The Mind

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Richard Armitage is the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. Probably most reading this heartily agree, and some who have no clue about him would agree if they watched him. What did the interview referenced in my last FanstRA piece say?

He is tall (tick), dark (tick) and handsome (tick), with piercing blue eyes (double tick). Ladies, your swoons have not been wasted.

Oh, I know they’re well placed, but not for the obvious reasons. There are so many good looking actors to swoon over. Legions whose looks are worthy of the description above. Take a trip to Hollywood and you will literally see them everywhere you go. But they’re visual cotton candy. There is nothing that inspires beyond a few moments because beautiful as they are, they never get beyond the viscera of your thinking. Even many of the thoughtful actors rarely get much beyond it. Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s just me who seldom repeatedly examines even an actor’s great performances beyond the event in order to mine something more profound. Sometimes I might examine the lighting or the body language or any number of practical aspects to determine what it was that was effective in conveying the message, and I might relive the performance repeatedly in my imagination in order to feel the thrill of it again. But to find the message enigmatic and compelling because of the actor’s portrayal and forcing me to go beyond the obvious to try to root out what is deeply embedded in my brain? To make me examine something about myself and why I was really so struck by it? No, that seldom happens with performances. Maybe with books, but usually with performances I know why I’m affected. I know immediately and can often verbalize it.

And then there’s the actor himself. Very few when interviewed or when speaking for any length of time really hold my interest. It’s almost always a let down. But enter Richard Armitage, who has made me question countless things with his portrayals, and I can’t stop doing it. The fact I’ve done this has puzzled me to no end. Yes, I’m still puzzled, but I love this. I love being puzzled, being in a continual state of curiosity, and the irony of him is that the more he speaks, the more I’m curious. Wow. I think of the artists who are generally considered enigmatic, and much of it was effected by the fact they weren’t talking. They only let their art do the talking, and probably wisely kept their mouths shut to maintain the mystique. But let this guy talk, and he becomes more interesting and makes me wonder what I’ve been missing. Case in point:

I have not been a fan of fantasy although I’ve read some science fiction and some classical fantasy novels. Mostly done to ensure my education was not lacking. But I am rethinking that interest and was rethinking it long before I knew Richard Armitage would be in ‘The Hobbit.’ It’s been coming to me for a long time now that I almost killed my imagination in the pursuit of control. I’m so sorry about that, but I’m not dead, so it’s not too late for me to regain what was such a rich part of my childhood. Richard Amitage has definitely been inspirational. I’ve also always loved words but was never encouraged to really play with them or learn how to shape things with them. My talents so obviously lay in another area, and that is where I was continually directed, but it never satisfied. Armitage gets credit for rekindling my interest in words to the degree that I’m now doing something about it! I mean how can I listen to something like this on the heels of listening to his audio books and not be inspired?

I said in one of my diary entries that a beautiful voice is not enough. The person must have something interesting to say. That’s where writers come in. But with Richard Armitage, he brings something to it I’ve rarely witnessed. He has a rich mind, keeps it well nourished and applies it to his craft. That is a great part of his ability to hold us all in thrall even if only using his voice. Much more than a pretty boy. He’s a thinker and we benefit from it.

And one of my favorite thinkers shares her reactions to his performances:

Servetus and I have had many discussions offline that have been such an enjoyment and encouragement to me. Although we bring our own observations and don’t always agree, we do have some things in common and have a mutual respect.

Photo courtesy of the Russian Richard Armitage Fan site. You can check out the rest by clicking on the photo.

Good Vibrations

Continuing on with FanstRAvaganza. Hope you hang with me. There’s another surprise if you do. :D

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I assume almost everyone who reads my blog is a fan of Richard Armitage, the actor, but occasionally people who are serious about politics land here looking for some bit of information on the guy who supposedly outed Valerie Plame. I’m sure other RA bloggers have experienced something similar. One visitor in particular, whom I’ll call Tory, was looking for an article about the U.S. State Department official and clicked on the ‘Who the Hell is Richard Armitage?’ post. Her first instinct was to back out, but curiosity got the better of her, and she ended up listening to clips from ‘North and South’ but never made it past those as she was so anxious to load it up on YouTube to watch the whole thing. She is now a fan. LOL! Eventually she sent me a note to share what happened to her, and several weeks ago I asked her to record something for me. She declined as she really is in politics and doesn’t want to make her fascination known. But she gave me permission to share some of her words:

I was just curious enough to press play on the first clip, and then he uttered, “I will be home to dress…” That was the moment I became fascinated. I viewed the entire clip but kept going back to the conversation with his mother. I have never been mad about someone’s voice, but I’m in love with his voice. I’m in love with him! When I knew I was ‘in the bag’ as you say, was listening to the radio play, ‘Clarissa.’ I cannot stomach the book. I cannot stand Lovelace, and I think I despise Clarissa more. Despite this loathing, I willingly sat through a four hour adaptation in hopes of hearing Richard’s Lovelace.

