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Behind the Scenes: An Interview with NLS Narrator Laura Giannarelli (part II)

A few weeks ago, I published an interview with NLS narrator Laura Giannarelli. In it, she talks about how she became a Talking Book narrator, and some of her favorite parts of the program.

Ms. Giannarelli is one of the many narrators who narrate the liner notes of our newly acquired Smithsonian Folkways books. She also helps narrate the NLS audio magazine Piano Technician’s Journal.  In Part II of my interview with her, we hear more about her work with music materials, and her specific musical interests!

Katie Rodda: Since we are the Music Section, I want to ask you a few questions about music, since that is what most of our patrons are interested in. Do you play or sing any music yourself?

Laura Giannarelli: I do not. I love music, but I sing in the shower and the world is a better place because of that [laughs]. I love music but I’ve never really played an instrument. Which I have to say disappointed my mother, she wanted me to learn to play piano and I just never did.

Katie: What kind of music do you like, though? What do you typically listen to?

Laura: I like classic rock, I like jazz, although not the really atonal jazz, I like the more traditional melodic jazz. I like country music, although I like the old country music George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings. I don’t like the really soupy new stuff that’s like pop music with a southern accent, I’m not really fond of that. I like a lot of different kinds of music. Classical music, but I like listening to music in the car sometimes. I have friends that work in the studio with me who are passionate about music and they’re always talking about this recording artist or that recording artist and swapping albums. I don’t do that I’m more oriented towards reading and theater in my personal recreational tastes, but I do love music.

Katie: If you could narrate a history or biography or general book about any composer, or musician, or music group, do you have one that you’d really like to do?

Laura: Well, I worked a lot with Ray Hagen, who is long time NLS narrator who recently retired and he read a lot of music books about showbiz music. I didn’t narrate them, but I monitored them, and I loved listening to all the stories about the showbiz music composers: Sondheim, and Rogers and Hammerstein and…

Katie: Cole Porter?

Laura: Yeah those folks. And Ray also narrated a huge book about The Beatles that I just loved working on. I suppose if I got to narrate a book, I wouldn’t mind narrating a book about one of the great composers like Beethoven or Mozart. Mozart’s a fascinating figure to me. I guess partly because of Amadeus, you know, the play about his life. That sort of dramatized his meteoric rise and fall. But that would interest me.

Katie: Yeah that would be great! Could you talk a little bit about your work with the NLS magazine Piano Technician’s Journal?

Laura: It’s been a great project! It’s been occasionally very dry. Sometimes it’s like reading something in Hungarian, a language I do not speak. There was one two-part article in one issue. I narrated both parts; it dealt with swapping out the, I don’t know what you call it, I’ve forgotten the word – the main mechanism [action] in a grand piano, and the two-part article gave step by step instructions on how to do this. And it may as well have been in Hungarian. I mean I narrated by diagramming the sentences, you know “this is the noun, so that should get stress, and this looks like this is an operative word, so I’ll stress that, and it looks like this word contrasts with that word, so I’ll point that out when I read that sentence.” I’m sure it would have been exciting and illuminating to a piano tuner, but it was Greek to me!

But in general the Piano Technician’s Journal has been very fascinating and I’ve actually grown to like it. It connects me with the music section because when there are complicated musical notation or formulas in the Journal, I come up here and I ask John Hanson, who’s been very helpful. He also has a piano tuner friend so if John doesn’t know the answer, he calls his friend and we find the way to say it so that the piano tuners out there listening to the magazine won’t go “What is she saying?! That’s not how you say that!” So that’s been kind of fun.

Katie: Thank you so much for your time, Laura!

Laura: You’re very welcome.

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