Cape Town - The eyes of the world have been fixed on the North Gauteng High Court and the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.
The athlete has been convicted of culpable homicide after shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Never before has South African court case had wall-to-wall media coverage in this way - and the vocal performance of the role players in court represented us as a country to the outside world.
During the court case, Oscar's voice sounded like that of a victim - as if he was the one who had suffered from wrongdoing.
Where was the strong voice that a top athlete would or should have? ?
The voice he used during the trial had a weak tone, unsupported by good breathing. His voice came from what we call the “head” area, indicating that it is a ‘thinking’ or head voice rather than from the base of the lungs, and a rich feeling voice.
If I had been coaching him for the trial I would have advised him to engage a richer and deeper voice which would convey greater sincerity and integrity.
Ultimately the real or natural voice is a voice which comes from the base of the lungs and which is projected forward in a rich and resonant manner.
The quality of Oscar’s voice throughout the trial was light, thin, monotonous, depressed, flat and with more of a whining tone. There was very little spontaneity and variety in his speech.
Judge Thokozile Masipa also came in for vocal scrutiny, as her every word was broadcast live on TV networks around the world.
Reading a verdict in a high profile court case such as this, over the stretch of two days, would put strain on anyone’s voice.
Whereas Judge Masipa’s voice was lower in pitch and more resonant in the morning on day one, by the afternoon the pace had increased and the pitch became higher. The judge clearly grasped the importance of the judgment she would be delivering, and the clarity of her articulation improved with it. She should have taken her time during delivery, and taken a sip of water more often.
By day two of the judgment, the Judge’s voice did not come across in the same focussed way that it did on day one. Quite understandably, her voice sounded tired and her reading had less natural flow. She did not have the vocal authority that she did on the first day.
I found her body language – that of Rodin’s “The Thinker” – very interesting, when she placed her chin on her hand while talking to the lawyers. And that final moment when she asked Pistorius to “please stand up” was rather scary.
The lessons from Judge Masipa’s vocal performance? Take your time, and don’t rush it. You want your voice to have gravitas and authority and to command respect. Put emphasis and pauses in the right places, breathe deep. Stop and take a sip of water as often as you need.
* Harrisberg is the CEO of The Voice Clinic. They offer free voice assessments to readers; contact them via www.thevoiceclinic.co.za.
IOL, adapted from a press release