Phew! He does that whisper in his voice to perfection.

For those who have not read nor are familiar with Clarissa, it’s considered to be one of the first novels. Some say it was the first, but I don’t think that’s quite the case. I could be wrong about that. Perhaps one of our resident teachers/librarians will weigh in. Despite its standing in classical literature, I also hate that book! Clarissa is so put upon and silly that it’s hard to really root for her, and this goes on for around 1000 pages. Sheer torture. But as Tory put it, “The best part of the play is hearing Richard Armitage sing!”

When I first heard he was musical and involved professionally in musical theater and before ‘Clarissa’ was produced in 2010, I had been wondering if he could sing, and love or hate Clarissa, it was so worth finally knowing he could. One of the real benefits is that I became a rabid Radio 4 listener. I’m so sorry I did not have the pleasure before. More on this here.

Whether RA could sing or not, from my first introduction to him in early 2008, I wondered what quality it was in his voice that so fascinated me. It took me over a year to pinpoint. Thankfully, in 2009 I decided to stop writing all of my journal entries and record some of them. This helped me capture the thoughts that eluded me when I finally had a pencil in hand. I also quickly obtained some voice to text software so I wouldn’t have to hear myself while transcribing. LOL! Here’s an entry from August of that year:

It’s a wonderful thing about voices…. I was just listening to Sylvester, and I don’t even like those kinds of books….they’re boring, syrupy and talk about Mary Sue?….they’re replete with it. But you know (chuckle), I just love listening to it because of the range Richard Armitage has….It’s finally dawned on me what I really love about his voice. It’s the same thing I love about [SO’s] voice and my son’s voice……there’s a melody in their voices, a song, a possibility. They always seem on the verge of breaking into a song or making a joke……or something. SO can’t sing and my son can’t sing, and I’m not sure if Richard Armitage can sing, but they all share that song in their voices. I don’t mean they sound sing songy but rather the modulation of their voices gives an expectation. And…it’s usually hopeful. I love that.

Yes, I was a bit harsh about Sylvester, but my friends, that’s how I felt. That aside, it’s the expectation in his voice that makes me come back over and over again to hear him. If it were just the deep timbre of his voice, I really could get that from Alan Rickman and so many others. But it’s something way beyond his vocal register, and it was so interesting to hear RA’s take on how he thinks of music and the voice and how he actually used music and in particular singing to help him craft his characters for the audio books! From his interview for The Convenient Marriage:

I always love hearing him talking about his preparation! I also have a soundtrack in my head. Almost everything in life is put to music; it’s a rare day when I don’t put everything to a rhythm. I wonder if this happens naturally with everyone. I really don’t know, but I do know that sometimes this is a curse for me. I wonder if that happens to RA.

If you’re enjoying this, don’t forget to enter the Heyer audio book giveaway. Details here.

Oh, and Tory hasn’t heard that interview clip, and I don’t think she’s seen the picture either. So I’m sure I’ll be hearing from her later. LOL!!

And she and I have come to realize that we not only agree about Clarissa and our fascination for RA but have quite a few things in common including some people we know. It’s been such a treat to get to know her, and she’s far from the only person with whom I’ve been developing friendships due to RA. So many of you I’ve had such pleasure coming to know! One in particular is always so pleasant and encouraging, and her joy is contagious. I wonder sometimes if she realizes what a delight she is. Iz4blue (aka Sinjoor):

Yeah, this is totally cool, and it really is all about the love. So well put.

Iz originally hails from Antwerp, Belgium; we’ve just had the privilege of her being part of the U.S. for the last several years.

