The Fabelphonetikum

[Fabelphonetikum schematic / .5MB]

The Fabelphonetikum is an instrument which allows the player to imitate human speech by combining diffenrent sounds in combination with specific movements of the left hand above the mouth of the instrument.

The desire to build a speaking machine, is the desire for fascination – the discovery and creation of an instrument.

The principle of talking machines has a long tradition. It is therefore neither new, nor was it built for urgent needs. Rather, there was the wish to pick up the enthusiasm and the efforts of the last centuries of constructing talking machines and focus exactly on this base of fascination.

One of the pioneers in figuring out the mechanism of speaking machines was Wolfgang von Kempelen in the 18th century who also used this principle of passing all sounds through one mouth to imitate the vocal tract.

The project goal was the re-discovery of this analog-speaking-principle and to make it useful again. The 'Fabelphonetikum' is a somehow bizzare stage suitable instrument, with the particular nature of speaking in (almost) all terms of the phonetics.

The title of the instrument is a neologism and is made up with the German words 'Fabel' and 'Phonetikum'. In a 'Fabel' animals are typically speaking in human language for the transmission of an instructive or responsibility with political hazards marked history. In this context it is to represent the transmission of information and emotions. That 'Phonetikum' marks the kind of verbal transmission of sounds.

'From a synthesist's viewpoint, the voice is the world's oldest subtractive synth. It has one oscillator (the vocal chords), which has one waveform that sounds something like a sawtooth or narrow pulse wave. There is a noise generator (breath), a multiband filter (the oral cavity), and an advanced automation system that allows for independent control of pitch, loudness, and filter contour. It's a one-voice, monophonic instrument.' – Sasso, Len (2004): Voices from the Machine