I’ve been playing with using words to control the articulation of a physical modelling synthesiser based on the elegant Karplus-Strong algorithm.
The idea is to be able to make instrumental sounds by typing onomatopoeic words. (extra explanation added in the comments)
Here’s my first ever go at playing with it:
For a fuller, more readable experience you’re better off looking at the higher quality avi than the above flash transcoding.
Sounds a bit nicer now… This time with a smaller font and an exciting slither of my desktop visible. Sorry about that, see it a bit bigger over here
An early sketch of a system of vocables for describing manipulations of a sine wave.
The text is a bit small there, it’s better in the original avi version.
Vowels give pitch, and consonants give movements between pitches.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. It’s nice to describe a sound in this way but to use it in music the sound has to change over time otherwise it gets repetitive and therefore boring in many situations. I think I either have to develop ways of manipulating these strings programmatically, or ways of manipulating how they are interpreted. Both approaches would involve livecoding of course…
A new project:
The idea is to use festival speech synth to turn what people type into rhythms, giving them a simple multi-user interface for playing words together.
Please play with it! All feedback very much appreciated. It’ll run until 14th April, after which I’ll release the sourcecode under the GPL for download, plus if anyone’s interested, a DVD containing the audio from the two weeks.
Relatedly, I was excited to find out about Canntaireachd, which is to bagpipes what bols are to tabla. I’m looking forward to getting my own articulatory synthesis working…
[update] This project is now finished, but I wrote a report on it.
In the afore-mentioned paper Rationalizing musical time: syntactic and symbolic-numeric approaches, Bernard Bel describes onomatopoeic notation for music, and then later a language for composing similarly structured music, the Bol Processor 2 (BP2). In BP2 however, the sound objects are represented by non-onomatopoeic symbols. That is, as far as the software is concerned, the particular words chosen as symbols for sound objects are of no consequence. Why?
What I’m asking here is really, why can’t I type “krrgrinnngngg!” or “poink?” and have the software synthesise a sound accordingly? Perhaps we should expect more of computers. We could ask someone with a guitar, trumpet or drum to make these sounds, and while they’d make quite different sounds to one another they would likely be interesting and with some identifiable relationship to the original written words.
I can imagine a few different approaches to synthesising onomatopoeic words. One would be to use (well, abuse) a speech synthesiser such as mbrola or festival. Another would be to take the approaches of speech synthesis but remove some constraints to open it up to producing a wider range of sounds. A third would be mapping parameters of an existing synthesiser to properties of a word. For example, how many consecutive vowel sounds the word has, whether the word begins with a hard or soft sound, or whether it ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark.
Anyway I’m still thinking about this, and there’s bound to be plenty of prior art… Please let me know if you know of any!