By the way, she really does know how to ferret out some of the best videos and fan fiction, and there are so many that it’s good to have a guide. She has worked with Eva over at Wattpad to create an Armitage Fan Club, and it’s a great place to find fan fiction. The best thing about it is how easily it can be accessed from a phone, and for those of us on the go (whether we want to be or not), it’s a boon. Iz has also started a blog where she can bring all of the other good vibrations to our attention easily. With the publication of Sexy Back 3, maybe a top ten of RA montage videos? :D

RA Audio clips courtesy of RichardArmitageNet.Com and RichardArmitageCentral. Thank you, thank you, ladies for all that you do! I could not have done this post without you.

Screencap courtesy of RichardArmitageNet.Com.

The Ear

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I started to call this post “A Little Hair of the Dog,” but I suppose for me this is “Day 3 FanstRAvaganza?” Yes, I’m behind on FanstRA, but do any of you care? I didn’t think so. LOL! Plus, there is so much to read on the blogs that I doubt anyone processed it all in one week. So I’m continuing on despite my interruption.

What I’m finding interesting about this last week is it’s becoming clear to me I’m at a place in my life where my ability to roll with the punches is imperative. This blog is certainly a reflection of it. Almost every post I had planned has now been turned on its head. Part of me hates this, but part of me gets a thrill from seeing how well I can bounce back. Now if I can figure out how to channel my zest in a way that’s not chaotic and doesn’t make some of you want to tear your hair out, I will, but I’m promising nothing. This is a significant statement from me as my life is filled with promises that I invariably keep or almost die trying. That’s as closely as I’m going to come to speaking of events this past week which temporarily scrambled my mind. Okay, enough of that. Onto more interesting matters.

As some of you know, I’m doing a series of posts about Richard Armitage’s voice work. Last week I started with The Voice. Hope you hang with me as I continue on with the subject.

Obviously, the deep tone of his voice is wonderful and many of us get a shiver listening to it. I’ve heard some say they could even listen to him reading the phone book. Not quite sure I would get much out of that. Maybe. Depends on how he would read it. There are plenty of other actors with deep, rich sounding voices that are pleasing to the ear. Alan Rickman is great, and Timothy Dalton has a beautiful voice, and oh so many others I could name, and I’m sure that Richard Armitage would do very well with just his natural voice. But the natural quality of the voice is simply not all there is to this fascination. In fact, if I had heard him only speaking as he does normally in interviews, I doubt I would have been this ensnared by it. No, this is something more. It is the way he intentionally uses it that’s so mesmerizing, and I don’t like to toss around words like mesmerizing unless I mean them.

Recently, I saw a picture of him where his luscious beard is gone, but contrary to what some think, that was never the significant wow factor in the Hobbit press conference. Granted, the beard was pretty overwhelming — almost with a life of its own. :D But it was not more compelling than his demeanor, which was mostly effected by his voice. He pulled a Harry! “I’m playing Thorin.” LOL! I think his voice dropped almost an octave when he said Thorin, and then he does it again when he says, “Would you like to be a little bit more specific?” I wish I could have seen the reporter’s face when he whipped that on her! It was like a snake charmer with his flute trying to cast a spell over something that might bite him.

This wasn’t the first time it occurred to me that he uses his voice as an instrument. In my initial watching of Robin Hood, I had the distinct feeling of his voice being played. There was something about the way he varied his pitch that almost had a musical quality and was certainly effective in manipulating me to emotions I never thought I could feel for the bad guy. I’m not one of those women who likes bad boys, so it was quite a shock when I was actually rooting for the evil henchman. LOL! When I first had this thought, I laughed to myself at being that far gone about a then very obscure British actor. Thankfully, I began to be vindicated as I listened to his first audio books for Robin Hood Series 1. (For more on Guy of Gisborne, see note below)

His mimicry in these books is great. I love how he conveys one character with a guttural tone and then turns around and gives another character a tinny, almost flat resonance, and every variation in between for a host of other characters. This did much to paint the picture of them with little or no dialogue or description. But I also had some idea of characters from watching the show and was never quite sure how much that affected the picture in my mind. It was listening to his reading of a Georgette Heyer novel, Sylvester, that I realized how very talented he is, and that’s saying something as I was never a fan of Regency Romance books. I tried to read them as a teen, but the potential sugar shock was too much. So it was with great reluctance that I listened to Sylvester. I’m so glad I did! His verbal rendering of the characters had me completely forgetting the book is Mary Sue on steroids. When I finished the first hearing of it, I had a grin on my face I couldn’t wipe away. For five hours I had been immersed in Regency England where I thoroughly fell in love with the characters and literally had to shake my head to bring myself back to the present. Of course I loved Sylvester and Phoebe, but it was the supporting cast that really made the piece for me. Tom was my favorite with Keighley and some others close behind.

