The Voice

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Original Air Date: 
November 22, 2015

Both practically and symbolically, our voices are one of the primary ways that we interact with the world around us. Since ancient Greece, the voice has represented participatory democracy, and today we still argue about whose voices to include in our national conversations. But even though we might think of our voices as our own—and ourselves as free to use them—it turns out that the voice is one of the most disciplined, trained, standardized, regulated dimensions of human life and expression. This hour, we confront the politics of the voice, from stereotyping to vocal fry. And we also talk to a soundscape ecologist who listens—perhaps closer than anyone—to the voices of the natural world.

David Thorpe

David Thorpe is a filmmaker who went in search of his voice. For his documentary "Do I Sound Gay?" he investigated why he and many other gay men ended up with a "gay voice"—one with precise enunciation and sibilant "s" sounds.

Keith Powell in "Keith Breaks His Leg"

Before and since Keith Powell's breakthrough role as Toofer on the sitcom "30 Rock," he has confronted Hollywood's penchant for stereotyping black male voices.


Why are so many women criticized for "vocal fry"? Anne Strainchamps talks to podcaster Ann Friedman and NPR pioneer Susan Stamberg about critiques of female voices.


As media historian Jonathan Sterne tells Craig Eley, signal processing shapes the sound of all vocal media, from your telephone calls to the music of T-Pain.

A frog

Humans are not the only creatures who vocalize. Birds, whale and frogs have voices too—but are we listening? Bernie Krause has been recording environmental sounds all over the world since the 1970s. He says it's time for humans to shut up.

Show Details 📻
November 22, 2015
July 31, 2016
Last modified: 
February 28, 2023