We are creating an opera to explore permanent voice loss and identity.

The project brings together people with lived experience of voice loss to work with artists, academics, technology, healthcare and medical professionals.

Making this opera involves an intimate exchange of knowledge and sharing of practice between the professionals in diverse sectors. All are learning from each other’s different approaches and expertise within a shared subject of the voice.

We are all committed to positively impacting the wellbeing and vocal freedom of those who experience loss or change of voice. We aim to create a new opera of artistic excellence and develop technology and new practice that leaves long-lasting, real life legacy.

These unique cross-sector collaborations will:

  • Enable those who have experienced loss of voice the chance to sing, nurture their creativity and enable them artistically to thrive.
  • Develop and experiment with new technology that will enable those who have experienced voice loss the ability to sing and express themselves musically.
  • Build a collective, multi-view narrative with those connected to voice loss, including: those living with motor neurone disease; people who have had laryngectomies; those affected by Parkinson’s disease; their families; and the healthcare professionals and researchers that support them.
  • Explore and understand how the human voice connects to our identity, memory, well-being and society, encouraging deeper public insight and reflection about the value of the human voice.

 

The words and music will evolve from research interviews, interactive workshops and personal accounts from those who have been affected by voice loss.

The opera will reflect diversity within society, giving voice to the stories of those affected by voice loss. We will empower those who have no voice/larynx to connect with audiences and provoke debate.

How would you describe your voice? How much of yourself is in your voice?

What assumptions do you make about others from the sound of their voice?

Can someone else ever truly speak on your behalf? How do we memorise the sound of a voice?

How is singing different to speech? Is singing a human right?

Every year, thousands of people in the UK experience temporary or permanent loss of voice. Stroke, throat cancer and motor neurone disease are amongst the main causes. Losing their personal vocal quality and ability to express themselves affects not only the patients but their surrounding community. Loss of voice impacts personal identity, affects social confidence and the changes how relationships are formed, both new and old.

This piece will put untold, real life stories on stage. Those who have lost their voice will be at the heart of the devising process. We want to change public perceptions. We’ll explore how audiences can participate in live performance via ‘voice banking’ and live monitoring techniques.

 

Developing technology to impact creative wellbeing         

In the last ten years, technical innovation and discovery in the area of ultra- realistic electronic voice generation has been prolific creating new, emotive voices that have personal and genetic resonance. At the same time, the electronic music industry has perfected the art of creating life-like synthesized sung voices. There has been no artistic collaboration that asks these industries to work together to ask, how can people who have lost their voices sing again?

Those with permanent voice loss are often unable to access the best artificial voice technology on the market and there are multiple barriers for someone with loss of voice to participate in music or to communicate on stage.

Communication technology exists, but nothing that enables them vocal freedom of expression or that grants them the possibility to sing again. We’ll take the raw tech directly to those with lived experience of voice loss and work with them to create something new; personalised, sung voices.

We’ll design and trial new music and speech technology to enable them the opportunity to be musical in new ways, develop their means of creativity, explore their vocal dreams and potential and empower them to inhabit alternative vocal identities.

 

Opera and bio-medical product development                                                        

To our knowledge, this is the first time music or singing has been used within biomedical product development. Conventional methods of “end-user” engagement have been deficient in this regard and understanding deeper human expression/emotion is essential for individual and societal acceptance of the proposed solution to human disease and disability. This project is a unique cultural opportunity to work cross-industry. It will bridge this disconnect and draw the public into a rich dialogue regarding health/wellbeing, the arts, science and technology.

The work aims to raise the profile of the vital necessity for equality and diversity within the arts, promoting the role the voice has for us all as creative individuals at work, home and in our culture. The project will demonstrate that creating new works of art can be the catalyst for technological innovation and new research practice across medical, arts and sociological fields.

 

Artistic Director and Founder | Hannah Conway

Writer | Hazel Gould

Producer | Katherine Wilde

Medical Director | Thomas Moors

 

Sound Voice | Sound iD are in partnership with Shout At Cancer and Cereproc and in collaboration with UCL Culture, Snape Maltings, Nordoff Robbins Music Centre, Sing For Joy Choirs and Royal Holloway. Funded by the Arts Council, Shout At Cancer, UCL Culture and UCL Innovation and Enterprise and made possible by the generous support of Snape Maltings Artist Residency programme.