Quote for Today: Javier Marías

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Listening is the most dangerous thing of all, listening means knowing, finding out about something and knowing what’s going on, our ears don’t have lids that can instinctively close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late.

Javier MaríasA Heart So White
Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Quote for Today: Friedrich Nietzsche

A man has no ears for that which he cannot access through experience. To take an extreme case, suppose a book contains only incidents which lie outside the range of general or even rare experience—suppose it to be the first language to express a whole series of experiences.  In this case nothing it contains will really be heard at all and thanks to an acoustic delusion people will believe that where nothing is heard there is nothing to hear.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is

Unica Zürn, from Solfège image © Maia Valenzuela with CCLicense

Unica Zürn, from Solfège
image © Maia Valenzuela with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Haruki Murakami

Carina Nebula  Public Domain image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

Carina Nebula
Public Domain image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.

Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore

The Complexities of What We Hear: Robot Mouths and Speaking Pianos

Gemini robot in conversation

Gemini robot in conversation
© Peter Čuhalev with CCLicense

The drive to understand the coordination between the mind and body that produces language is a powerful source of innovation. The following videos represent attempts to replicate the human voice by means of a physical apparatus or robot rather than by digital sampling and recording techniques alone. This requires and stimulates a greater understanding of both how the human voice is produced and how it is heard.

Wien Modern was one of ten organizations asked to make an artistic contribution to the European Environmental Criminal Court Forum 2009 event in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy. Their project: to perform the text of a proclamation released earlier by the EECC as a musical composition, without setting it in a traditional sense. To that end, Austrian composer Peter Ablinger transferred the frequency spectrum of elementary school student Miro Markus’ voice to his computerized piano. Breaking down the voice into snatches of frequency, much as a computer might break down an image into pixels, Ablinger was able to reconstruct Markus’ recitation into pitch and rhythm on the keyboard. The result is astonishing, although having subtitles really helps clarify the text. The relationship of our speaking voice to pitch and rhythm is quite complex and the “music” of a voice is unique and integral to how that voice is understood.

Video via TheMcphearson on YouTube.

Scientists at Kagawa University in Takamatsu, Japan are trying to achieve a better understanding of how the mind and body work together to produce speech. The talking robot below consists of a silicone mouth, vocal cords and tongue; a plaster nasal chamber for increased resonance; an air pump that acts as lungs and a rudimentary computerized brain which has the capacity to associate movement with sound and learn through auditory feedback. What the human mind and body does subconsciously can only be reproduced with a great deal of trial and error, but the robot can learn and execute an extremely simple song, make vowel sounds, and produce some words. Next step? This mouth is currently being fitted with teeth so that it can produce fricative consonants. Look out, world!

Video via Diginfonews on YouTube.