Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"In a world...."

Years ago, a friend and I attended one of our first classical music concerts. I know very little about classical music. I mean, I know enough to be able to recognize the opening strains of a Mozart concerto or a Beethoven symphony, but I'm fairly ignorant of the history of music, the nuances of composition and theory, etc. (Now if we're talking about the collected works of AC/DC, yeah....sure.) However, a friend of ours gave us tickets to a performance, and I NEVER turn down free tickets. He informed us that the guest violin soloist would be "playing in the style and technique of the great Daniel Haifetz". Well, during the concert, he merely sounded to me like...a violinist. I didn't hear any missed notes and the crowd responded approvingly after each selection, so I figured, you know, cool! I just witnessed somebody "playing in the style and technique of the great Daniel Haifetz". Whomever that was.

We met up afterwards and I said, "Well, how did this guy and Daniel Haifetz stack up?" He took a long drag from his cigarette, exhaled slowly, and said,"This guy had boxing gloves on his hands compared to Daniel Haifetz".


I would say that would pretty much sum up the conversation if I were being compared to the great Don LaFontaine. Those of us in the voiceover world knew that Don was pretty ill, but he had been making some strides in recovery. That's why it was pretty shocking to hear the news today that Don had passed away.

I've wanted to be behind a microphone for as long as I can remember. But it was only after I had begun working at my first radio station that I became enamored of the "station voice". Their voices seemed other-worldly to me. I knew that my voice didn't sound anything like them but I tried, even early on, to emulate their rhythm and cadence. I would sneak into the production studio between long songs at WDJQ in Alliance, Ohio, grab some carts filled with lazer blasts, turn on the microphone and the Otari reel-to-reel, and pretend that I was the "Mr. Big Voice"....Joe Kelly, Mitch Craig, J.R. Nelson, Charlie Van Dyke, or Ernie Anderson.

But there was only one Don LaFontaine. (Or as my sister likes to say, "that movie voice guy".) Log on to any voiceover website and listen to any "Trailer" demo, and almost all of them are trying, in some way, shape, or form, to "be like Don". And if we can't be like Don, we're quizzing each other on what equipment and processing he used so that we can "sound like Don". But we all know that no Manley Gold Reference microphone or Tube Tech CL1b or Urei 1176 is going to truly make us "Don". It was his sense of drama...his sense of urgency...his ability to nail a phrase EXACTLY as it should be nailed...and, later, his ability to poke fun at himself....that really differentiated him from most of the voiceover field. He was an icon.

So, I sit here perusing my demos, changing bits here and there, and trying to size up how to attract more folks to the MAV family of clients. And, I listen to my "Trailer" demo and I laugh...at myself. Me? Don LaFontaine? Please. There might as well be boxing gloves tied around my vocal cords.

Rest in peace, Don.


* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

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