There’s voice synthesis, and then there’s eephing

Perhaps no other acoustic signal has been analyzed as much as the speaking human voice, and it is obvious why considering the enormous practical benefits to communication that come with understanding it, i.e., speech coding, speech recognition, and speech synthesis. Our cellular telephones are possible in part because the speaking voice is a very well-behaved and extremely predictable source, with a mystifyingly simple principle in its production: there is a wideband source, and there is a separate filter. Nothing could be more linear!

While speech coding, speech recognition, and speech synthesis are solved problems (i.e., many successful commercial products exist), there are aspects of human voice processing that continue to warrant research. For instance, one area of research is emotion and distress detection, and other high-level aspects of language and speech understanding. There are also important reasons for detecting in the voice the presence of some medical pathology, e.g., throat cancer, instead of using invasive procedures. There is also the sung lyrics transcription. But one area of voice research I have yet to see thoroughly explored is in the “extended voice.”


First, consider the art of eephing. Here is one of my favorite examples of eephing. And here is eephing master Jimmie Riddle describing in detail some of his techniques so that you can possibly play along at home (which always has me in stitches):

Here the great Australian singer/songwriter/comedien Rolf Harris does some basic eephing with a baby chimpanze, who eephs along with him!

Eephing is of course closely related to the much more contemporary and serious art form of “beat-boxing.” It is in such contexts where the voice becomes much more than a means for communication. It becomes a versatile instrument. It would be great to make a computer eeph (or beat-box”) along with a musical source, but I am not sure of the commercial applicability of that, or its benefit to humanity. I am sure though it would be enjoyable.

And while I am on the subject of extended techniques for the voice, master vocalist Diamanda Galas is giving a concert on April 23 in the Marble Church of Copenhagen, which will certainly tickle everyone’s auditory cortext.

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