Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bicycle built for 2 or 2.000 ?

You surely remember the iconic scene from Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" when Hal slowly sings the song "Daisy Bell" at the moment of his deactivation.

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I'm half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage --
I can't afford a carriage,
But you'd look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

"Daisy Bell: A bicycle built for two" was composed in 1892. by Harry Dacre.
But what some people don't know is that Daisy Bell was the first song sung by a computer back in 1961, when the newly invented musical speech synthesis was presented at Bell Labs. Max Mathews, pioneer in computer music, and his two other colleagues were proud to present IBM 7094, as first singing computer. Coincidentally, on that day Arthur C.Clarke was visiting a friend at Bell Labs so he witnessed this historical moment. Being under this impression, Kubrick and him decided that HAL 9000 should sing "Daisy Bell" in the movie. To me, this is one of the creepiest scenes ever made.

Inspired by this story, in 2009. artists Aaron Koblin and Daniel Massey carried out one fascinating project. They had gathered voice recordings of 2088 people singing Daisy Bell, using Amazon's Mechanical Turk.The witty thing is that in this case man was imitating the computer because participants were asked to imitate the recording of a computer singing Daisy Bell. Also, participants were never told what was the idea behind this, so they became a part of one big sound puzzle without knowing the full context of the project.

Listen to Bicycle Built For Two Thousand here.

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