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Composer gives piano a human voice

A computer connected to this piano analyzes human speech with the assistance of a composer and converts it to key-tapping.

I have a weakness for piano players, but I don't think I can call Austrian composer Peter Ablinger a piano player: he doesn't play them, he makes them talk. Hell, here I am barely able to play the accordion.

It doesn't do it in real time, but there's a computer connected to this piano that analyzes human speech with the assistance of a composer and converts it to key-tapping. It looks pretty great and is reasonably clear considering it's a piano that's "talking." The speaking piano actually recited the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court at the 2009 World Venice Forum.

You'll quickly notice that the video's in German, but fortunately a Hack a Day commenter named Astera came through with a rough translation of the narration to accompany your oohs and aaahs:

Pretty amazing, how all of a sudden the words of the Declaration become understandable to a European Environmental Criminal Court. Wien Modern was one out of ten cultural institutions asked for an artistic contribution to the event in Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

The ambitious goal was to make this message audible with musical means, without falling back to a simple setting.

Berno Polzer: I think, it's partially understandable, partially not. And it plays well with the limits of our construction abilities. That is, we hear sounds that obviously aren't normal music, but neither they are language, and one could say that sometimes, a bridging happens. Personally, I think you can understand individual words even without knowing the text, and the Eureka moment happens when you see the text, and suddenly, the language is there.

Yet another bridge: Miro Markus, an elementary school student from Berlin, narrated the text for the performance: Youth as a hope for the older generation.

The Austrian composer Peter Ablinger transferred the frequency spectrum of the child's voice to his computer-controlled mechanical piano.

Peter Ablinger: I break down this phonography, meaning a recording of something the voice, in this case, in individual pixels, one can say. And if I have the possibility of a rendering in a fairly high resolution (and that I only get with a mechanical piano), then I in fact restore some kind of continuity. Therefore, with a little practice, or help or subtitling, we actually can hear a human voice in a piano sound.

From voice to "pixels" to music back to speech. Incredible. Now, who's gonna make a talking trumpet?

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo.