See Art through your ears

How audio enriches the viewer's experience

When I hear the words Art and Ears, a picture of Vincent Van Gogh immediately springs to mind. Many of his best paintings appear in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, celebrating him as one of the greatest Dutch artists who ever lived.

He was masterful at showing his feelings through his paintings, rather than accurately depicting them through his sight. From Starry Night to Wheatfield with Crows, they are all about deep feelings, not about natural representations of reality. It is the ability to conjure up feelings so graphically that differentiates an artist from a painter.

Voiceover actors are often advised to first understand the personality and the context of the character and then act accordingly when interpreting their script. Just like film acting, a voice actor must immersively become the character. Recently, an English actor convinced me that he was indeed a Russian antagonist in the movie John Wick. The art is not being artful at all. It is being without artifice.

1. Describe the details

If you are describing art without visuals, as you do in an audio tour of Gallery exhibition, you’ll want to start with the details. For instance, "Watching a sun rise", is not descriptive enough. Your script must stir the imagination. Describe the type of air, is it moist and salty like at the beach ? Or is it dry, like in the mountains?  What colours do you see? Describe them in detail. Not red…crimson hued. What do they remind you of? Sunflowers? How does the painting relate to the time and place it was painted? Is it a classic or something innovative and different? When you describe the details, your listeners will get a clearer picture and they will be able to frame your image in their own mind. 

2. Background music

The point is to have background music that does not sound like a background music. You will want the music to evoke feeling. For example; in most horror movies, when a character is running from a ghost or some other threatening being, you will notice that the background music sounds more like a heartbeat than a drum beat. The sounds will merge with the tapping of the characters shoes as they run.  Just before the final terrifying climax, the background music will go quiet. Sounds make us feel. Your voiceover becomes more graphic with music behind it. It helps the audience see with their ears.

3. Time it right

When producing a documentary or a guided tour, you need to know what the attention span of your listener is. Attention spans vary from person to person. Have a listen to your recording and see how the voiceover sounds. Does the timing work for the number of paintings the listener has to get through to complete a full viewing of the exhibition? Is too much or too little being said? Will the script work to cover off the points your listener needs in order to enjoy the guided tour? To keep the tour moving along, decide on what needs to be edited and what needs to be amended, and make those adjustments. 

4. If it is your business, hire a professional.

This goes without saying. While you can take the tips from this post and implement them yourself, a professional will do it better. 

Above all, remember that art is in simplicity. Sunrise is simple, sunset is simple, the night stars are simple and so are the water falls. It is when regular, simple things are presented differently, that we are compelled to feel deeply.


Contributed by J Jordan for - Making your words sound wonderful.

Visit us for voice over services - Domestic and International. | +61-2-9957-4208 | Have a great day!

Related Articles