Taking out an Audio Guide

Enjoying an Audio Guide at Tourist Destinations

Le Château de Chenonceau


It’s lovely when you turn up to a museum or tourist venue, virtually anywhere in the world and decide, yes this is work  I MUST buy an audio-guide and see what sort of tours they are offering.

This is a mixed blessing.

If the audio tour is good then I want to be working with them and better of all, narrating or voicing the tour.

However if it not (fortunately I cannot remember where I heard a ghastly tour somewhere in Seville Spain) then not only have I felt I’ve wasted my money, but you oh so wish you could tell them how it could be improved. How the script can be improved and how a good voice would lift it out of the studio

Writing a tour for audio-guides is a strange transition from radio production. The main challenge for me when I wrote one for the Acoustiguide/National Portrait Gallery a number of years ago, was how little information you can get into the minute or so a visitor is standing in front of a picture or statue. Sixty seconds is a long time when you are keen to move on to the next room .

Last autumn I visited Chenonceau the jewel of the Loire Chateaux in France. It’s the one which stretches over the River Loire. Produced by Voxtours.com they had the brilliant idea of recreating one of the Duchesses to tell you about her chateau and why it is called Le Château des Dames

This was a technique I introduced to the Hidden Florence tour a few years ago, when I was working with Professor Fabrizio Nevola Chair in Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter who at the time was writing a tour of Medieval Florence. We created Giovanni a wool maker who took the visitor around contemporary Florence as it was in his day.

I remember one particular script, when the visitor was standing in front of the marble works for the Cathedral. I suggested that Giovanni mention a young artisan who had just joined the team. Giovanni didn’t rate the new lad, suddenly remembering his name at the end of the piece. “What’s he called now? Oh yes that upstart Michelangelo” .

Back to the trip to the Loire Valley. We also visited Azay-le-Rideau where the audio tour was also excellent. I was delighted when I recognised one of the tracks underplaying the description in one of the rooms. Yup, that’s definitely Tournidon, a 15th and 16th century French drinking song that my choir Earthly Voices has had in our repertoire for years. Spot on Orpheo (the company who produced it)! Absolutely perfect juxtaposition which made this listener very happy.

Images by Nicola Barranger – to see my photo webpage collection click here

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