Channel One Russia coverage of the CreST Network Concert for Human and Artificial Voices.
Translation by Amber Wood, student of Russian at University of Bristol
IN GREAT BRITAIN OPERA DIVA SINGS DUET WITH COMPUTER
In Great Britain a concert was given in which a famous opera singer performed as part of a duet with a program which synthesises the voice. And this is not simply a curious creative experiment. Thousands of patients with difficult diagnoses await the results of such a musical performance.
A large part of soprano Maria Bovino's career has shined alongside tenor and baritone stars in Covent Garden and the English National Opera. But who will she be singing a duet from "La Traviata" with today?
To look for another singer on the stage is useless; her partner is a laptop. To be more precise, it is computer-synthesised speech. To human ears, it is a mechanical voice, and to human eyes, it is a stream of program code.
For musicians, the most important thing is the human, of course. For programmers, it is the computer. But these people and others gathered in the sea-side town of Scarborough not to have a debate about this or teach the computer how to sing (it learned to do that a long time ago). These people dreamed of a computer singing with a human; not repeating a text stored in its memory, but improvising and feeling the music as if it were human.
"Now, the task is not simply to convey meaning, but also emotions. We are attempting to create a synthesised voice which is more inspired. But the voice best proves itself when a human or a machine is singing alongside it." says Professor Alistair Edwards of the York University Department of Computer Science.
Programmers from York University and Hull University insist that these "mass" speech programs should be accessible to all who want to sing. Essentially, they are re-writing them, making the sound palette more complex and forcing the computer to listen to the human and join in with him or her in a voice that is sad or happy. The processor can sing using the correct rhythm and won't go out of tune, but for the opera diva, there isn't enough passion.
"The beauty of any living performer, even not an outstanding one, is that they have a unique voice. A computer doesn't have this individuality, and I hope that it never will." says the singer Maria Bovino.
The duet between human and computer is not just a musical experiment; it is also an attempt to help those who are without a voice, and who communicate with the outside world with the help of a "monotonous and gender-less" artificial voice.
"These people are asking for theatrics! They want funny voices, so they can tell anecdotes They wish to speak in their own regional accents. We are able to create accents, but it is more complicated to create a genuine, living voice." says theatre director Chris Newell.
But the world-renowned physician Professor Stephen Hawking's artificial voice is considered to be a work of art and a part of his personality. And he doesn't shy away from giving lectures and even being filmed for films and adverts.