The most wonderful part of listening to the book was afterward I could see Richard Armitage as a little boy with his ears cocked to listen to those around him and then using it to entertain his friends and family with storytelling. It brought such a warm feeling to think of it, and all at once I sensed a great kinship with and fondness for him. I couldn’t help it. I grew up with a mother who’s a performer and has a wonderful gift for it. I, on the other hand, never did, but I still adored storytelling and role playing and ended up with SO who has been storytelling and doing voices to entertain friends and family since he was very young. His children are just like him! My oldest child cannot be around someone for any length of time without picking up his/her speech patterns, and it’s eerie how truly she can nail someone’s speech. Her ear is so attuned to how someone speaks that she sometimes has to restrain herself from mimicking them. My other children do this as well, and I have been the recipient of many hours of entertainment because of it. It’s almost as if they have to express the things their ears are recording to get some relief. All of this ran through my head as I sat there basking in what I’d just heard, and I realized that I didn’t merely appreciate Richard Armitage as a great actor but as a wonderfully sensitive person –much more than I had originally thought. How else to account for someone who could so cleverly convey the feelings and thoughts of his characters with little or no speech, and now he had done it with only his voice?! Amazing.

As for his training, I don’t know if his ear for voices manifested as a child, but I suspect someone who has that keen an ear did not just develop it when he was grown. I also know that being a musician does not necessarily make someone a natural for voices. I am a musician, and I did not come naturally to an ear for spoken voices. Conversely, SO is not a musician, and he certainly has a keen ear for them. Maybe one day RA will tell us his experience, and if he already has and I missed it, well, I’m sure someone will let me know. LOL! Thankfully, some of my curiosity about his preparation was satisfied when I heard the interview for his second Heyer book, Venetia, about a year later:

I love that interview. It is one of my favorites. I was already anxious to listen to Venetia, but after listening to that, I could barely wait. Venetia is probably my favorite Heyer heroine of the three books RA read, and Damerel is wonderfully male. I was so glad I wasn’t driving when I got to chapters 12 and 13. :D I have also listened to The Convenient Marriage, and until recently, all three books were on my iPod as beloved traveling companions.

And whatever is the case with his training, the joy he takes in entertaining is evident and infectious.

Look at that face!

This puts a smile on mine every time I see it. I think it might now be my favorite picture of him.

If you have never had the pleasure of listening to any of RA’s Heyer audio books, or any of his audio books for that matter, or if you would just like to have your own copy of one of the books, I might be able to help. Until next Wednesday, March 30th, anyone who comments on this blog entry will be entered to win one of the Heyer audio books — your choice if you win. I plan to announce the winner on Friday, April 1st. I’ve never done a giveaway, so I hope this is a pleasant experience for all of us, but I do have a few rules. Don’t you love it! :D

Note: Guy of Gisborne is such an enigma that I’m refraining from much discussion of him in my series as he would completely take me off topic. Thankfully, other bloggers have chosen to write about him. Avalon at Avalon’s Medieval is covering a myriad of topics from the audio books to fan videos to fan fiction. Two other bloggers are actually fan fiction authors: Prue Batten at Mesmered’s Blog has written Gisborne and Sarah Pawley at From the Quill Tip has written The Tempest and My Lady Gisborne. Both share their stories on blog and Sarah also highlights some other fan fiction authors. I have read both Prue’s and Sarah’s works, and if you’re a Guy fan, you will not be disappointed. Even if you’re not a Guy fan, you probably won’t be disappointed. There are also some North and South fictions featured on Sarah’s blog.

Then there’s Judi at Confessions of a Watcher:

Judi is a fairly new fan and should be forgiven for not knowing every jot and tittle of fandom minutiae. We’ll give her a test later. :D I honestly didn’t snap to on the award for Robin Hood until right before I posted this, and I’ve been through hell trying to post, so I wasn’t going to wait, and I absolutely love her recording. But heck, I think the show should have won an award. If nothing else, RA should have won for making such a compelling character from that cardboard cut out baddie. But take pity on Judi as she’s still trying to work out her fascination for Guy of Gisborne. LOL! You can take the journey with her beginning here.

Screencaps and audio clips courtesy of my stash, but I have to give credit to RichardArmitageNet.Com and RichardArmitageCentral for being such great suppliers of the raw materials. :D