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Creative Research Lab

08 DEPTH OF FIELD - Senior Design Exhibition - May 2008

Christen Collier

Christen Collier
Breath (detail)

Speech is essentially air being forced out of the lungs and through the anatomy of the larynx, pharynx, mouth and nose. The sounds we hear are created by the manipulation of the anatomy into different sized and shaped vessels, and forcing air through them. The current written language as a system of symbols to map out speech, however, is missing any direct relationship with the anatomy of speech. It is instead a strictly memorized system of symbols. As my senior project, I developed a system of mapping breath during speech that is based entirely upon anatomy. This creates the possibility of a universal mapping system.I studied other systems of mapping and notation and found inspiration from musical notation and dance notation (labanotation) specifically. The note-like symbols correspond to the active articulators --lips, tounge, and jaw. The staff corresponds to the passive articulators --the locations such as alveolar ridge (behind the teeth at the roof of the mouth) where the active articulators act/touch. Each note tells how the air moves according to how the active articulator is formed, whether or not the vocal folds are vibrated, and how the air is being forced out. The staff represents the location where the action is taking place. So placing a note on the staff gives a complete picture of how the air is being controlled to form speech. The horizontal composition allows notes to be read in series and words to be formed. After developing the system, I used a program called Fontographer to apply all the sounds produced in the English language to the keyboard of a computer. This made it easier to map large texts such as Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech in full. I consider this system to be a newly created material that's best use has yet to be discovered.