AUDIO CONCEPTIVE — a recorded accent

I was scared. No, I was terrified. I had the concept for AUDIO CONCEPTIVE ready. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to record my words in my own voice. I had a draft, and I had a cadence in my head. I even had the example of Sidney and Maria, my dearests of friends and muses to guide me. I had assisted them on voice recordings for their own projects once.(You can hear one of their recordings here —

I had done it in make-believe voice-overs for make-believe products while I attended advertising school in Brazil. I knew what it was like to sit in a recording booth; memorizing lines; taking deep breaths and talking with no interruptions. I had done it. But I had done it in my own language. In my own local and widely accepted accent. “Mineirês” as this dialect of sorts is called in Brazil. And I could live with that. I have lived with that accent without much notice my entire life.

It was an accent only shown when I crossed state lines and walked barefooted on Rio de Janeiro’s shores, or stepped into Avenida Paulista, then I could see my accent spilled all over the ground — Yes it’s obvious — I am from the city of Belo Horizonte. I live in the state of Minas Gerais. I am not from here. But this time, I had to do it in a foreign language. Yes. It will be 12 years next month that I moved to the United States, but English is still a foreign language to me. It will always be. And with this recording — Yes, it is obvious — I am not from Jersey. I am not from the States. I am not from here.

I sat with the list of words on my lap. Disorganized on paper as in my head. I read the words over and over. Never aloud. The more I read it, the more I doubt it. Not good enough. Not long enough. For weeks I was building my own Chinese wall of excuses. I closed the notebook and put the words away just like i tried to put away the grammar mistakes, the misspellings, the accent. The more I muffled it, the more it showed.

I forgot where I was. I was sitting at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University, and the Annual Poetry Festival was about to start. I don’t know what I expected. Surely not what I was about to witness that afternoon. I don’t know if it was the mere act of reciting that shocked me; The power words carry once spoken. Or, the lyrical nature poetry imbues into every syllable; or the heaviness strophes carry once written. No. My shock came from the confessions given by each poet before reciting: they were apprehensive about reading aloud. Reading aloud in a foreign language. About, reading aloud in English. Most of the poets presenting that afternoon were not from Jersey. They were not from the States. They were not from here.

As I left the auditorium, I knew there was only one thing to do. I sat in front of my computer, I opened my notebook and I pressed RECORD.

You can listen to AUDIO CONCEPTIVE in Jen’s foreign language, English — . Or in Jen’s mother tongue, Portuguese —

AUDIO CONCEPTIVE is only part of a larger project created by Photographer Jennifer Cabral called CONCEPTIVES. More at

Originally published on April 2, 2013.