of the recording to change the tonal quality, add music, and so on. I have made a few recordings, but am still experimenting in order to get them exactly the way I want them. Also, although my Mac has a built-in microphone, which works really well for podcasting or web chat purposes, I have found using an external mic produces the best results. GarageBand is also available as an iPad and iPhone app. The devices app gives you fewer options than the Mac version, but it does also work well for recording the spoken word.

Here are 10 tips I use to help me when recording audio files:

1. Speak in calm, dulcet tones. When I record I speak in the way I would when reading a story to a child, adding spirits of excitement, joy, etc. where appropriate, and being especially careful not to sound monotone. If it fits the mood, I smile as I am speaking in order to ‘put a smile into my voice’, something I learned from a voice coach many moons ago.

2. Practice before recording. Producing a good sound track is not easy, so you will have to practice before creating your audio file. You may find yourself recording, erasing, and then recording again when you trip on your words, and believe me you will occasionally trip — ‘brass plaque’ is my achilles heel. Those who are more experienced with audio recording may wish to clap loudly when an error is made, so the visual wave form in the audio file spikes, making it easier to find when you go back to correct it. 

3. Sit up tall and open your chest as if you were going to sing. Sometimes I stand in order to maintain a feeling of energy when I am recording.

4. Exercise your vocal cords before you begin recording your voice. I use vocal exercises: motor boat lips, vowel sounds, and running a scale of musical notes. If necessary, sip room temperature water in very small sips. Soothing herbal tea is also helpful for lubricating the vocal cords.

5. Chant sound phrases in order to improve diction, using for example, 'la, lo, le, lo’, ’ma, mo, me, mo’ and 'ta, toe, te, toe’.

6. Recite tongue twisters such as ‘She sells sea shells by the seashore’ or 'If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?', or any number of other tongue twisters you might enjoy reciting. Repeated recitation of tongue twisters will help you to improve your diction.

7. Read aloud at a measured pace, as you would when presenting a paper at a conference, or performing at a public speaking engagement. It should take you about 15 to 20 minutes to read aloud an 8 page double spaced piece. If you speak too quickly your listeners may not be able to follow along.

8. Enunciate, being sure to pronounce all the syllables in a word, while endeavouring not to sound stiff. Be careful not to drop syllables in your words. Be sure to speak the entire word.

9. ‘Pronounce’ punctuation, so you hit a pause when there is a comma, and have a brief stop when there is a period. Remember, your voice should go up when there is a question mark at the end of a sentence, and there should be a tone of exclamation when there is an exclamation point.

10. Above all relax — yeah, right — and have fun, so your voice sounds as natural as possible, like you only a slightly better version.

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What 'Share a Memory' ideas do you have 
for preserving your family history and genealogy?

©irisheyesjgg2015.

8 comments:

  1. I had to chuckle at "relax" coming after all those tips Jennifer ;) It's a great idea and would be very special to leave for grandchildren who will forget your voice as they get older...that's my take home message.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Pauleen, thanks very much for your comments. I thought I'd throw that in there after all those 'do this' tips. :-) I agree with you it would be very special to leave for grandchildren.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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    2. Don't forget while leaving these for grandchildren, do record the grandchildren also. My grandchildren had a great time recording a message for their great grandparents one year as a Christmas present...they were very young at the time, about 4 and 3, with older sister prompting younger brother. It is so touching, so hilarious and so wonderful to have. Both ggrandparents were given their copy on a dvd and though they had to have someone else set it up for them to play, they loved it. It went very well with the box of home made gingerbread men they also gave them. It's been a long time Christmas tradition that the children in the family make gingerbread men with me... my children, my nephews and niece, then my grandchildren.
      We played their 'movie' again just recently and loved the memories also... they are now 15 and 'almost 14'...

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    3. Hi Chris, thanks very much for your comments, and great ideas to get all of the generations involved! I love the idea of you making gingerbread men with all the children in your family, thereby creating wonderful (and tasty) memories for them. :-)

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Fabulous guidelines, Jennifer. I have yet to do this, and yet my kids and grandkids have all loved me reading stories to them... time to read memory stories, now, eh? Tempus fugit!
    Thanks so much for posting your tips.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Celia, thanks very much for your comments. Oh yes indeed how time does fly. This is one of those 'carpe diem' projects. I bet your kids and grandkids would love recordings of your stories.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. Jennifer, I had never considered that before; a recording of voices. In the past I have taped older relatives while interviewing them for family stories. At that time I had cassette tapes & a recorder. I'm sure an App would be easier to use & transport.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Colleen, thanks very much for your comments. I've also taped older relatives when interviewing them and can attest to the fact that the app is easier to use and transport. The sound quality is great too, and no more having to deal with twisted cassette tapes. :-) Voice memo on iPhone works surprisingly well too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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