017 - Speech Defect Synthesis Kit

- 'Patanational Homonymphonemiacs - $6.00 - (90 minutes)


[Warren Burt sent me a copy of this review written for the Computer Music Journal via e-mail with an appended note saying that the review might be edited considerably before it appears in print. I haven't seen the relevant issue yet so I'm including the unedited original review here:]

to be From: "Computer Music Journal"


"Speech Defect Synthesis Kit" (wiDEMOuth Tapes No. 17)

cassette tapes from wiDEMOuth tapes; 3809 Melwood AveNUe,

Pittsburgh, PA 15213, NUs@




reviewed by Warren Burt <waburt@melbourne.dialix.com.au>

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, also known as Michael Tolson, also known as Party Teen on Couch #2, also known as tANGO, aLPHA cHARLIE, also known as anonymous, also known as Luther Blisset, also known as Karen Eliot (along with several dozen others, myself included), also known (again with several dozen others) as Monty Cantsin, also known as Tim Ore, etc. etc. etc. is one of the great eccentrics of contemporary art. A multi-talented artist, who works across media with the greatest of ease, tENT is active in the visual arts, in music, in media, mail art, performance and a host of other less definable activities. His hilarious self-published autobiography "How to Write a Good Resume, Vol II" [How to Write a Resumé: Volume II: Making a Good First Impression] is one of the crowning acheivements of artistic weirdness of the 1980s, and I don't bestow such praise lightly. Associated with a number of the more interesting contemporary art groups, such as the neoists and the Church of the Sub-Genius, he has also been active in the musical fields of free improvisation, live performance with low technology, and most recently, in computer music. Not surprisingly, given his history with extracting every ounce of creative possibility from low technology, his use of the computer searches out the possibilities in areas that those concerned with high fidelity and high powered processes pass by. In these two tapes [see the other part of this review, about "Lost in Translation", elsewhere], for example, he's dealing with cheap speech synthesis, both with the cheap speech synthesis chips in home computers, and also with placing recorded phonemes into a sampler, and then sequencing them in unexpected ways.


"Speech Defect Synthesis Kit - 'Patanational Homonymphonemiacs" is an earlier work [strictly speaking, it's "Speech Defect Synthesis Kit" by 'Patanational Homonymphonemiacs], consisting of 29 short works and one very long work made between 1994 and 1997, using a different appoach to speech synthesis. Here, a vocabulary of recorded phonemes is loaded into a sampler, and then the phonemes are sequenced, not to produce intelligible speech, but to produce melodies of phonetic material. Further, these sequences were used to drive collection of other sounds. Sometimes the results are funny, as in the three "J9" pieces, a collaboration with Jeanine Farrall, but at other times, as in the "Vocabulary" and "Questions" pieces in general, and in "Vocabulary #6" in particular, the results are extremely beautiful. This is a very uncompromising collection of pieces. Each piece explores one or two techniques, and that's it. But each short piece allows for different facets of tENT's explorations to be heard, and the results were, for me, quite rewarding. Then in the middle of side two is the 38 minute "Story of a Fructiferous Society", an extended computer stammer, one of the most demanding and austere pieces I've ever encountered. Consisting of just isolated sampled phonemes surrounded by silence, it gets faster and slower, but never approaches, say, the speed of phonemes in normal speech. The works that seem closest to it to me are the ZAJ pieces by Marchetti and Hidalgo from the 1970s, or the later parts of Cage's "Empty Words." I found myself, almost against my will, drawn into this piece, listening to it three times from beginning to end. tENT's sense of humor is also much in evidence here - his cover proclaims "Proudly setting Speech Synthesis back 350 years to the time of Georg Philipp Harsdorffer", and his liner notes to the tape speak of each of the short pieces as if they were not only pop songs, but pop songs that had become huge hits as well. If only! This is a collection of pieces that shows serious research into the less explored crannies of computer synthesis that is also not afraid to have fun. tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE is in that grand tradition of artists like Erik Satie and Charles Ives who were able to be simultaneously humorous and serious, outrageous and sensitive, light and profound. He's an artist whose work is well worth knowing. [Aw SHUCKS!, Warren - I even forgive you for calling me an artist after that review!]


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The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.