Advances in vocality

This blog has no set specific theme, and this is the reason: It’s because if it were solely dedicated to music, I wouldn’t be able to post thing like the following article… which actually, now that I think about it, has some musical qualities.

Apparently, there is very little science focused on studying the sounds that animals make. But wait, you say, what about all that hoopla about whale noises and dolphin clicks?

Ah, but those animals are alive. NPR covers this story about a French scientist, Marguerite Humeau, who is working on recreating the voice boxes of now-extinct animals, like Lucy. Lucy was one of the first chimpanzee found to have walked on her back legs, so scientists consider her one of the first hominids.

To recreate Lucy’s voice, Humeau studied available skeletal data from Lucy’s remains. As best she could, she constructed synthetic versions of the resonance cavities in Lucy’s skull. She even spoke to the Martin Birchall, a British doctor who performed only the second successful human larynx transplant on a California woman earlier this year.

“What makes the difference between a human voice and an animal sound? The difference is the brain, so we think before we talk. I mean, for most people.” – Humeau [how drôle]

So Humeau actually made physical representations of the vocal chords, then set up a system to have air pass through them at a set rate so that it would make the desired noise of the animal.

Lucy’s “voice” turned out somewhere between a groan and terrible saxophone playing.

Then, Humeau moved on to recreate the sound of a wooly mammoth. She actually met with the guy who helped Steven Spielberg with dinosaur noises on Jurassic Park.

See pictures of the recreated voice contraptions and listen to the full story here.

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Advances in vocality

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