Semi-whispering the wonders of David Attenborough

Since Master Sree encouraged us to breathe life into the way we instruct a class, akin to Sir David Attenborough, I was inspired to learn more about this famous BBC broadcaster and how his voice creates an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). 

One of the UK natural treasures, Sir David Attenborough is most famous for bringing the natural world into our homes through his BBC nature documentaries. His narrations of the natural world whether it be the secret wonders of the Amazonian rain forests or the intense showdown between octopus and shark, have enthralled viewers all over the world. He has also done many historically significant interviews and is no stranger to yoga. Not only did he interview yoga master BKS Iyengar back in 1963, for his 93rd birthday last year, he narrated instructions for a yoga class in Sea Life Manchester to raise awareness for marine life conservation. He’s not a man to just rest on his laurels, he is championing action against climate change even at the ripe old age of 92.

What makes David Attenborough’s voice so compelling? It is gentle yet authoritative and his thick British accent sounds very regal and kind. His calming voice has inspired thousands of impressions and my favorite is this tutorial which asks you to 1) posh up your accent 2) deliver in a semi whisper and 3) have a low-mid tone male voice with a few croaks. Perhaps it might be hard to posh up one’s accent without sounding pretentious especially as a non-British person, but we can most definitely start to experiment with teaching in a low-mid tone voice and using the technique of semi-whispering. 

In particular, the semi-whispering technique is known to trigger ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). This signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin” according to Wikipedia.  It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control. A psychology study in 2015 by Nick Davis and Emma Barratt found that whispering was an effective trigger for 75% of the 475 subjects who took part in an experiment to investigate the nature of ASMR.

Now that I understand the effect that semi-whispering can have, I will most definitely try it out when I teach my next class!