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Notes ...


Barry McGovern, Actor, on the making of 'Three Novels'

Recording Beckett's 'Three Novels' was something I always wanted to do. When the Lannan Foundation approached me about it some years ago it was the beginning of a saga which ended with RTÉ's coming on board to produce this box-set of 18 CDs. Though the complete recording lasts some 20 hours many months of preparation, recording and editing went into the making of this set.

Twenty-one years ago I did I'll Go On at the Gate, a one-man show with texts from the three novels selected by Gerry Dukes and myself. To revisit the novels in their entirety was both a challenge and a joy. To have as producer the ever-vigilant Tim Lehane, and a recording engineer the equally punctilious Mark Duff, was more than I could have hoped for. Their enthusiasm for the project was infectious and helped me enormously in my task. The fact that we had the same studio for all sessions was of the utmost importance. Thanks to Noel Storey of Beacon Studios, The Base was our base for this marathon project.

None of this would have happened without Patrick Lannan and the Lannan Foundation. Patrick's faith in this project was total. Even in the dark days when it seemed not likely to happen for various reasons he remained steadfast. It's thanks to him that this recording has been made.

Tim Lehane, Producer, on the making of 'Three Novels'

Q. and A. at a bus stop. Spring 2005
What are you waiting for?
The bus to Ballyba.
Where's that?
In Beckettland.
Who's going with you?
Barry McGovern.
The actor? The Beckettman?
Yeah, the very same.
He's a fellow who knows his Beckett, I'd say?
I'd put my money on him in a Mastermind quiz!
Anyone else going with you?
Mark Duff, the sound engineer.
Where does he engineer his sounds?
The Base Studio in Fitzwilliam Square.
What's this Ballyba bus route?
Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable.
Any other stops? There are several passages without any full stops at all!
How long is this trip going to take?
As long as it takes to suck sixteen stones!
Is this a regular bus service?
No, just a once-in-a-lifetime excursion.
Is Beckettland as bleak as they say?
Bleak but also funny, dark, mysterious, philosophical, puzzling.
A bit of a challenge then?!
Yeah, but well worth the journey.
When will we get to hear all about it?
As soon as we've taken complete soundings.
Is this your bus coming now?
Will you go on?
Yeah, I'll go on.

(Tim Lehane, Producer for RTE/ Samuel Beckett ,Three Novels read by Barry McGovern.)

Mark Duff, Sound Engineer, on the making of 'Three Novels'

It ended like it started - in a flurry of words. But the sound journey between those two points was, for me, not only challenging but also very interesting.

One of the challenges, of course, in any lengthy voice recording is matching and balancing. So first thing every day Tim and I would ask: What did Barry's voice sound like where we left off yesterday? Can we match it up today? When you've got a great microphone (a Neumann, as it happens), powerful speakers and a good pair of ears you'd be amazed at the little subtle changes you can spot from day to day. Perhaps somebody has shifted the microphone a tiny fraction since our last session? Are changes in humidity, air pressure, or temperature causing that slight difference we hear? Has Barry got a touch of a cold today? Is there perhaps a shade more energy in his voice this morning? And so on. All the pleasures and worries of working with sound!

I also said 'interesting'. Meeting up so closely with Beckett's words and ideas was a real first time experience from my point of view. A very curious and interesting look at the mechanics of the Irish psyche! That's the feeling I had of these Beckett novels.