At the last Ordered Universe symposium the group made its third, and final, collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatise De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’. An intriguing, characteristically dense piece of writing, with the usual editorial conundrums, and a strange beauty to its construction, the DGS also sparked a series of reflections from a modern scientific perspective. The treatise deals with the notion of what sound is, showing Grosseteste’s familiarity with Aristotle’s De anima (probably in the translation by Gerard of Cremona), and human vocal production, showing his knowledge of Augustine (354-430) and Boethius (c.480-524) on music, Priscian (flourished around 500) and Isidore of Seville (c.560-636)on grammar and phonetics. However, as always with these works, the question of Grosseteste’s own interests and observations need to be considered, and not merely from the perspective of how he constructs his treatise and orders his thoughts. How he thought human vocal production worked, working through his written authorities, like Isidore, remains a central question. One of the issues Grosseteste works through is the relation between the shape of a vowel in its written form, and the sound of a vowel when uttered.
This is intriguing. So, led by David Howard, a specialist in computer engineering and re-production of the human voice, the project is running an experiment, for which we would greatly value input and engagement. What we’d like everyone to do is a very quick listening test: this can be downloaded from here:
The instructions are on the first slide of the display below: you’ll need a pair of headphones, and then all you have to do is match the sound you here to the suggestions for what it represents. If you could send your responses to David at: firstname.lastname@example.org, with Vowel Listening Test as the email title that would be brilliant. We’ll keep you posted on the results and let you know how they are analysed in 2016!