Vox populi Vox dei by Katia Elkaim


Master Raven on a perched tree, held a cheese in his beak. Master Fox by the odor, attracted by the scent, of his voice made use, and held this language to him...

From my window open on this glorious autumn day, I hear calls, but also some laughter. As I try to concentrate on my work, my mind drifts and, without being aware of it, proceeds to a proper analysis of these disturbing noises.

There are three different voices and all three are young. I can tell by their tone of voice and by the words they are using . They are masculine because of their tonality. I can hear the breath in one of the three, and I visualize in its owner a certain heaviness, while the other two are clear and sharp, as slender as the blade of a knife. One of them has a southern accent and must have dark hair.

Will I get up from my desk to check? By the time I make up my mind, the voices have stopped and when I lean out the window, I don't see anyone.

This little game has made me think about my own voice, about its lack of proper pronunciation that I pretend not to know, about this voice that no one ever hears except from the inside.

The voice, the speech that allows us to communicate, the voice of the singer that delights or the voice that expresses a suffrage.

Three different voices, three same words.

I thought back to those decisive voices, recognizable among all: that of General de Gaulle at the time of the June 18 appeal, that of Martin Luther King's dream on August 28, 1963, or that of Robert Badinter, pleading before parliament for the abolition of the death penalty, because he said: "Guillotining is nothing more than taking a man and cutting him, alive, into two pieces.”

Let us imagine for a moment the impact of these essential messages without the vocal fervor of the men and women who carried them.

In the name of the purity of the sounds, we went so far as to commit the worst atrocities. If I tell say the names Atto Melani (1626-1714), Antonio Bagniera (1638-1740), Giovanni Grossi called "Siface" (1653-1697), Francisco Pistocchi (1659-1726) or Carlo Broschi known as "Farinelli" (1705-1782), you will remember that these men were emasculated so that their prepubescent voices would be preserved forever. The legend says that at the end of the 18th century, the castrati were amputated by the bite of a swan, a way of making this abomination more poetic and the birds more despicable.

I then sat in my armchair to listen, with my eyes closed to try to recognize them, a dozen famous voices, with the feeling of hearing relatives. Maria Callas, Freddy Mercury, Sir David Attenborough, Jean Gabin, Dame Judy Dench, as many voices, as many signatures, and even that of Florence Foster Jenkins, who in the air of the Queen of the Night has definitely won the award of ridicule but also the award of being the precursor of a phenomenon today, gigantic and trivialized: "The Voice"!

But beyond the organ, let us stop for a moment, in these times of election and restrictions on the impact that the voice of the citizen represents. It is the essence of democracy, this social contract between humans by which we decide to abide by the rules we have adopted in common, and by which we entrust our destiny to men and women with the clear mandate to do everything possible to ensure our well-being.

Speaking of well-being, sorely needed in these times of pandemic, I was finally not surprised to learn that researchers were trying, thanks to artificial intelligence, to detect various health problems in an early and non-invasive way, just by the sound of the voice.

For example, Israeli start-up Vocalis Health asked volunteers who tested positive for COVID-19 to record their voices in an application, describing an image and then counting from 50 to 70.

Apparently, it was possible to identify a voice print for the disease by comparing it to the voices of people who tested negative.

At the same time, scientists at EPFL developed an application to detect the coronavirus through coughing. To participate in their research, anyone can register their cough on https://coughvid.epfl.ch/.

More than ever, our voices are our identities, so it is our responsibility to decide who to give it to, remembering more than ever that, as La Fontaine said, "every flatterer lives at the expense of the one who listens to him".

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