The human voice was once considered sacred. Priests and shamans would speak into ceremonial vessels made to preserve its magic. But now every Tom, Dick and Sally vibrates air like they're scratching their elbow. In this show, we try to make the voice weird again. We hear how the voice transforms its owner when he starts speaking a new language. We also hear about a parakeet who speaks like a deceased grandmother, a young man who makes a sound that bafﬂes his neighbors, and the future of synthesized speech. Plus a story about lipreading that's guaranteed to make you pay a lot more attention, from here on out, to mouths.
Producer: Charlie Mintz
Featuring: Claire Woodard, Will Rogers, Rob Ryan, Rachel Kolb, Bronwyn Reed, Clifford Nass
When you study abroad at Stanford, you sign this agreement called a Language Pledge. What that means is you swear to only speak German, or Russian, or whatever language they speak in the city you're visiting. As you can probably imagine, no one actually adheres to the Language Pledge. Well, no one but this guy.
Clifford Nass is a professor at Stanford University. One of his areas of interest is artiﬁcial voices. Voices made by robots. He and I talked about what it will mean when you aren't the only thing that sounds like you.
Creepy as it might be to think of robots replicating our voices, we can ﬁnd examples right in the here and now of non-human entities stealing our speech. Bird: those dumb imitators, turning speech meaningless. But what do you do when that speech is the words of your grandmother, who you loved, and who is dead?
The human voice does so much more than just speak words. It can makes all kinds of sounds in its effort to help us communicate. Most of those are voluntary--grunts, hums, growls, tisks, sighs. But some are involuntary, and that can create problems. Next up you get to eavesdrop on a conversation between me and my friend, Will Rogers. He was worried about a certain anti-social sound he made with his voice.
Story 6: Lipreading: Or What to Do When the Speed of Sound Exceeds the Speed of Light
Featuring: Rachel Kolb
What happens when you subtract sound from the human voice? What is left? Fast, ephemeral, hard-to-discern movements of the lips. It's not much, but if you're deaf, it's just about all you have to go on. Sound tough? Our next story tells you what it's like.
The Storytelling Project is supported by the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Stanford Introductory Studies, Stanford Continuing Studies, and the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.