Monday, May 22, 2006

Former police audio engineer applies skills to Da Vinci Code voices

What our voices sound like depends on a lot of factors - vocal tract length, coarseness of vocal cords (which is in turn influenced by testosterone levels, smoking, etc.), and shape of the jaw, just to name a few. One former police audio engineer, Matsumi Suzuki, of the Japan Acoustic Lab in Tokyo has reconstructed the voices of Da Vinci and Mona Lisa for commercial purposes. The reconstructed voices are being used as part of the promotional efforts for the recent movie, The Da Vinci Code, which, in case you've been temporarily disconnected from mainstream media for the last year or more, is based on an artsy-religious-historical-thriller book by Dan Brown.
Personal aside: As I've been a Freemason for many years and am also keen on history and religion, I really am amazed at the amount of interest in 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons'. I hopeful that these bits of pop-fluff entertainment will entice more people of all persuasions into studying more about our past (and judging by the number of books in the local bookshops on all aspects of 'The Code', somebody must be). It is my fervent belief that we have a lot to learn from our ancestors. They were people just like us in their struggles, hopes, and dreams but probably a good bit smarter and wiser since they actually used their senses and brains for analyzing things, both small and large.
I originally got onto this topic via this article on PhysOrg but after some digging around trying to find an actual link to the Japan Acoustic Lab webpage (which I didn't ever find) I came across a more comprehensive write-up on the origins of the Da Vinci and Mona Lisa reconstructions. It turns out that the lab was reconstructing various famous voices that are now sold as ringtones for mobile phones.

As far as forensic science goes, I was pleased to see that many of the articles I found on the Internet about the reconstructions did point out that there were a lot of assumptions that had to be made, including Mona Lisa's height for starters as she is sitting down in her portrait.

(Image source:
J@pan Inc. website)

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