Composing & Performing

We encourage creative application (and misuse!) of Paperphone. We believe that there are more creative ways of implementing Paperphone than what we could imagine ourselves. Please drop us a note to share how you experiment with Paperphone.

We offer the following implementation suggestions for Paperphone:

1. Space and Place

As you’re making a sonic space, think about how you are defining the space. Are you recreating a physical space? If you’re creating a rhetorical space (e.g. delivering a thesis statement, stating a provocation, posing a counterargument,) which sonic qualities can help you construct this space?

Paperphone’s suite of effects could create an illusion of a space or place. The “Spacey” option on fixed preset menu provides an instant large-room resonance to envelope your voice. If you want to emulate a sounding space of your own, play with the settings of the Reverb effect. Try Reverb in combination with the echo effect to make a more complex sonic space. If you want to recreate a specific place (with temporal and geographic references), playback location recordings using the Audio File Player.

2. Medium, Transmission, and Temporality

Sounds carry qualities of their medium type and transmission process. The materiality and process of sonic transmission can connote temporal and locative ideas related to the sound source. Sounds that come out of a stadium, for instance, have a different rhetorical impact from sounds coming out of a small telephone speaker. Emulating sound sources and transmission process through timbral manipulations could be a creative approach to composing scholarship based in sound.

Effects such as Filter, Distortion, and Chorus could generate effects that emulate the medium of sound transmission. For instance, playing with the Filter settings could produce the illusion of a small speaker like a speakerphone or telephone. An addition of Distortion to the voice would create vintage, analog sound qualities like an old radio or record player. Try a combination of these effects to experiment with ideas related to temporality and medium of transmission. The Artifact preset, for example, is a result of combining Reverb and Chorus. This preset presents a small amount of unwanted noise resulting from sound manipulation. The Megaphone preset consists of Filter set to screen the low frequencies of the voice, in addition to a low level of Distortion.

3. Gender

Vocal register is highly gendered in our society. Queer scholarship has troubled gender connotations by deconstructing the physical qualities of sex, gender, and sexuality. Paperphone’s Pitchshift provides a context to for users to experiment with the gendering (or queering) of voice and scholarly content as it is presented and received. This exploration could contribute to the richness of meanings related to gendered notions such as authorship and authority; and, per our tester Steph Ceraso’s suggestion, to engage notions such genderqueer or speculate gender-neutral voice or audio.

In Paperphone, start by experimenting with the Pitchshift effect by sliding the frequency control up and down. Further, play with Pitchshift in combination with other effects like Vocoder, Distortion, Reverb, or Echo to create possibilities of gendering beyond the common binary and notions. Experiment with the presets appropriately name “Butch” and “Femme.” The Femme preset comes with a mid-range Pitchshift value accompanied by a slight amount of Reverb for a touch of flair elongating the tail of a phrase or sentence. The Butch preset setting comes with a low register Pitchshift value with a bit of Distortion for a staccato-like coarseness.

4. Machine

Vocal synthesis is a powerful tool to connote ideas related to machine, automation, synthesis, and artificiality. In addition to Paperphone’s Robot preset, Vocoder and Chorus provide a playground to experiment with the relationship between sounds and meanings of machine/system. These effects could be useful in illustrating concepts related to human-machine interface, cyborg theory, and more broadly to the disciplines of digital humanities, software studies, and technology studies. We also recognize the cultural association between the vocoded sound and machine (and other related concepts like artificiality) establish in pop culture including movie soundtracks and iconic artists like Kraftwerk and Laurie Anderson. Given that, we encourage our users to continue reinventing the meaning of vocoded sounds and interact with this semiotic history through playing with Paperphone.

5. Intelligibility and Noise

Applying audio effects to the voice could challenge the intelligibility limits of speech. In spite of practical concerns, intelligibility can be a fresh avenue to explore the relationship between sound and meaning. This exploration perhaps can be framed by concepts related to transparency, opacity, density, obscurity, ambiguity, ambivalence, etc. In Paperphone, experiment with sliders as you speak into the microphone. An apparent example of this can be accomplished with the Chorus density slider set to the right; or with the Echo delay time control set toward the right side of the slider.

For a dramatic, noise-based outcome of intelligibility experimentation, play with the Feedback feature of Paperphone. While the Feedback feature is on, you can experiment with effect combinations to change the sound of the feedback loop. The Filter effect can be used to tune the frequency of the feedback. The Distortion can be used to make the feedback more intense.  Reverb and Echo can be used to prolong the feedback indefinitely.

6. Part, Whole, and Layers

Richness in sound often comes with an experimentation with layering. Once layers of sounds are established, they resonate with one another and create a texture unique to the sonic content of each of the layers. Sampling as a technique can explore the dynamic between part and whole both in sound and in text. Think a word or a phrase that takes a particular conceptual role in your text. Isolating it and then playing it back could transform the meaning of that word or phrase, thus changing the semiotic relationship between this word and the entire text.

With Paperphone’s recording feature, the user can record a word, phrase, or even a paragraph or an entire essay. Then using the Audio File Player, the user can playback the recording while processing it with effects. Based on his or her semiotic intention, the user can further explore the sound with playback effects. For instance, looping the playback sound can yield a repetitive sound texture, potentially washing out the meaning of the recorded text. Additionally, experiment with other effects can transform the semiotics of the recorded text. Using effects like Reverb or Echo can fabricate a distinct sound space. The user could talk over the played-back recording while adjusting it as a low volume. This approach would create a separation between foreground and background, emulating depth in sound.

7. Contexts of Implementation

There are other potential applications of Paperphone besides scholarly paper presentations. We encourage unconventional applications such as academic karaoke (e.g. “critical karaoke”), cross-genre production like scholarly poetry (i.e. blurring the boundaries between expository and creative writing), collaborative performance modes like scholar-artist tag teams (e.g. scholar talks while a sound artist interacts with the sound in real-time).

With the Feedback feature, the user can take a live signal from the microphone, and then feed that back into the system. Our tester Gabriele de Seta’s (@SanNuvola) suggested that this process, especially from working with sounds from the room, audience, or a particular vocal gesture could create a loop of “cumulative noises & silence.” We imagine that this feedback capacity could radically question the distinction between academic presentation and sound performance, as it would heighten the audience’s awareness of sound during a performance/presentation.