Machine - Man - Machine, 2021
Boris Shershenkov
Interactive light and sound installation
The proposed device is of great interest for scientific research in the field of the physiology of hearing and vision and should provide new opportunities for studying the interaction of these sense organs. The scheme for the transformation and analysis of musical sounds is of independent importance. With appropriate changes, this scheme can be used to analyze speech sounds. The creation of sound speech analyzers that imitate the properties of the auditory system is extremely important for solving a number of issues related to the study of the physical characteristics of speech and speech transformation.

L. Chistovich and V. Glezer, employees of the Institute of Physiology named after I. P. Pavlov of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Commentary on the article by K. Leontiev "Light and Music", "Technology-youth", No. 10, 1959

The 60s of the twentieth century — the golden age of analog technology. Radio and television networks, analog computers, nuclear power plants and spaceships have already been created — cybernetic machines, comparable in complexity to living organisms. For the first time in history, a person becomes only one of the elements of a technological system, and is forced to adapt and function in a technogenic environment, communicating and working together with automatic devices, which are now viewed not as tools, but as independent actors.

One of the main tasks of that time was the creation of a communication system common to machines and humans, over the solution of which both engineers and scientists from various industries, as well as artists of the new technological era, fought. The problem of "man-machine" was especially pronounced in the newborn space industry, where the reliability of an alien biological element was also determined by the normal operation of sensor systems in difficult conditions of a spacecraft.

All these questions became important in 1959 when in the Institute of Physiology named after I.P. Pavlov was created the Sector of Space Biology and Physiology. In particular for the research team of the Laboratories of Physiology and Biophysics of Speech headed by Lyudmila Andreevna Chistovich and Valery Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov. Based on the motor theory of speech, which presupposes the transition from the auditory image of a speech signal to its motor image, in the late 1950s, they developed a special technique for the complex registration and measurement of articular parameters in the dynamics of the speech flow — one of the most effective analog methods of transmitting information from an astronaut to technical devices.

The issues of information transfer from a machine to a person were also considered in the Laboratories in the context of automatic speech recognition as a simulation of psychophysiological processes of reproduction, perception and understanding of speech by a person. Here, one of the possible, but never realized directions, was cooperation with audiovisual artists, in particular the engineer of the Institute of Automation and Telemechanics of the USSR Academy of Sciences Konstantin Leontyevich Leontiev, who was engaged in the development of an "electronic ear" - a sound visualization system based on the physiology of hearing, as well as Bulat Makhmudovich Galeev and employees of SKB "Prometey" of the Kazan Aviation Institute, who in the same years created installations for "visible speech", new systems for transmitting audio-visual information and "color library" for space on the instructions of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev.

Sound and light installation The "Machine — Man — Machine" system is a reflection on the possible results of a failed collaboration between scientists, engineers and artists of the era of early space exploration, embedding a man inside the cybernetic system as one of the equal elements.

The installation is located inside a damped chamber — an installation that I.P. Pavlov used to study the phenomenon of sensory hunger, which in the space age became a kind of model of the closed environment of a spacecraft.

The motor indicators of articulation of a person in the chamber are converted into sound signals using a phoneme synthesizer and autonomous electroacoustic devices.

The audio signals are then analyzed according to the principles of experimental studies of speech sounds, which took place under the leadership of L.A. Chistovich in the 60s, in which the auditory system was considered as a spectral analyzer with certain selective characteristics, identifying voiced speech sounds by formants, i.e. maxima on the spectral envelope.

And the results of the analysis, in turn, become visible thanks to autonomous devices and projection-raster light-music indicators, continuing the ideas of K.L. Leontiev and B.M. Galeev in the field of transmitting information about the state of the system and combating sensory hunger by audiovisual methods.