Main content

Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce explores the timbre and tone of the human voice and, with the help of Steve Coogan's impersonations, uncovers something of its unique fingerprint.

Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce is intrigued by the way the human voice can spark so many memories and feelings. Something we take for granted so often becomes the focus of his search for the oral fingerprint. To help him in his quest, he invites his friend Steve Coogan to demonstrate some of his impersonations, revealing that the tone of voice can carry more meaning than the words we say.

Frank also trawls the audio archive and finds rare recordings of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, and the inspirational deaf and blind writer Helen Keller. The voices of Oliver Postgate and the artificially intelligent Alexa join the mix.

Ultimately, Frank is seeking to hear the voice of God but doesn't find it where you might expect. He concludes, "You won't find the voice of the Lord calling to you in an historical document, we hear it in the voices of the people we love. It whispers to us in our childhood sleep, yells at us on the playing field, pleads with us in arguments and says hello when we answer the phone."

Presenter: Frank Cotrell Boyce
Producer: Michael Wakelin
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.

15 days left to listen

28 minutes

Last on

Sun 28 Jun 2020 23:30

Music Played

  • Choir of the Convent of Saint Elizabeth of Minsk

    Awake, O My Soul, Wherefore Sleepest Thou?

    • The Nuns - Uplifting and Spiritual Voices.
    • Warner Classics.
  • John McCormack

    I'll Walk Beside You

    • John McCormack - I’ll Walk Beside You.
    • Warner Classics.
  • George Frideric Handel

    He Was Despised

    Performer: Kathleen Ferrier.
    • Kathleen Ferrier: Bach-Handel Recital.
    • Decca.
  • John McCormack


    • Great Voices of the Century - John McCormack.
    • Memoir Classics.


Title: Confessions

Author: St Augustine

Publisher: Penguin Classics


Title:  The Story of my Life

Author:  Helen Keller

Publisher:  Bantam


Title: James 3:5, Douay-Rheims Bible
Publisher: Tan Books


  • Sun 15 Jul 2018 06:05
  • Sun 15 Jul 2018 23:30
  • Sun 28 Jun 2020 06:05
  • Sun 28 Jun 2020 23:30