Sunday, March 22, 2009

Familiar Voices

I’ve been “blessed” (or “cursed”, some would say) with a distinctive-sounding voice. People seem to recognize it right away, if they’ve ever heard it before. I don’t know why that is - or what are the distinctive characteristics of my voice. I would not be able to disguise my voice over the telephone, to try to fool anybody.

This came to mind now, because last Sunday at church (my third Sunday in a row of visiting that church after returning to Ohio), the Usher who has given me the Bulletin each Sunday said, “By the way. This is your third Sunday here, and I don’t know your name.” “Mike Maddex”, I said. “Oh - WEEC! That’s why I recognized your voice.”

See what I mean? I haven't been on the radio much for 10 years!

I’ve been “flabbergasted” several times the last 3 weeks at so many people saying that. Well, it has been that way ever since shortly after I arrived at WEEC in 1965. But after being retired 10 years? Really!

But, now, at my age, my voice has lost so much of its “timbre” (pronounced “tamm-bur”, which has to do with the tone and sound quality of speech or voice), that I’m surprised ANYBODY recognizes it. You see - it’s just my peculiar voice that people hear. Though it once may have sounded like a “radio voice”, surely it no longer does. But………WEEC listeners still recognize it.

Even now, when I greet my longtime friends with my usual “Have you got the Victory today, brother”, even on the phone, they know who it is.

That reminds me that years ago, when BOTH of us were still active in the radio ministry, I called my friend Al Sanders in California, and when he answered, I said, “Have you got the victory today, Brother.” Knowing right away who I was, he said, “When did you mail it?” That’s Al.

And, MANY years ago, Jean and I were traveling in the Southwest on the way to some Christian Radio conclave, and we stopped briefly at what I call a “Jot-‘em-down” store along the highway. Inside the store were bookcases that provided aisles to walk through. I said something to Jean about an item on one of the shelves, and from the OTHER SIDE of the bookcase, a voice said, “Mike Maddex” real loud. I was dumbfounded. Shortly the person saying that rounded the corner, and though I didn’t know him, he recognized my voice. It turned out that he was a listener to WEEC, traveling in the same general area as Jean and I were.


I sometimes wish I had made a study of the “timbre” and sound of voices, to better understand why there are so many distinctive sounds that may be recognized.

One of the gentleman residents here has a distinctive voice - though it is very high pitched, and almost sounds like a lady. I can hear him and recognize him in the Dining Room, without knowing he’s anywhere near. It’s not a “bad” voice, but just different.

And, what about voices like Bill Pearce? Or Paul Harvey? Or George Younce, the Bass Singer in the old Cathedral Quartet. I often yearned for a voice like one of them.

Then there’s the high tenor voice of Jay Parak, whom Tracy Figley thinks is the highest tenor in Gospel Music today. These voices are distinct. People who have heard them talk or sing, would immediately recognize them.

Voices are used for communication - orally. They are used to convey thoughts, or songs, or ideas.

Most are distinct. Don’t sound like anyone else.

OK. Now that I have established that there are different voices - yet generally recognizable - what about what the voices have to say? Or sing?

When speaking, the voice is generated “by a larynx”, or “voice box”. However, what the “voice” says is governed by the mind, or thought. And, the specific words are articulated by the tongue - using the larynx for the sound.

I can’t help but recall the Epistle of James in the New Testament, which has a lot to say about how we use our tongues:

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity:…..”. James 3:5-6.


I didn’t know I was going to say that when I started talking about “Familiar Voices”. My fingers just started to write, following the thoughts in my mind.

Such is the life of a “blogger”.

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