Main content

The Voice As Contagion

Jennifer Lucy Allan explores the idea of voice as contagion with author Kristen Gallerneaux, tracing how the voice has haunted our technologies since the dawn of recorded sound.

How does the human voice haunt our technology? Jennifer Lucy Allan is joined by author, curator and artist Kristen Gallerneaux to explore the idea of voice as contagion. Gallerneaux’s research is steeped in the idea of the ‘sonic spectre’ looking at how sound has infiltrated our technologies in surprising and magical ways. In this, the first of our features looking at the big ideas behind the music we play, Kristen traces a path from the early talking dolls of Thomas Edison to the work of Richard Gagnon, the inventor of an early text-to-speech synthesizer called the Votrax Type ‘N Talk. The votrax voice, modelled on Gagnon’s own, has spread through electronic music and pop culture in surprising ways: Kraftwerk, hip hop, educational robots and video games.

Elsewhere the contagion for possessed electronics and vocal chinese whispers continues with scrambled signals and soulful non-sequiturs by Ain Bailey, Finnish inventor Erkki Kurenniemi and his potty-mouthed robot, Swedish sound artist Sten Hanson’s vocal excavations and new cuts from Late Junction favourite Klein.

Produced by Alannah Chance.
A Reduced Listening Production for BBC Radio 3.

23 days left to listen

2 hours

Music Played

  • Colette Magny


    • Répression.
    • Le Chant Du Monde.
    • LDX 74476.
  • Sten Hanson

    How Are You

    • Text-Sound Compositions.
    • Fylkingen Records.
    • FYLP 1022.
  • Loraine James

    Words Ears Mouth

    • For You And I.
    • Hyperdub.
  • Chik White & Xuan Ye

    Long May I Sleeppppp

    • Breath Fractals.
  • Klein

    Claim It

    • Lifetime.
    • ijn inc..
  • Maria Monti

    Il Pavone

    • Il Bestiario.
    • Rifi.
  • Winfried Muhlum-Pyrapheros

    Part III

    • Musica Nova Contemplativa.
    • Editions Blume.
  • Paul Bley & Annette Peacock


    • Improvisie.
    • America Records.
  • Fela Kuti

    Ye Ye De Smell

    • Fela with Ginger Baker Live.
  • Ain Bailey

    Five Car Train To Freemont

    • Call and Response 1.
    • Resterecords ‎.
  • Los Jilgueros de Huando

    Chinchi Chaka

    • Puro Tayta Shanti.
    • Little Axe Records ‎.
  • Land of Kush

    Broken Maqams

    • Sand Enigma.
    • Constellation.
  • Zonal & Moor Mother

    No Investigation

  • Mosquitoes


    • Veering Back To Venus.
    • Feeding Tube.
  • Wobbly

    Medieval Refrigerator

    • Monitress.
    • Hausu Mountain.
  • Fahmi Mursyid

    Hening (Saron)

    • One Instrument Sessions.
    • One Instrument Records.
  • Peter Zummo

    Leapfrog a Local

  • Louis Moholo Octet

    You Ain’t Gonna Know Me Cos You Think You Know Me

    • Spirits Rejoice.
    • Oto Roku.


Featured in...

Late Junction Albums of the Year 2018

Late Junction Albums of the Year 2018

Radio 3's adventurous music obsessives pick their records of the year.

Is the synth the ultimate feminist instrument?

Is the synth the ultimate feminist instrument?

Five pioneering women and the technology they made their own...