Yet more text-to-screech

There’s quite a history of musicians and sound artists doing creative things with speech synthesis. One of the best known examples is the Radiohead track Fitter Happier from the album OK Computer, and its not hard to find other cases of commercial artists incorporating this kind of material in tracks.

Very often this has been done on the mac, which has always had speech synthesis built in. (There’s a very interesting anecdote about how speech synthesis came to be included on the very first macs at the personal insistence of Steve Jobs.) A number of years ago – I can’t find the links now – there was a small community of composers who were authoring and releasing ‘tracks’ which consisted of nothing but SimpleText files, which were to be ‘played back’ using the speech synthesis facility. This kind of thing was more effective back then: the earlier versions of the mac speech system responded in interesting and unpredictable ways to abberrant texts.

I’ve often used this kind of thing in my own work, and I’ve coined my own term for it: ‘text-to-screech’. Here’s an example, this is a track called ‘vifyavif wif yavif-oo’, which also forms part of the instrumental piece donkerstraat:

I’ve now started work on another such project. This will be a performance piece, where I will be typing text live: I’ve done work along these lines before, but the new twist will be to try to find away to add extra processing to the speech synthesis live, including perhaps sampling and looping. There are some technical problems with doing this on the mac, however… which I’ll make the subject of another post.

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