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Could T-Pain Make an Economics Lecture More Interesting?—A Commentary by Ian Ayres ’86

The following commentary was posted on newyorktimes.com on February 25, 2010.

Could T-Pain Make an Economics Lecture More Interesting?
By Ian Ayres ’86

I’ve written before about the hidden power of prosody – which concerns “the syllable length, loudness, pitch, and the formant frequencies of speech sounds.” This video, from the infamous Auto-Tune the News series, highlights the pitch that underlies speech (and identifies some particularly musical public figures):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bduQaCRkgg4&feature=player_embedded  

We sing more often than we think. I would bet that the speech of better orators is more easily auto-tuned.

One of my favorite iPhone apps is the “I am T-Pain” auto-tuner. I predict that we will soon start seeing auto-tuned mashups of all kinds of business and academic presentations. Imagine how an audience would react to an auto-tuned segment of a Freakonomics keynote address.

What is now fun and frivolous may some day help us improve our everyday speech. In fact, in the not-too-distant future, some of us may prefer to have the timbre and pitch of our spoken prose artificially enhanced in real time by an oration auto-tuner.