Vocoder piano – more details

I first saw this video via Twitter and wanted to know more. Hack a Day had posted about it the same day, but didn’t have any additional information. I asked my friend Fabienne to take a look since I don’t speak German. She was able to dig up some more details.

Peter Ablinger composed the piece “Deus, cantando” (God, singing) for the World Venice Forum 2009. There isn’t much detail on the installation, but the composer used this automatic piano for an earlier piece. The “display-window piece” used the piano to reproduce street sounds captured outside of a display window. The piano was designed by Winfried Ritsch (who does DSP research) and constructed with the help of Peter Pessas. The software was developed by IEM Graz, Thomas Musil. From the video id appears to be Pd. It samples the waveform and then reconstructs it using the piano.

Astera has transcribed the video and provided a translated version:

Got it? Probably not – but we can easily change that.

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 spectrom 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.


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