Song of Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi, inventor and early radio technology pioneer.

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Radio producer Tony Kahn once said of an interviewee “She lives in her voice.” What a remarkably succinct way to say how one’s voice communicates more than just the words that are spoken. Cadence, pauses, inflections… all are non-verbal cues about character.

I’m a fan of one non-verbal component of voice in particular — accents. Unfortunately, a great homogenization of accents has occurred on radio. It’s rare, it seems, to hear regional accents whether its news reporters, program hosts, or djs.

The commentary by Dennis Downey featured on this Saltcast is an exception. Dennis, arguably, “lives in his voice.” Raised in New Bedford and now living on Cape Cod, his accent is refreshing and honest. Take a listen to Dennis’ essay on Marconi and talking on the radio. I’m sure his accent will perk up your ears.

Cheers,

Rob

PS – This essay originally appeared on Transom.org.

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  1. 9 Responses to “Song of Marconi”

  2. By Molly on Jul 31, 2010

    I was just this week discussing with a couple other radio producers who our favorite voices are on NPR. The first two to come up were Wade Goodwyn and Eleanor Beardsley. Both have great southern accents. I grew up in the South, too, but never had an accent. I wonder how my career would be different if I did.

    And Car Talk! Those accents have to be half the reason I listen to Car Talk every week.

  3. By Martyn Moore on Dec 3, 2010

    I found this podcast fascinating. I think I can differentiate between accents from the southern US states and New York but find the rest hard to identify.

    I’m originally from a very small town in the north of England and the accent 20 miles east is very different to the one 20 miles west. Now I live in the south and everybody knows I’m from the north. But when I go home, I’m told I’ve lost my accent and talk ‘posh’. After a weekend in the north, my friends in the south know I’ve been home from the way I’ve started to speak!

    The BBC now celebrates regional accents. National broadcasts have a rich diversity. It was very different when I tried (and failed) to get into broadcasting with my northern flat vowels. I had an accent when it wasn’t cool.

    I wonder how it would have been if I didn’t.

  4. By Anonymous on Dec 5, 2010

    Hey Martyn,
    I’ve always been curious about the seemingly malleable nature of accents such as you describe when you travel back and forth in England. I wonder if it’s a way for us to, unconsciously, fit in — a means of adaptation, if you will. And…. weird thought… I wonder if birds do it. I know they have regional differences in their songs. I wonder if, when a bird finds itself in a region other than home, it adapts to the song style of that region? Clearly, it’s late and I’m up past my bedtime. Thanks again for writing. — Rob

  5. By Alexia Hays on Jul 17, 2011

    Whoa, buddy. Let me say that It’s a incredibly magnificent piece 😉 Fellow 12dietboost users at Chelsea? Allie & i are cycling at Monday. Im new in town!

  6. By brian on May 4, 2012

    The variants of the New England accents are quite distinct. Compare Downey with most of the characters in the student pieces. When compared with the rest of the country Cape Cod isn’t that far from Maine yet they sound worlds different. Even the difference between someone from Portland and another from Bangor is remarkable. And there’s only 130 miles between the two cities.

  7. By Emily on May 29, 2012

    I really thought you moved to Las Vegas for a second.

  8. By Sparkle on Apr 8, 2013

    At first I thought “Is this a put on?” It soon became transcendent.

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  2. Jul 28, 2010: Song of Marconi: “You Live in Your Voice” - Savvy Seniors Work
  3. Feb 2, 2012: Long Live Regionalism! | GPRX test

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