Technology Puts the Universal Back in Music

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A new technique for "phoneme extraction" translates singers' voices into other languages. Arie Deutsch, co-founder and president of the entertainment division at Voxonic, explains the process.


Okay. So I know you danced to this song at some wedding, or maybe pulled it out during karaoke.

(Soundbite of song, "Bust A Move")

Unidentified Woman #1: If you want it, you've got it. If you want it, baby, you've got it.

YOUNG MC (Rapper): (Rapping) Just bust a move.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) If you want it…

STEWART: But keep on listening.

(Soundbite of song, "Bust A Move")

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) …you've got it. If you want it, baby, you've got it.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) In the city ladies look pretty. Guys tell jokes so they can seem witty. (Spanish spoken) What do I say? (Spanish spoken) Make me say no way. (Spanish spoken) You got no money and you got no car, then you got no woman and there you are.

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) Some girls are sophistic, materialistic…

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping): So, on the beach you're strolling, real high-rolling.

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.

YOUNG MC: (Rapping) Everything you have is yours and not stolen.

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh.

Unidentified Man #1: A girl runs up with something to prove so…(Spanish spoken).

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) If you want it…

STEWART: Ay, dios mio. I mean, it sounds like (unintelligible) switching back and forth between English and Spanish. But it's not, exactly. What you're hearing is thanks to a new technology developed by company called Voxonic. Voxonic creates translation of music into any language into the voice of the original singer. They're working with rapper Prodigy, whose new album may end up in a bunch of other languages. And they've just released Ky-Mani Marley's new single, "The March," in English and Spanish.

Here to explain the magic is the president of Voxonic, Arie Deutsch.

Hey, how are you?

Mr. DEUTSCH (Co-founder and President, Entertainment Division, Voxonic): Very good. Thank you for having me.

STEWART: All right. Can you explain to me how this works?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DEUTSCH: Basically, what we do is we have a song translated by hand, then what we do is we have someone go into the studio, repeat the foreign language version as the English version, the same style and same manner.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DEUTSCH: So with that, we have now a French version of the song, and we also have an English version of the song. Then we take the software - using the software, we take the voice of the original artist and put it on top of the foreign language words.

STEWART: So where did the idea come from?

Mr. DEUTSCH: The idea came from the chairman of the company, Fred Deutsch. He was watching a Harrison Ford movie on an airplane going to France. And he was listening to it in French in order to improve his French.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DEUTSCH: And he wasn't laughing at the same parts of the movie that he did when it was in English. In fact, it doesn't even sound like Harrison Ford. It doesn't make sense. How do we this? And the next day, he went on this mission…

STEWART: To try to figure out how to ape the voice - or do they actually - do you actually take the syllables and the intonations from the actual artist and then just sort of rearrange them into the new language?

Mr. DEUTSCH: Yeah, pretty much. What we do is we take 10-minute voice sample. From the 10-minute voice sample, we have every sound of the voice that the voice - that that song will make. We have all phonemes.


Mr. DEUTSCH: So what we do is we actually realign phonemes, but it's a very - it's not a slow process. It's a very quick process. When you run it through the system, it's actually, you know, for every three minutes of speech that needs to be transformed, it really is only three minutes of processing power.

STEWART: And you just warped my mind. I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Let's listen to another example, while I get my mind unwarped. This is Ky-Mani Marley.

(Soundbite of song, "The March")

Mr. KY-MANI MARLEY (Rapper): (Rapping) Yo left, yo left, yo left, right, left. Yo left, yo left, yo left, right, left. Yo left, yo left, yo left, right, left. Yo left, yo left, yo left, right, left. I'm feeling crazy. I got my mind made up, I'm going to (unintelligible).

STEWART: Okay. That's Ky-Mani Marley rapping "The March" in English. Let's hear the Spanish adaptation.

(Soundbite of song, "The March")

Mr. MARLEY: (Rapping) (Spanish spoken)

STEWART: Is part of this just about wanting more people to understand music…

Mr. DEUTSCH: Totally.

STEWART: …rather than just a business prospect?

Mr. DEUTSCH: Totally. I mean, I do for the love of music. Prodigy, for example 0 Prodigy is the reason that we started our record label. He was like, you know what? You make sense. Because when I go to France, they know the lyrics that I'm singing in English. But when I go to meet them backstage at the show, they can't hold a conversation with me. I was like, it doesn't - it's not fair to the Europeans and to the - to, you know, the people that don't speak English to buy our album and not understand what you're saying, especially with all the value that you're saying. So we definitely need to put this in a different language.

STEWART: Do the artist trip out when they hear themselves?

Mr. DEUTSCH: Totally. Totally.

STEWART: What's that like the first time you play it for them?

Mr. DEUTSCH: It awesome. Prodigy lost it. Oh, my God. Yo, that's me. Really?

Mr. DEUTSCH: It can also be used as a communication tool between politicians, between world leaders.

Mr. DEUTSCH: Totally.

STEWART: Have you tried this with…

Mr. DEUTSCH: Yeah, we had a politician that went to China that used is - I can't speak on who it was.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DEUTSCH: But he used the technology to give his intro. He went on like a seven-city speaking tour and he used the, like the first minute and a half, he used the Voxonic technology in order to welcome all the people there.

STEWART: All right. I know that on your Web site - if you want to check it out, there's a - it looks like - is it Bill Clinton's inauguration?

Mr. DEUTSCH: Which, actually, that was the first time we ever did, but years ago.


Mr. DEUTSCH: Yeah.

STEWART: Well, let's take a listen if we can.

(Soundbite of speech)

President BILL CLINTON: A generation raised in the shadows of the Cold War…(Spanish spoken)

STEWART: That's so wild.

Pres. CLINTON: …but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues.

STEWART: President of Voxonic, Arie Deutsch, thanks for being here.

Mr. DEUTSCH: Thank you so much.

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