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Austrian composer simulates speech using... A piano?

By

October 7, 2009

The talking piano at work.

The talking piano at work.

Remember back in the 80s when Steve Vai used to make his guitar "talk" to David Lee Roth? That video clip is here, but be warned, Roth's bare butt peeking through the holes in his leather chaps is one of the LEAST offensive things in the clip. It seems things have become more refined in the last 20-odd years. This fascinating clip shows how Austrian composer Peter Ablinger has programmed a mechanically-actuated piano to reproduce recorded human speech. And yes, you can somehow understand it.

Ablinger's intriguing setup breaks down the sound of a recording into voice "pixels" that can be replicated using the pitches available on a piano, then plays the recording back using mechanical actuators to press the piano keys.

The text he's chosen here is the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court from the World Venice Forum 2009, as read by a young boy. And if you listen closely, you can almost hear a parallel with the type of compression artifacts you can get from certain digital audio compression algorithms. Fascinating stuff!

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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