Syllable from Sound is a sound installation that integrates the voices of it’s visitors into a sonic amalgam of their participation. The work was developed at Alfred University’s Institute of Electronic Arts and first presented in 2014 at the Arteles Creative Center Residency in Finland. Partly inspired by Idle Chatter, composer Paul Lansky’s pulsating, electronic transformation of the human voice, Syllable From Sound essentially reverse engineers that concept into a new kind of instrument for a relational experience.

A microphone is placed at the center of the room with four speakers placed in each corner. Visitors are invited to speak, sing or make noise into the microphone, activating a Max/MSP software patch to automatically record it onto one of the speaker channels. Those voices are transformed into a tapestry of rhythms and effects, through sequencing, spatialization and filtering processes they are integrated into an ongoing sound composition. Each time a new voice is added it replaces a previous one, and the software programming advances that channel to the next section of the piece. In this way, participants may interact with their companions or with visitors to the installation from hours earlier. When a new voice has not been added within five minutes, the composition will transition to a hushed ambient drone and only reactivated upon the next interaction. The next phase of this work will be to commission other composers to write for this instrument, learning it’s intricate possibilities and acquiescing to it’s chance implications.