The word was a voice

In the beginning, there was the word. The word was a voice. The voice had a speaker. And the speaker knew the magic words. Fast-forward thousands of years to a time when humans behave like robots and robots behave like humans. Nobody knows the magic words anymore. Computers don’t distinguish between messages of love or hatred. Microchips make music and war with indifferent equivalence. All word, every voice, is now code. It has been for years.

A voice sonically signifies an individual. When that individual’s voice is translated into code, digitized, the voice becomes malleable. Its fixed and ephemeral properties are made durable, permanent, and loosed from time at once. It then becomes possible to perceive the digital recording in microscopic ways. Digitization makes it easy to study, and so to impersonate the voice – to replicate its signifying power.

Echo’s secret voice – scattered today to every corner of the winds – drives Pan mad. The trickster Raven steals Crow’s voice for a song. Shamans recite incantations from within cavernous passages, separating the voice from a body. The Acousmatics blindly follow Pythagoras’s enshrouded voice. The schizophrenic patient convincingly hears imaginary voices – special words for safe ears. The ventriloquist conceals her own voice, diverting attention to an avatar instead. The voice thrower untethers his voice from spatial coordinates’ confines. Renowned voices supplant an impersonator’s own. The speechwriter churns practiced words through a politician’s voice. Phonographs reproduce the voices of the long-ago dead. A Bell Labs computer sings “Daisy Bell”. Ferris Bueller’s fake coughs and sneezes echo into a high school telephone booth receiver from a digital sampler called the “Emulator”.

Would the walls of Jericho have fallen to the sound of a synthesized trumpet?

From Mad Skills: MIDI And Music Technology In The 20th Century


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s