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If you’re like us here at Overheard/Underheard, then you’ve always longed to combine your two greatest passions: speech technology and pop music. The problem: How? How do you meld the early work of Madonna with automatic speech recognition? How do you bring together the songwriting of Barry Gibb and a top quality text-to-speech engine?

Well, today we have the answer to those questions, thanks to Erik Bünger, a Swedish artist, composer, musician, and writer. 

According to his Web site, Bünger “works with recontextualizing and remixing media—appropriated from existing music and film—in performances, installations, and Web projects.”  

And much to our delight, one of his Web projects—Let Them Sing It for You—makes use of speech technology. Created for the Internet art platform SRc of the Swedish National Radio, Let Them Sing It for You basically lets users type in any phrase and then converts the text into an audio file comprised of short clips from a strange and wonderful array of pop songs.

According to the site, Let Them Sing It for You has had more than 4 million individual users from all over the world. It also received the Content Fusion Award at Europrix 2004 in Vienna and a special commendation at Prix Europa 2004 in Berlin.

We tested out Let Them Sing It for You, and we were very pleased with the results. Our first attempt was somewhat ambitious. We typed in a quote from Speech Technology favorite Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark-raving mad.”

Much to our surprise, the program found a match for each word—sometimes using two or three clips to sound out a single word—and sung it back to us. It wasn’t beautiful, but it worked and featured a snippet we are almost positive was from Elton John.

Our next effort was simpler. We typed in, “I must stop eating my feelings.” This shorter, simpler phrase sounded a lot better, featuring a clip from Signs by the Five Man Electrical Band and a song by some 1980s band that everyone in the office had heard but couldn’t remember by name.

Check out Let Them Sing It for You at www.sr.se/p1/Src/sing/#.

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