My Voice and Me

Barker, Paul (2013) My Voice and Me. [Composition]


Oliver Curry was a well known British opera singer. In the early 1980’s he was asked to appear as the lead in a production of ‘Pagliacci.’ He had not prepared the role and to avoid disgrace he pretended to lose his voice. A few months later his singing and speaking voice disappeared all together, never to return. Now he communicates using the same computer speech device as Professor Stephen Hawking while accompanying himself on the piano. In this way he is able to make the voice more expressive.

This 3 minute preview of a 15 minute piece designed for radio is presented by Oliver Curry himself embodied as a musical score. It explores the experience of communicating through an electronic persona that is stubbornly inexpressive. It touches on melodrama, opera, singing, fibbing and ironic operatic disasters while highlighting the absurdity of some post-human technologies.

Most people dislike computer generated speech. Although the latest voices are more natural and realistic than some of the earlier voices, people are able to tell quite quickly that a machine rather than a human is speaking. One radical way of addressing this problem is to put aside the idea of being more realistic and natural and try to capitalize on the affect generated by a manifestly machine-like voice. In this case the effect is enhanced by putting the emotional content into a musical pastiche. It also researches into the nature of melodrama, the relationship between music and text, by illustrating how much musical underscoring may allow even the least sensitive voice-actor possible to maintain a narrative tension.


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