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Translator and Voice-to-IPA

As with a handful of the other posts on this week’s project proposals I am venturing out here with a safe idea. Rather, I am beginning with two safe ideas for possible project proposals. In my discipline (music performance) there just happens to be a dearth of accurate resources online. Musicologists, non-performers are able to find historical documents and can gain digital access to recordings, scores and original manuscripts. Yet performers, specifically singers, are at a loss for useful online resources.

Our needs include accurate translations, accurate IPA translations of vocal texts in at least five languages, access to coaches/conductors/voice teachers (basically people with nice ears) and audition venues. Being fortunate enough to live in New York I can take the subway to almost all of these items, but often at a high price. For singers outside of major metropolitan centers these resources are all pretty much non-existent, even in printed form.

My goal is to utilize a WordPress-like format to catalogue proofed translations of sung texts from several to several languages (i.e. Russian poem into English/Italian/French/Portuguese), IPA transliterations which reflect fluent speakers’ review and face-to-face interaction capabilities. The input method should be variable and include live streaming audio. I know that is a long shot, but with a T1 cable this should be doable. Fidelity, editorship, bandwith and the hardware used to ‘mic’ all tend to jump out as huge issues beyond the actual development of this type of ‘tool’.

As if the project listed above that was not enough to bite off I would also like to work on web-based voice recognition software that does not translate your spoken sounds into printed text, but rather into IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). This element could be incredibly helfpul for engaging with coaches (language or music) online orcould be integrated into the input method of IPA translations into the WordPress site’s larger database. Beyond having a singerly musical use, this would be helpful for people communicating across different systems of writing and would begin help digitally categorize accents and dialects.

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  1. Christopher Stein says

    The basic why seems to be that singers who don’t live in the right geographical location don’t have access to helpful resources. But I also hear other why’s in there that I’d like to hear more from you on (expanding access to different languages, communication across languages in general…)
    Also since the class is focused on instructional technology perhaps you could put some of your why in that light as well.

    There are a few whats, and as you hinted, perhaps a few too many. I count:
    1. catalogue existing translations (preferably into IPA?)
    2. Communication between students and coaches/conductors/teacheres over the internet both recorded and synchronously
    3. voice recognition software that translates to IPA

    The third one sounds the most difficult. Unless you yourself are or you have access to programmers and linguists who are already working in this area, then by all means look into it but probably not in the context of a project for this class.

    The catalogue is the most straightforward of the bunch. And easiest to do piece by piece. Perhaps it is the most directly accessible way to go. Based on the site you mentioned in your most recent post, how would your catalogue be different?

    In that post you have a number of great questions around applying resources like this to a classroom setting. Is that perhaps what you are doing here, making a catalogue site that is set up in a way to make it education friendly and pedagogically sound?

    The communication what seems relatively straightfoward for the asynchronous part (there just needs to be a way to upload, categorize and view audio recordings), but a bit more difficult for the synchronous part. There are a number of services out there such as Skype or Google Voice, but I’m guessing that their audio quality might not be up to your standards.

    So far your who is relatively vague (I believe mostly people who don’t have direct access to resources). Is there a more specific group you might target for the project in the short term? A particular class or group of students? Getting more specific might help to clarify the what part as well.

    I’m assuming you’re planning on doing this through some kind of web-based platform.

    This of course depends on the What. In terms of the catalog then some kind of CMS (content management system) that you can customize seems to be where you’re headed. I would look around at WordPress, Drupal and such to see if you can find if many of the features you want are already created in some fashion.

    One of the things to think about here would be who adds in resources and how. Membership and signup is something to consider. WordPress now has custom post types (and plugins that help manage ) but to use this system usually you’ll need people to become members (that may be what you want them to do).

    There is also the wiki format like the site you mentioned ( These offer easy adding and editing but tend to be hard for developers to add functionality to and reconfigure the visual design.

    In case you’re interested in looking at developing your own synchronous communication component, here is an open source VOIP (voice over internet protocol) system that may be worth a look.

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