The Voice of God

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This week we bring you voices from heaven, hell, and everywhere in between. In documentary films, the authoritative “Voice of God” style of narration presents a seemingly omniscient, impartial, deep-voiced male narrator. No one has had more practice with the role than Peter Coyote, best known as the narrator of Ken Burns’ documentaries (The West, The Roosevelts, The National Parks). Here, Coyote gives a master class on the major differences in meaning that arise from tiny shifts in register, pulling a story out of melodrama into an illusion of objectivity.

Ellie Kemper (star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) shares a mysterious sound that’s stayed with her for twenty-three years, and describes a high-school musical performance that changed her life.

Penelope Spheeris is best known as the director of Wayne’s World, but while filming the legendary documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part III, about homeless L.A. punks, she met her long-time boyfriend SIN, who performs dissonant guitar rock as psychological therapy to exorcise the demons in his mind: “It’s like listening to hell.”

And our host describes his changing relationship to voices and narration as he adapts to his own degenerative blindness.

Finally, we’ll inaugurate a new recurring segment, “The iTunes Library of Babel,” in which we present short excerpts from an infinite Borgesian library of podcasts.

Produced by Myke Dodge Weiskopf, Jenny Ament, Ross Simonini, and Andrew Leland. Library of Babel excerpts produced by Fil Corbitt and Owen Poindexter.


Image of William Blake from The Ancient of Days.