Contemplations on voiceover acting, by: Habiba Mostafa
The field of voice-over brings together different elements and worlds that
arouse my curiosity and amazement. It is a method that allows sound to reach distant horizons, creating a moment in time, much like the feeling I get from a song.
A single text stands before you, encompassing both yourself and the text itself. Just as a melody and rhythm give life to a song, the text possesses its own soul. It carries meaning, which it both reaches and conveys. Through the letters, you express your emotions, feelings, and voice, resonating with the ears and souls of others.
When you listen to a text, you don’t just hear a beautiful voice, articulate words, and well-pronounced letters. When you listen to the voice, you hear culture, thoughts, emotions, experiences, and a human journey. A voice-over artist shapes their culture before their beautiful voice, their true humanity before the flow of their emotions through words, and their life experiences before their encounters with microphones and mixing tools.
As the text begins, the sun rises, and as it ends, the sun sets. Life listens with the first word uttered by the voice-over artist, and when it concludes, life continues to unfold. The voice-over artist lacks nothing to penetrate the boundaries of the ear and reach the depths of the soul, except the authenticity of their words. To speak as a voice-over artist means to be genuine.
The voice-over artist stands before the microphone, listening and being heard. They hear themselves, and others hear them. It is a mutual connection in the beginning and end of their lives and relationships. From the beginning of your existence, you establish a connection with the world through relationships. Your relationship with the “other” is what shapes your presence and significance.
In the life of a voice-over artist, the “other” can be the microphone, the people, the text, or sometimes even your own self with all its inner workings interacting with the text. One may not truly be human until they experience interaction with the “other” and feel the presence of the “other.” Everything in this life has a counterpart or an opposite, and existence initially started as a desire from an “other” who created you.
You reach through words, traversing distances, reviving words, and
reviving souls that were once on the verge of dying. It is a process of creating words, creating humans, and creating experiences. It is akin to “light upon light,” as mentioned in the verse. It is a process of reimagining, uncovering, and revealing the word and its meaning, with another perspective and insight that allows you to see the text.
It turns you into a wonderful artist, sensitive to the nuances. And so is life, an art. In this case, the text becomes life. You stand together with life, dismantling it, reevaluating it time and time again, experiencing it, contemplating it, delving into its depths, and trying to perceive what lies beyond.
You take step by step, while reading and deciphering the words. Mistakes in reading are like mistakes in walking through life. You reread and resume your journey. There are moments in the text that require you to pause, just as in life, you need to take numerous moments to reflect, rearrange, and reorder your life.
Life is vast, and people sometimes perceive it as narrow or become constricted within it. The text has a beginning and an end, but it is expansive. Sometimes people perceive it as constricted, only seeing a few rigid words. Each person perceives it according to their capacity, ability, and insight.
You create a unique melody from each sentence, just as in your life.
“You are now in different worlds… the worlds of language… So leave your world behind and enter the presence of this door, and you will discover what lies in the other worlds, the real and perhaps imaginary ones. The text opens up your imagination… You are not just reading the letters Aleph, Ba, and Ya… You are now filled with the entirety of life, its Ba’s and Ya’s… For example, ‘Oh, God,’ ‘Oh, my mother,’ ‘Oh, sky.’ It is memory, the Ya’s of calling, and memory is humanity. In calling, there is kindness, affection, politeness, and need. And in need, there is deficiency and humanity.
Don’t you see that everything in the text leads you to your humanity! Reconcile with the text… and you’ll realize when you’re wrong and correct it… and you’ll realize when you fall and rise again… and you’ll realize when you see the surface of something and then go beyond it to its depth. With the text, you are undoubtedly a believer… because faith is believing in the unseen, and the text carries the unseen that you must believe in. And with the text, you become a more open person… You can feel the words of many people, as their experiences differ from yours. And you can empathize with what others feel… thus becoming a more beautiful and conscious human being. The text is not self-centered… It allows you to be with it… and in it… and through it. It allows you to approach it… but not everyone truly gets close! Anyone can read it… but not everyone can be close to it.
So, if someone accompanies you and you spend a day with them, it is not the same as someone who spends a long night with you on a journey.
And just as the text allows you to do that, allow it to enter the depths of your soul and change any harshness that may have been imprinted by the days, so that it becomes tenderness and mercy.
You and the text… close or distant… Choose the distance between you and it… and choose its place within you. You enter the text as one person and come out of it as another, and you cannot be the same as when you entered. The text has its rules, judgments, dignity, and authority. And the host is always generous, but his generosity towards those who deserve it is not the same as his generosity towards others. Perhaps he seats you in the salon, and perhaps you enter his chambers if he loves you. And the guest must always be a good receiver of signals and movements. In the text, every movement has meaning, the sukun (silence), the fatha (short vowel ‘a’), the damma (short vowel ‘u’), the kasra (short vowel ‘i’), every exclamation mark or question mark, every letter that can change the context, every comma and period has significance, every new line, everything here speaks.
So, improve your reception and listening. The text is an entity, attention, a stance, a gesture, a thought, a scene, a battle, defeat, victory, withering, death, life. Make an effort in reading, and be a good listener to the text, and what was hidden will open up to you, and you will perceive with your senses what you cannot perceive with your eyes. In the text, you see the conditions of human beings and their stories, intertwined stories. In each story, you have a role to play if you are the narrator, either sympathizing or remaining neutral. In the text, you witness.