Years ago (1989-90 as I remember) Betsy was using a Mac-based sonographic tool to do analysis of pauses and other waveform phenomena in speech. I used it to explore a lot of samples of singers, as a part of the Cross-Cultural Studies in Music course that I was teaching at the time. I ran across those file folders the other day, while sorting through the academic legacy remains in the barn, and was diverted into an hour or so of what-if (paths not taken, that sort of thing). And then this morning I find Mark Liberman’s Poem in the Key of What posting at Language Log, illustrating some work he’s done with a new generation of sound analysis software (it’s FREE too: Praat and WaveSurfer). I’m tempted to reopen that frontier. For a bit of a teaser, consider this representation of Bessie Smith’s 1927 “Send me to the ‘lectric chair“:
ADDENDUM: I did some experimenting with Praat, and here’s an extract of pitch contour. Not sure just what it all means, but it sure is fun.