The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


5137 Westlawn
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034

Release: Feb. 2, 2001

Public invited to UI Presidential Lecture on the human voice Feb. 18

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A fascination with the human voice led Ingo Titze, Ph.D., University of Iowa Foundation Distinguished Professor in the department of speech pathology and audiology and the School of Music, to apply his scientific expertise as a physicist and engineer to research issues related to the voice and vocal music.

Titze has studied such topics as biomechanics of human tissues, voice disorders, professional voice production, musical acoustics and the computer simulation of voice. He will share his enthusiasm and knowledge -- and even a few songs -- when he presents the 2001 Presidential Lecture, "Fascinations with the Human Voice," at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18 in the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

The free lecture, which opens with two Mozart tenor-baritone duets sung by Titze and John Muriello, assistant professor of voice in the UI School of Music, will focus on five "fascinations."

"The first fascination I'll discuss is how it's possible that such great sounds can come from basically a fairly lousy instrument," said Titze, who directs the National Center for Voice and Speech, a consortium of investigators at the UI, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the University of Utah.

"If you look at the way the human vocal folds and vocal tract are structured, compared to what we see in high-quality man-made instruments that are constructed to make beautiful sounds, you'd think this critter has no chance," he said. "Yet with a wonderful brain attached, we're able to compensate for and make use of these irregularities and not-so-nice properties of the tissues."

Titze will use visuals to help illustrate dimensional differences between certain musical instruments and the voice.

The other four fascinations he will describe include: what our voice tells others about us, from mood to health to social upbringing; how well the voice and the ear work together acoustically; how powerful the voice can be in terms of revealing emotions or protecting ourselves or others from danger; and how easy it is to use a computer to simulate the vocal bravado we hear in voices like

opera great Luciano Pavarotti, yet how difficult it is to use a computer to reproduce simple ordinary speech.

Pavarobotti, the singing robot designed by Titze that uses sophisticated computer simulation of the human voice, will not be "performing" at the lecture. However, Titze will provide related sound recordings and video.

Titze hopes people will come away from his lecture not only with an increased understanding of the human voice but also with a greater awareness of the need to be more health conscious about preserving their voices.

"We hear so much about protecting our ears and hearing, but so little has been said about protecting our voice-production organs," Titze said. He will also tell people about outreach programs at the National Center for Voice and Speech.

Titze has published more than 250 articles in scientific and educational journals. He also is the author of the book "Principles of Voice Production," and coedited two books in a series entitled "Vocal Fold Physiology." He is currently completing two additional books ,"Vocology" and "The Myoelastic-Aerodynamic Theory of Phonation." He is an associate editor of the Journal of Singing and has written a bi-monthly column in this journal for 20 years.

Titze is a recipient of the William and Harriott Gould Award for laryngeal physiology, the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigation Award, the Claude Pepper Award, the Quintana Award of the Voice Foundation, and the American Laryngological Award. He is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, and the American Laryngological Association.

He and his work have been featured in several well-known television programs, including "Innovation," "Quantum," and "Beyond 2000."

In addition to his scientific endeavors, Titze continues to be active as a singer, giving several recitals a year in the United States and Europe, at times joined by Pavarobotti.

The National Center for Voice and Speech can be visited online at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.