What’s So Special About The Human Voice?

Singing at Blue Note club
Emmy Winning Producer reveals powerful vocal moments as he films his new documentary on the voice.

Director Martin Zied tells us what motivated him to explore the voice and takes us behind the scenes of his groundbreaking documentary ‘Voice Messages’

I grew up listening to singers with imperfect voices – raspy, growly, pitchy, raw. Their imperfections made them special

Why did you start working on the documentary ‘Voice Messages’?
I got a vision for the film while standing in a high rise apartment waiting for a medical appointment. I was looking out over the city and a voice came to me telling me to do something I loved, and since I heard the message as a voice I decided to follow it… literally!

What do you think about auto-tune being so standard these days?
It helps sell records, but I grew up listening to singers with imperfect voices – raspy, growly, pitchy, raw. Their imperfections made them special.

Have you discovered any bizarre voice styles from around the world that are unheard of in the west?
I’ve been listening to the Tuvan Throat Singers, many of whom can produce several notes simultaneously! Fascinating!

What were the stand out moments for you when making the film?
My favorite moment so far (we’re only 40% complete) has been filming my all time favorite a cappella group, Take 6, at the venerable Blue Jazz Club in New York. They’re so incredibly talented, and were so giving and gracious. They blew the roof off the place with their ‘skying’ (high harmonies).

I think singers are typically more aware of the voice’s powers and use more of the nuances and range of the voice

What is the emotional impact for someone who has lost their voice?
It can be profound. Grammy award winning singer, Linda Ronstadt said Parkinson’s disease had left her feeling she was asking her voice to go to the 5th floor, but suddenly it was stopping at the 3rd floor. A physician who was losing his voice to throat cancer said not being able to use his voice was like not being able to love with all his heart.

What could singers and speakers learn from each other?
I think singers are typically more aware of the voice’s powers and use more of the nuances and range of the voice. Experienced speakers also know how to use a variety of tones and inflections to lift their voices to emotional and powerful places.

Woman communicating with her voice

All human emotions come forth through the voice

Is it challenging for singers to convey emotion?
We often hear voice coaches prodding singers to reach down and unleash their inner selves. It’s a brave journey to expose your feelings and reveal your depths through singing.

What key factors make you fall in love with a voice?
That’s like asking someone why they fall in love with another person! Maybe the next voice you fall in love with shows strength, resolve, tenderness, sexiness, or vulnerability. All human emotions come forth through the voice.

Tell us about your favorite singers
I have always loved Aretha Franklin. Her soul comes through on so many of her songs. I currently enjoy Vince Gill and Adele. Vince has a sweet, easy, crystal clear voice that takes me through the story of his recordings. And Adele is beyond gifted. Her version of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ can often bring me to tears.

Is there a singer who is no longer with us that you would love to interview for the documentary?
I love the soul and R&B singers of my teens – Sam Cooke, David Ruffin of the Temptations, Levi Stubbs of the 4 Tops. What a blessing to listen to them. I’d have invited all 3 to be in the film.The tenderness and beauty of his voice had emotionally moved me

How did the voice become such an important interest and part of your work?
My first conscious experience of ‘hearing’ a voice was in third grade. I was attending a school concert with my mom when an upper class-man sang ‘Without A Song’. By the time he finished, I was crying. It took years for me to realize that the tenderness and beauty of his voice had emotionally moved me.

They are raising funds on Indiegogo now to finish the film. Visit their campaign to snag one of many great perks and receive exclusive updates on the progress of the film: www.fundvoicemessages.com


Martin Zied

Martin Zied is a six-time Emmy Award winner. His 20/20 segment on “the History of Terrorism”, featured an interview with Osama Bid Laden and never before seen footage of the first World Trade Center terror attack in 1993. Martin is also an award winning Senior Producer and teacher at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is a sought after public speaker, singer and aficionado of vocal harmony, including performances with glee clubs, choirs, barbershop quartets, street corner doo-woppers, and a gospel quartet.

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