Artist John Keston has created a touchscreen installation that allows you to manipulate the visuals and sound of a man doing voice-training exercises.
According to Keston, the piece, called Voice Lessons, “interrogates the popular myth that every musical instrument imitates the human voice.” He told Wired.co.uk: “This was an intriguing argument that I wanted to explore by using the granulated human voice as an electronic instrument.”
The piece is based on a recorded video of a human voice teacher reciting vocal warm-up exercises, displayed on a 32-inch touchscreen which has been programmed to behave like a synthesizer.
The viewer can trace their fingers over the screen to manipulate the sounds and images. The X and Y coordinates of the touchscreen are translated into position, frequency and grain width for audio and video. For example, you can move your finger up to create high-pitched loops or down to create lower-pitched, longer loops toward the bottom of the screen. The result is a peculiar voice exercise that stutters, skips and slurs as you trace your finger across the screen.
Keston added: “The audio and visuals are processed independently in parallel to handle the video and sound properly. Synchronization between the audio and visual content is maintained by scaling algorithms.”
When the screen isn’t being touched, a video of the subject looking around the environment is played. The piece was developed in Max/MSP.
The actor featured in the installation — also called John Keston — is the artist’s retired father, who became a voice teacher after a career as a theater actor.
Keston explains: “This piece explores the synesthetic relationship between auditory, optical and tactile stimulus. It resides in the space between a musical instrument and a voice lesson.”
Voice Lessons will be on display at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s Whittier Studios during November.