5/17/2012
The merch voice

The recording started, innocuously enough, with some fiddling. It was mostly quiet, those first few seconds; there was some odd humming and the occasional murmur.

And then, a loud snap.

For a split second, the noises stopped. And then, someone whispering, very faintly. "I did not do this."

And then, some frenzied squeeing. Or maybe it was laughing. You can't really tell. The voices were definitely stunned, though. They did not know how to react.

The noises stopped again. One of the voices - a female's, the one who squeed the loudest, so to speak - sounded like she was in denial. "Ganyan 'yan," she said, exasperatedly. Nobody still had any idea what exactly to do. Except, perhaps, to mumble like a baby, which the female voice did.

Another voice, a male's, suddenly comes in. "For the benefit of people who are gonna do, uhh, use this booth, Anna Abola broke it!"

"Oh my God!" the female voice went, trying to pull him away from the microphone, while he still defiantly screams her name.

"Anna Abola!"

Then another voice comes in. Also a male's, a more high-pitched one. "Damn 106ers," he said, his mouth very close to the microphone. "Those 106 people."

The female voice wasn't getting any calmer, however. In fact, she was getting more and more worried. The first male voice, a bass-y one, was trying to appease her. Or maybe not. You can't really tell. You do know, however, that it wasn't working.

"They made it weak!" the high-pitched male voice went. "They made it weak!"

She wasn't calming down.

"Stop panicking!" he went, sounding worried himself. "Stop panicking!"

"Ohmygaaaaaaaaaad," she went. "Nooooooooooooo!"

That has to be the best bit of audio that came out of the final project we had for advanced radio production class. Yes, that project where the whole class, split into three groups, had to create a whole day of programming in a fictional radio station. All the paperwork, all the production, all the creatives, and all the actual content, which included a typically zany morning show, featuring DJs named Mooie, Sloppy Joe and the Cookie Monster.

Those three - better known to you as Anna, Jose and Edsel - were recording one of their segments at the radio lab. I was on the other side. Or were we recording "clips" from "previous programs" to use for stingers? I can't remember. We just wrapped up a clip on fat people. We were going to start recording a second clip. I hit record - a bit of pre-roll, something we learned during video editing - and then the clamp on the mic stand snapped, and all of that happened.

I ended up using a segment of that clip for a program plug. I can't find it now; it probably got lost along with my old hard drive.

The Cookie Monster: "It's your fault!"

Mooie: "It's not my fault!"

The Cookie Monster: "You wrecked it in the middle!"

Mooie: "But I, but you said I couldn't be heard!"

Sloppy Joe: "You know, patience is a virtue."

Mooie, technically mumbling: "Nooooo, I didn't knooooooow, I'm sorryyyyyyy!"

Me, edited in and completely flanged out: "The Hustle Bustle. Weekday mornings from six."

Three years ago I was playing with my "teched-out" voice, but the responsibility for being the main station voiceover - or, as we all called it in class, the "merch voice" - wasn't mine. It fell to me because I ended up doing most of the imaging - terribly, looking back - but the original plan was to have Anna (err, Mooie, I still call her Mooie, I'll still call her Mooie) do most of the talking. She did record some lines for our other plugs; I guess we thought it'd be weird to have our breakfast host say the liners for the plugs to her breakfast show. Especially with a clip as frenzied as that one.

Mooie did the same thing for an earlier project. The assignment dropped to her because, as our professor put it, she had a "documentary voice". I agreed. She does sound good recorded. Authoritative without being pompous.

I rediscovered that clip yesterday. Edsel uploaded it to his Multiply site - I remember goading him to do so three years ago - and, listening to it now, it's still funny as hell; in fact, it sounds a fair bit like what happens when things go wrong on The Disenchanted Kingdom or something.

I had Mooie listen to the clip - through Twitter, because that's apparently how we do things now - and just like the clip, she didn't quite know what to do. "I want a copy of the mic mishap clip!" she told me and Edsel. "Hilarious!" And then, "I miss my old voice. It's damaged now."

The first image that came to me was Anna Abola as Nora Aunor, only without the botched surgery.

"My voice box is overused," she said.

"Can't. Stop. Listening." That's me. "Your squeeing, Moo!"

"I can't even squee anymore. How depressing."

"The teaching job killed your laughbox?"

"Yup." And then, "I still dream about being a radio jock, though."

I dug up a bunch of other clips that I managed to upload before my files went kaput. Even more plugs for the morning show, with Mooie and the Cookie Monster singing what they called the "Banana Song". (It simply went, ba-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, ba-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na!) I guess I triggered something in Mooie.

"My merch voice!" she said later last night. I only remembered the term when she mentioned it. "Which I didn't value so much before. Now I know why you dubbed me as the merch voice!"

Well, again, our professor (and former radio jock, and current radio executive) knew what she was talking about.

"This is so depressing," she later said. Or, typed. I don't know how she said it: a lazy, tired drawl, perhaps. Definitely not the giddy Mooie who broke the clamp on the mic stand all those years ago. Well, either that, or the voice that extolled the virtues of what was then called Institut Santre, located in "Makadi" City.

"Imma get my merch voice back."

As it turns out, she did not break the mic stand. "Ganyan na 'yan," Mang Ric told us a few days later. If I remember correctly, he blamed the 106ers.

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