David M. Howard

Electronic engineer, audio scientist
David M. Howard works on human voice production and perception with a special focus on the human singing voice. He was a member of the team that created a vocal sound from the 3,000 year-old Egyptian mummy Nesyamun.

Why you should listen

David M. Howard is a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, who researches human voice production and human hearing in the context of speech, singing and the pipe or electronic organ. He also plays the organ in his local church and conducts a local Choral Society. He is intrigued by what we can do with our voices, such as beatboxing and overtone singing, and is keen to understand better what is possible as human vocal outputs and overall vocal resilience. He invented the Vocal Tract Organ, having been inspired by the "speaking machine" of Baron von Kempelen in the late 18th century. The Vocal Tract Organ uses 3-D printed vocal tracts for different vowels as its pipes, sitting on special loudspeakers to which a larynx source is applied. It can be played from a keyboard with organ stops to select different vowels or by using a single (pitch) slider where the slider has to be moving for there to be an output sound. He used his Vocal Tract Organ to create a vowel sound from the 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy Nesyamun, which continues to attract considerable international attention and acclaim.

David M. Howard’s TED talk