What goes on inside a rapper's mouth during a beatboxing session? Science wants to know!
Enter Shrinkanth Narayanan, a speech and audio engineer at the University of Southern California, who made recordings of a beatboxer performing in real time using MRI:
The investigators made 40 recordings each lasting 20-40 seconds long as the beatboxer produced all the effects in his repertoire, as individual sounds, composite beats, rapped lyrics, sung lyrics and freestyle combinations of these elements. He categorized 17 distinct percussion sounds into five instrumental classes — kick drums, rim shots, snare drums, hi-hats, and cymbals. The artist demonstrated his repertoire at several different tempos, ranging from slower at roughly 88 beats per minute, to faster at 104.
"We were astonished by the complex elegance of the vocal movements and the sounds being created in beatboxing, which in itself is an amazing artistic display," Narayanan said. "This incredible vocal instrument and its many capabilities continue to amaze us, from the intricate choreography of the 'dance of the tongue' to the complex aerodynamics that work together to create a rich tapestry of sounds that encode not only meaning but also a wide range of emotions."
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