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1846 __ Euphonia
Professor Joseph Faber (?-?)
Comment : In the summer of 1846, a Viennese inventor known only as `Professor Faber', displayed a speaking automaton which he called `Euphonia' at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, a venue which would establish itself as a home of wizardry and wondrous mechanics. Following the lead of inventors like Kempelen, Faber had worked on the principle that the voice could be decomposed into a number of different elements, which could then be mechanically recombined. As far as one can tell from contemporary accounts and images, his figure employed a bellows operated by a pedal, a rubber tube for a trachea, rubber ligaments and an ivory reed to act as a larynx, and a movable lower jaw. Pitch was controlled by an adjustable screw. The Professor himself regulated the passage and modification of air by playing two keyboards, which presumably activated various preset configurations of the different parts of the apparatus to produce consonantal and vowel sounds. John Hollingshead has left us an extended account of the spectacle :.« I paid my shilling and was shown into a large room, half filled with boxes and lumber, and badly lighted with lamps. In the centre was a box on a table, looking like a rough piano without legs and having two key-boards. This was surmounted by a half-length weird figure, rather bigger than a full-grown man, with an automaton head and face looking more mysteriously vacant than such faces look. Its mouth was large, and opened like the eyes of Gorgibuster in the pantomime, disclosing artificial gums, teeth, and all the organs of speech. There was no lecturer, no lecture, no music - none of the usual adjuncts of a show. The exhibitor, Professor Faber, was a sad-faced man, dressed in respectable well-worn clothes that were soiled by contact with tools, wood, and machinery. The room looked like a laboratory and workshop, which it was. The Professor was not too clean, and his hair and beard sadly wanted the attention of a barber. I have no doubt that he slept in the same room as his figure - his scientific Frankenstein monster - and I felt the secret influence of an idea that the two were destined to live and die together. The Professor, with a slight German accent, put his wonderful toy in motion. He explained its action: it was not necessary to prove the absence of deception. One keyboard, touched by the Professor, produced words which. slowly and deliberately in a hoarse sepulchral voice came from the mouth of the figure, as if from the depths of a tomb. It wanted little imagination to make the very few visitors believe that the figure contained an imprisoned human - or half human - being, bound to speak slowly when tormented by the unseen power outside. No one thought for a moment that they were being fooled by a second edition of the "Invisible Girl" fraud. There were truth, laborious invention, and good faith, in every part of the melancholy room. As a crowning display, the head sang a sepulchral version of "God save the Queen," which suggested inevitably, God save the inventor. This extraordinary effect was achieved by the Professor working two keyboards - one for the words, and one for the music. Never probably, before or since, has the National Anthem been so sung. Sadder and wiser, I, and the few visitors, crept slowly from the place, leaving the professor with his one and only treasure - his child of infinite labour and unmeasurable sorrow. ». (John Hollingshead, My Lifetime, London, 1895.)The machine has been constructed from an attentive observation of the human organs of articulation; and the professor, by closely following nature in the formation of lungs, larynx, and mouth, has been able to make his machine extremely simple and manageable. [...] The mouth of this figure alone moves. At the back of the head is an apparatus like the bellows to a blacksmith’s forge, which acts as lungs for a supply of air necessary to articulation. Then, on one side are a number of keys, not unlike those of a pianoforte, communicating with the internal arrangements of the figure. By touching these singly, the sounds of the alphabet are produced, and, by touching them in combiantion, words and sentences are rapidly uttered. Nothing can be more simple and ingenious than the whole arrangement, nothing more surprising than the effects produced. The appearance would, however, be more scientific if the figure, which answers no purpose, were altogether dispensed with. The German alphabet is uttered more distincly than the english alphabet - in fact the machine speaks English with a German accent, but some sounds common to both languages are given with astonishing accuracy, as f, m, n, s, and x. (The Speaking Automaton, In The Living Age, Vol. X, by Eliakim Littell and Robert S. Littell, July-August-Sept. 1846)
French comment : Au XIXème siècle, Eugène Faber réalise Euphonia, une androïde qui est supposée dialoguer avec les spectateurs. (.In Luc Boutin, "BIOMIMÉTISME : GENERATION DE TRAJECTOIRES POUR LA ROBOTIQUE HUMANOÏDE A PARTIR DE MOUVEMENTS HUMAINS", THÈSE Pour l’obtention du grade de DOCTEUR DE L’UNIVERSITE DE POITIERS, Faculté des Sciences Fondamentales et Appliquées, 2009)Après Kempelen, Joseph Faber, professeur de mathématiques à Vienne, créa Euphonia (1835) machine pourvue de langue et de mâchoires en matériau flexible et de six diaphragmes modifiant pour chaque son la forme du canal buccal (Liénard 1991, Gessinger 1994). (Enrica Galazzi, "Physiologie de la parole et phonétique appliquée au XIXième et au début du XXième siècle", In "History of the language sciences: an international handbook on the evolution of the study of language from the beginnings to the present")
Source : Hollingshead, John (1895), “My Lifetime”, 2 Vols, London: Sampson, Low, Marston & Co., 1895, Vol 1, pp. 67-9.
Source : Anonymous (1846), “The Speaking Automaton”, In The Living Age, Vol. X, by Eliakim Littell and Robert S. Littell, July-August-Sept. 1846, Boston: E. Littel and Co, and In Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal, conducted by William and Robert Chambers, N°.141, Saturday, September 12, 1846 pp. 168-171; Quoted by Steven Connor.
Source : Connor, Steven (2000), “Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. “Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Urls : http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/skc/incidents/ (last visited ) http://irrationalgeographic.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/joseph-fabers-talking-euphonia/ (last visited ) http://www.haskins.yale.edu/featured/heads/SIMULACRA/euphonia.html (last visited ) http://www.futura-sciences.com/fr/doc/t/robotique-1/d/une-espece-en-voie-dapparition_178/c3/221/p2/ (last visited ) http://www.erudit.org/revue/cine/2006/v17/n1/016321ar.html (last visited ) http://www-lms.univ-poitiers.fr/IMG/pdf/PhD_Thesis_BOUTIN_Luc.pdf (last visited )

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