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Re: sometimes behave so strangely

Flemming Vestergaard wrote:
My mother tongue is a notoriously dull language, Danish. And yet I have followed this discussion without feeling I ever got the point. Untill now, perhaps...

Interesting that you mention "mother tongue". Another great example of speech used as music
is from Rudresh Mahanthappa's recent album "Mother Tongue" which uses as inspiration
for the melodies a number of spoken phrases in various Indian languages (answers to
questions in fact). Rudresh is another great modern NY jazz musician.
See the following link which includes audio examples and full explanation
of the idea:

Lastly, the Frank Zappa song from the early 1980s I mentioned earlier (where Steve Vai is duplicating
Zappa's speech on his guitar) is on the album "The Man from Utopia" and the song is  "The Dangerous
Kitchen" (you can hear an excerpt on amazon.com).


                                         -- Jeff

I never heard Diana's original example, but Jeff's music example sets the stage, I think.
Any difference between speach and song must be an effect of culture in some sense. We have operas, musicals, vaudevilles, etc, etc. I guess we all know that a good speech is some content and a lot of rythm.
If we repeat a spoken message over and over, the semantics will disappear. Go to a mass (any church), few will get any of the words, they hear a hymn or something. I don't think acoustics plays a role here.
Enjoy a concert, be it classical, rock, rap or jazz, you will hear sounds, notes, rythms which may be speach, may be music. Any speach has some kind of melody, definitely a tempo and a rythm. Jeff's link provides a good example of someone taking advantage of this. When "wah-wah" pedals were introduced for guitarists in the late 60s "talking guitars" were everywhere, remember.


From: AUDITORY - Research in Auditory Perception on behalf of Jeff Bilmes
Sent: Sat 12/16/2006 8:01 PM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [AUDITORY] sometimes behave so strangely

Diana Deutsch wrote:
 A number of people have pointed out that the timing characteristics
of the pattern could be important. I agree - the pattern has an
emphatic rhythm, and the repetition of this rhythm may help to induce
listening in 'music mode'. Also, in a study in progress we're looking
at the effect of the durations of the pauses between repetitions, and
it appears that lengthening these pauses reduces the effect - or at
least slows down its development- the formal experiment has yet to be
completed. And it's true that I intentionally configured the pauses in
the published example so that the entire sequence of repetitions
should be metrically coherent.


It may be of interest to know that just about any speech can be made
into music given the right context, even without any repetition or
"metric coherence" at all. It is, for example, recently becoming
practice in Jazz music to use speech to obtain ideas about melody. In
some cases, the recorded speech is used as the melody itself done in
unison with a non-vocal musical instrument.  A great example is Jason
Moran, a well known jazz pianist in the NYC area.  He recorded a
Turkish woman speaking on the phone with her mother, and then put it
to song in a jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) context. You hear the
speech, Moran duplicating the melody on acoustic piano along with the
speech, Moran harmonizing with his left hand, and the bass and drum
accompaniment.  The resulting song excerpt is here:


There are other examples of his where he uses speech in another
language in the same way. Note that Moran and his band have memorized
this speech and use the tape of it live when they perform this piece
(I recently saw him perform it live).

It should also be noted, Franz Zappa back in the early 1980s hired a
guitarist named "Steve Vai" to transcribe on guitar some of Zappa's
spoken phrases and play them back on guitar along with the speech
recording (Vai is most noted for transcribing Zappa's guitar solos,
but he also transcribed Zappa's speech). I don't recall the album/song
that this is on, but it was in the early 1980s (if I remember, I'll send
it out).


                   -- Jeff