October 09, 2006


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":

Bessie Smith Electric Chair Blues fragment

Bessie Smith Electric Chair Blues fragment

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.

Posted by oook at October 9, 2006 09:04 AM