Wed 18 July 2012

Notes from the Underground #14

All citybooks are not only published as web texts and e-books, but also recorded as audio books. The authors record their own citybook in the original language. Bart Van Loo wrote a blog post about the process of recording his citybook, The Veil of Time, about Chartres. You can listen to the results here (in Dutch). On Wednesday 18th July 2012, The Veil of Time was published in its entirety in De Morgen.

The Veil Of Time In The Can

“I’ll hold my arm up into the air and then you can continue.” So there you are, sitting in a studio, a little room furnished with a table and a microphone, somewhere in back of deSingel. A glass wall. Behind that, the technician Christiaan Denissen and deBuren-lady and photographer Marianne Hommersom. Concentration. An arm goes up into the air. I read.

Bart Van Loo © Marianne Hommersom

“Great, Bart”, Marianne says encouragingly, “but you swallowed a little word”. “Oh yes, which one?” I ask. “Well, listen”. Indeed. Hand goes up, and I read the paragraph again. The glass of water comes in handy. Marianne listens like a military spy, hunting for irregularities, an unexpected fall in pitch, or a strange quickening of the rhythm. Her voice sounds again. “Bart, you say ‘ssepter’, but shouldn’t it be ‘skepter’ (1)? Goodness, I think, I’ve spent my whole life saying ‘ssepter’ to ‘scepter’ (sceptre), so surely it must be ‘ssepter’? And though Marianne might live in Antwerp, she’s of Dutch blood and they love to enunciate sounds that aren’t written on the page. I’m thinking of “polietsie” (police), you know, from the word “uitspraakpolitie” (pronunciation police). The Van Dale dictionary is dragged hither from de Singel’s distantly concealed library, and the verdict preaches tolerance: both are allowed. And so I say “ssepter”.

I read on briskly and swiftly, because, all in all, this is going quite smoothly. When I stumble, the technician and Marianne exude a remarkably devout patience. Until she dons her diction-copper uniform again, that is. “Bart, you say ‘kepié’ (uniform cap), should it not be ‘képie’?” I drop my head humbly, and admit that the French rules of pronunciation do, from time to time, impeach upon my Dutch; you know, that urge to place the accent on the last syllable. Wrong, so I start again. After the right arm of Christiaan Denissen has gone up and come back down again, I aspirate the word ‘kepie’ properly.

bart van loo © Filip ZandyckeWith all those arms shooting up and being pulled back down, I secretly hope that the technician, as he gives the last signal, will put both arms up high into the air and pull them down vigorously, at the same time sighing out exuberantly and loudly. I resolve to join him, and push out my arms in front of me like elastic. Alexandrie, Alexandra in de Singel. Cloclo for Chartres and deBuren. A few dance steps to celebrate that the recording of my citybook is a wrap.

Wishful thinking. The microphone is disconnected and Marianne comes over with her camera to capture a last few shots on film. I try to throw off all the sceptres and uniform caps and smile for the birdie.


(1)  In Dutch, the first syllable of the word ‘scepter’ can be pronounced as ‘s’ or ‘sk’. Occasionally, there are distinct differences in pronunciation between Dutch spoken in Flanders and Dutch spoken in The Netherlands: thus the word ‘politie’ is pronounced ‘policie’ in Flanders, and as ‘politsie’ in Holland (with the stress on the second syllable).


PS: A few blog posts about my stay in Chartres can be found here, arranged neatly one under another.

PS 2: I thank deBuren sincerely for the opportunity, the challenge and the professional guidance.

PS 3: You can find a short interview in Chartres about the progress of the citybook here.

Bart van Loo © Koen BroosBart Van Loo blogs at:



Translated from Dutch by Joe Snape

Photos (from top to bottom) © Marianne Hommersom; © Filip Zandycke; © Koen Broos


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