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First debuted at PMQ deTour 2021, The Interpreter invites two users to stand and speak into microphones mounted on two ends of the behemoth machine.

 

Watch as the exposed mechanisms go to work, translating the ebbs and flows of what was just said into hits on different drum pieces: do you hear what the other person is trying to say?

This is a playful twist on PMQ deTour 2021’s theme of “usefulness”: the machine recontextualises the use of language in music by removing its symbolic functions and amplifying the rhythms hidden within.

A multilingual person himself, Chaklam noticed that the lengths of syllables differ in Cantonese and English, thus the act of speaking invariably creates interesting rhythms.

 

With input from Jackie and programmer John Chau, the team was able to build an algorithm that harnesses features naturally occurring in everyday speech, such as pitch, duration and tonal change.

 

“Like music, language has underlying rhythms,”

Jackie said.

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The body: seven drums and six cymbals suspended in a chrome shell; the mind: a unique algorithm that is designed from the ground up with both musical and research applications in mind.

Algo-rhythmic Transformation

On first sight, The Interpreter looks to be a behemoth cut-up and arranged in an exploded view. Co-created by designer Chaklam Ng and linguist Dr. Jackie Lou, this machine strips speech of its symbolic meaning and transforms it into music.

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THE
INTEPRETER

LOST IN TRANSLATION

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The Interpreter is yet another excursion into the interpenetrating boundaries of music and language by Chaklam, after building a sound collage machine, PRP.

 

He continues to work on The Interpreter for musical applications and refining its algorithm, also exploring its use as a tool for linguistics research.


A digital version of The Interpreter featuring the same algorithm is set to debut online in February, 2022, talk to us.

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Specifications:

Credits

Dimensions: 4500mm X 1100mm X 1700mm

Commissioned by:  PMQ deTour 2021 

Co-created by: Chaklam Ng & Dr. Jackie Lou Jia

Instrument design: Chaklam Ng

Linguistics:  Dr. Jackie Lou Jia

Programmer: John Chau

Drum Consultant: Terry Wai Lun

Drum Technician: Derek Lee Kwun Wai

Video Production: Joshua Yiu

Project Assistant: Sze Hong Ki, Lo Wai Man