By Philip Gull
Ventriloquism and The Glass Bead Game
My reflection slide on the final Friday before half term was to “read more”.
I read a couple of books over half-term, and they really drove home what Marc said about time management and taking time to immerse yourself in the art of others, and their perspectives, and most importantly of all, their voices.
Because that’s the work that you can use to have ideas with, and reframe other people’s thinking, and creations through your own interpretations.
I think my interpretation of how voice should work in advertising is quite different from several of my fellow SCAers, and probably some of the mentors, too.
I’ve worked with people who are very invested in ‘their voice’, and creating something that sounds like them. Now, I don’t have a problem with that at all. Marc sometimes tells us about old teams and being able to tell that x and y made an ad because it sounds just like the work they’d make. But to be honest, I’m not fussed about that.
No-one in Britain, other that the poor mothers and fathers of account planners and creatives, who watch their children’s adverts hoping for respite from the nagging disappointment that their sons and daughters didn’t make doctors and lawyers, cares who made an advert, unless it’s someone like Ridley Scott, who they would care about regardless of his advertising dalliances. They barely care about the ads anyway.
For me, and I hope this is the case for some other people, part of the joy of advertising and copywriting is: ventriloquism.
I use my own voice, and my own tone of writing the whole time, day after day after hour after minute after sentence after clause after phrase after word, even after my own habits and preferences at the level of punctuation. I’m bored of it.
But being able to create and appropriate the tones and rhythms of other people, and the game of working out how something as intangible as a brand would, could and should speak – that’s endlessly new, and challenging, and something to always improve upon.
I didn’t want to fill my SCAB with my voice. Especially as reading in the last week has exposed me to some great voices.
In particular, I loved this passage from The Glass Bead Game, which deals with the acts of meditation and reflection:
“And let me say one word more,” the Glass Bead Game Master resumed, again in his low voice. “I would like to say something more to you about cheerful serenity, the serenity of the stars and of the mind, and about our Castalian kind of serenity also. You are averse to serenity, presumably because you have had to walk the ways of sadness, and now all brightness and good cheer, especially our Castalian kind, strikes you as shallow and childish, and cowardly to boot, a flight from the terrors and abysses of reality into a clear, well-ordered world of mere forms and formulas, mere abstractions and refinements. But, my dear devotee of sadness, even though for some this may well be a flight, though there may be no lack of cowardly, timorous Castalians playing with mere formulas, even if the majority among us were in fact of this sort — all this would not lessen the value and splendor of genuine serenity, the serenity of the sky and the mind. Granted there are those among us who are too easily satisfied, who enjoy a sham serenity; but in contrast to them we also have men and generations of men whose serenity is not playful shallowness, but earnest depth. I knew one such man — I mean our former Music Master, whom you used to see in Waldzell now and then. In the last years of his life this man possessed the virtue of serenity to such a degree that it radiated from him like the light from a star; so much that it was transmitted to all in the form of benevolence, enjoyment of life, good humor, trust, and confidence. It continued to radiate outward from all who received it, all who had absorbed its brightness. His light shone upon me also; he transmitted to me a little of his radiance, a little of the brightness in his heart, and to our friend Ferromonte as well, and a good many others. To achieve this cheerful serenity is to me, and to many others, the finest and highest of goals. You will also find it among some of the patriarchs in the directorate of the Order. Such cheerfulness is neither frivolity nor complacency; it is supreme insight and love, affirmation of all reality, alertness on the brink of all depths and abysses; it is a virtue of saints and of knights; it is indestructible and only increases with age and nearness to death. It is the secret of beauty and the real substance of all art. The poet who praises the splendors and terrors of life in the dance-measures of his verse, the musician who sounds them in a pure, eternal present — these are bringers of light, increasers of joy and brightness on earth, even if they lead us first through tears and stress. Perhaps the poet whose verses gladden us was a sad solitary, and the musician a melancholic dreamer; but even so their work shares in the cheerful serenity of the gods and the stars. What they give us is no longer their darkness, their suffering or fears, but a drop of pure light, eternal cheerfulness. Even though whole peoples and languages have attempted to fathom the depths of the universe in myths, cosmogonies, and religions, their supreme, their ultimate attainment has been this cheerfulness. You recall the ancient Hindus — our teacher in Waldzell once spoke so beautifully about them. A people of suffering, of brooding, of penance and asceticism; but the great ultimate achievements of their thought were bright and cheerful; the smile of the ascetics and the Buddhas are cheerful; the figures in their profound, enigmatic mythologies are cheerful. The world these myths represent begins divinely, blissfully, radiantly, with a springtime loveliness: the golden age. Then it sickens and degenerates more and more; it grows coarse and subsides into misery; and at the end of four ages, each lower than the others, it is ripe for annihilation. Therefore it is trampled underfoot by a laughing, dancing Siva — but it does not end with that. It begins anew with the smile of dreaming Vishnu whose hands playfully fashion a young, new, beautiful, shining world. It is wonderful — how these Indians, with an insight and capacity for suffering scarcely equalled by any other people, looked with horror and shame upon the cruel game of world history, the eternally revolving wheel of avidity and suffering; they saw and understood the fragility of created being, the avidity and diabolism of man, and at the same time his deep yearning for purity and harmony; and they devised these glorious parables for the beauty and tragedy of the creation: mighty Siva who dances the completed world into ruins, and smiling Vishnu who lies slumbering and playfully makes a new world arise out of his golden dreams of gods.”
The copy scores 59.4 in the Flesch Reading Ease test