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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Human and synthetic voice concert gives Scarborough gallery 'world first'

An innovative concert at a Scarborough gallery will combine human and synthetic voices with music to show how computer-generated voices can be made more expressive.

Organisers of the concert at the Woodend Gallery on Saturday, 26 January, believe this may be the first concert globally of its kind.

One of the highlights will be an extract from the work of American composer Joseph Olive, an early pioneer of speech synthesis. It involves an aria from Verdi’s La Traviata being performed as a duet by a singing synthesis system and an opera singer live on stage accompanied by a piano.

INTRUSIVE TELEPHONE MENU
Other compositions include a live performer’s interaction with an ever more personal and intrusive telephone menu options system, If/Then and Really (As if) by Kevin Jones.

The concert is part of a research and public engagement project by the Creative Speech Technology (CreST) Network which is led by Dr Alistair Edwards from the University of York's computer science department, and Dr Christopher Newell, from the school of arts and new media, at the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus. The network of contributors to the field of computer speech is reported to be leading the way internationally on research into how improvements can be made to the quality and experience of speech-synthesis technology by encouraging artists and scientists to work together.

The initiative is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Arts Council England.

The concert, which starts at 7.30pm, will provide a finale to a four-day inter-active multi-media exhibition at gallery from 23 to 26 January, called Articulate: The Art and Science of Synthetic Speech.

FIRST OF ITS KIND
Dr Newell said: “We believe the concert is the first of its kind in the world and that it will produce a unique insight into the creative potential of computer-generated speech in combination with music and human voices.

"Creating expression for computer-generated voices has been a problematic area, but we believe there are useful lessons to be learned from music and the methods it uses to communicate emotion.”

Dr Edwards said: “As a computer scientist, I really appreciate this opportunity to work with people from an arts background. Their needs and expectations of the technology push it into new and challenging areas.

"I hope and expect that this will then feed back into the development of better technology, which might be used by people who have to use synthetic voices because they cannot speak themselves.”

Professor David Howard, from the University of York’s electronics department, is an expert on the analysis and synthesis of singing, music and speech, and is investigating the acoustic properties of the ‘ring/tingle/hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck’ effect of the singing voice.

At the Scarborough concert, he will present his composition Vocal vision 1 for a computer four-part choir and two sopranos, which explores differences between computer and human singing.

ELUSIVE 'TINGLE'
Professor Howard said: “The voice is a wonderful area to research because everyone can appreciate its importance. As an engineer, choral singer and choral conductor, I am interested not only in synthesising natural vocal sounds for communication but also how humans work together as a choir in terms of tuning, blend and that elusive ‘tingle’ for both singers and listeners.”

The exhibition and concert also include a melodrama written by Dr Newell. My Voice and Me is the story of an opera singer losing his voice and allowing his grand piano and synthetic voice to do the speaking for him, as he tells his story through a radio piece.

For free tickets to the Scarborough concert, email info@woodendcreative.co.uk or ring 01723 384500.