Wednesday, 6 March 2013

different voices

I was down at the health centre the other day (routine blood test, blah) and found that they'd installed a new telly screen thing that played public information films about giving up smoking and not driving when you're tired. It also made announcements, calling patients to their appointments. Where previously the Tannoy system had the individual doctors mumbling self-effacingly into their microphones ("was that my name? I'm sure it sounded a bit like it...") or bellowing, as was their wont, there is now a cut-and-paste computer voice thing that does its best to read the patients' and doctors' names in English well-wrought.

All very entertaining it was too.

It got me thinking of other uses for this sort of software, and so I tried this:

  • Send a piece of poetry as a text message to my land-line number
  • Record the result when the message arrives

And here is the result; the closing lines of Carol Ann Duffy's Prayer. Enjoy.

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.


  1. You have invented a new art form!!! Get on the phone to Tate Modern right away! When do the entries for the Turner Prize close? ;-)

    (You know, I'm not completely kidding Dru!!)

    1. Writing signs and making announcements are artforms, sadly there are few artists...

      Not seen you pop up for a while Jo.

    2. I used to look forward to certain announcers; the terribly cut-glass woman at Woking, sounding like Celia Wossname from that there Brief Encounter, who greeted my return from Forrin Places as I arrived at the station on the Heathrow bus. And the lovely west Country accent at Westbury. Wesssssbry.....this is Wessssbry....

  2. I am, of course, totally excited at the possibilities. I would also like to create music out of public announcements, the sort that have become so formulaic that they are spoken in a sing-song way. But then I suspect that is close to what Steve Reich has already done

  3. Brilliant, though it needs to work on its French accent. A lovely poem too.

  4. there's a thought; I wonder how voice mail would handle Forrin words? -must try it out... yes, this is one of my favourite poems. I learned it by heart, but seem to have got rusty.

  5. I would be rude of me to mention 'fitter, happier' at this point, wouldn't it? Not quite the same.


  6. music you can dance to... thank you, Sarah. I'm a bit out of touch with what the young folk are listening to. Cheerful little piece, ain't it?

  7. Lovely lovely poem and actually a strangely affecting rendition. Like someone finally achieving a minor epiphany.

  8. I thought that I'd seen it before! I love the sky in your picture to go with it.

  9. hi Anji- yes, my friend Annie wanted to show her poetry students, so I bumped it to the front.