Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Sound Logic

What comes to mind when you think about the word "sound"?
Do you think about your favourite singer? Or maybe your favourite song? Maybe a musical genre or an instrument? Do you imagine an orchestra, a music video? Two cowboys facing each other on the main road at sunset with a whistled song floating in the air? Or maybe a moustached phenomenon in sneakers and a white tank top strutting his stuff up and down the stage of a sold out concert? Maybe you think about how the word "sound" sounds like.
Or maybe, like me, you think about your mouth.
Yes, not exactly our favourite bunch of bone and muscles on the planet.
Most people think of their mouths in terms of eating, drinking, breathing, talking, kissing, screaming, etc.

I want you to imagine a concert hall.
Maybe you've never been in one, so I want you to imagine a theatre.
Maybe you don't like theatres, so I want you to imagine a cinema.
And if you still can't see that, try and remember a concert you saw on TV.
That's what I see in our mouths.
The most unbelievable, incredible, magical concert hall in the known universe.

If our brains are the supercomputers that no computers will ever match, then our mouths are the most perfect concert halls that have ever been created. Sorry Carnegie Hall, it's not personal.
When I say mouth, I refer to all the different parts involved in the production of sound: the lips, teeth, the alveolar ridge, our lungs, the velum aka the soft palace, the hard palate, the uvula, the glottis, the tongue. I must have forgotten something, just like you forget to wish a distant aunt Happy Birthday for her birthday, but you love her dearly for existing.
Every single time I hear a sound I've never heard and therefore maybe never created, the thought of sound creation is electrifying (You're the sound that I want, Sound that I want, Uh Uh Uh). The complicity and multiplicity of biological phenomenons that allow sound to be formed is nothing sheer of magical.

"Speech sound production is one of the most complex human activities: it is also one of the least well understood. This is perhaps not altogether surprising as many of the couples neurological and physiological processes involved in the generation and execution of speech utterance remain relatively inaccessible to direct investigation, and must be inferred from careful scrutiny of the output of the system - from details of the movements of the speech organs themselves and the acoustic consequences of such movements."

Speech Production and Speech Modelling
edited by W.J. Hardcastle, Alain Marchal

Just some food for thought.

The Sound Eater

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