A Grandfather's Voice
Through my work at the Memory Project, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of veterans and hear their stories. While listening to the many voices of Canada's veterans, I was struck by the realization that the voice of my grandfather, an aircraft navigator in the Second World War, was entirely absent from my memory. I can distinctly remember him sitting in his favourite chair, I can remember his face, where he lived, and even the amber colour of a lampshade in his living room. But I hear nothing; my memories of his voice are entirely silent. Therefore, my work with the Memory Project has an intensely personal connection.
The Memory Project's recorded stories underline the importance of the human voice. Though reading the many accounts of wartime service are a valuable resource, the voice has a way of conveying ideas, thoughts, and emotions beyond words – such as the slight quiver in a veteran's voice as he retells a difficult story, betraying his best efforts to maintain composure. There are countless examples of subtlety in the human voice which can carry this weight, but are otherwise not fully defined- a voice breaks, a slight pause lasting a fraction of a second too long, an inflection of speech as if to ask the listener a question which has no answer. We reflexively understand that these subtleties express anguish, contemplation, or conflict (among a thousand other emotions). In this sense, recording veterans' voices is not just another way to gather their stories, but a process which allows the speaker to connect with the listener on a unique level.
The rapid proliferation of technology makes it far easier to access these voices. The Memory Project is fortunate to develop during an era in which highly portable electronics enable listening to veterans stories, viewing their photographs and medals, and hopefully learning more about their past at the touch of a button. The internet makes this information virtually available in a moment. As little as 15 years ago access to photographs and audio or video files (particularly the quantity currently available on the Memory Project website) was many times more difficult to achieve.
Therefore, with a bit of sad reflection I remember speaking with my grandfather, long since deceased. His voice remains only with those who knew him and will cease to exist when they too pass. Although it is unlikely that I will ever recover the voice of my grandfather – I know of no place where it has been recorded – I hope that through the Memory Project, the voices and memories of thousands will be kept and cherished by their families for generations.