CyberSongs is a transhuman song cycle for human-like computer voices by composer/artist Barbara Ellison. With this new work Ellison delves into the sonic intricacies of voice avatars and the ‘musicalisation’ of TTS (Text-to-Speech), a type of speech synthesis application that is used to create a spoken sound version of raw text in a computer document. In the 13 tracks on this album she creates hypnotic textures of vocal utterances through the intensive and extensive use of repetition as tools and materials to give rise to surprising audible phenomena of a fascinating and odd musicality.
In the obsessively phantasmatic transhuman song cycle of the CyberSongs, words, morphemes, phonemes, phrases and speech particles acquire constantly-shifting new aural meanings. Unlimited by the speed of articulation these ‘beyond human’ voices, in a range of different languages, feature and embrace glitches and artifacts that are a result of a process of pushing the limits of the technology. These voices are finally set within an electronic sound environment, with references to real-world instruments, that can be described as having an off-kilter jazz or pop aesthetic.
Barbara Ellison is an Irish composer and intermedia artist based in the Netherlands. Her work explores states of auditory and visual ambiguity through working with materials that are either naturally ambiguous or that she has altered to attain this quality in order to exploit the potential for apophenia to manifest, and to create what she calls perceptual ‘Phantoms’. Ellison has developed working methods that encompass and coalesce all kinds of sources, materials, techniques and creative tools, from exploring and performing with amplified objects (Drawing Phantoms), creating voice avatars with trans-human capabilities (Vocal Phantoms), or carrying out field expeditions from diverse environments such as the Arctic, the Himalayas, or the Amazonian rainforest (Natural Phantoms).
Barbara Ellison has a PhD from the University of Huddersfield, UK (Sonic Phantoms). Her book Sonic Phantoms - Composition with Auditory Phantasmatic Presence, co-authored with Thomas B.W. Bailey, 2020) and a full podcast and interview with her on the Anechoic Chamber podcast are great introductions to her work.
Barbara Ellison has appeared previously on Unsounds in the volume of texts and music Things That A Mutant Needs To Know (2013).