Mouth Noises

by Steve Cross & Sophie Scott

Whilst working with opera sopranos, Steve Cross discovered that they think about and describe their mouths, lungs and sound-making abilities in ways that are totally different to how he thinks about his own vocal capabilities. He asked Prof Sophie Scott about this and she explained how her work with beatboxers has shown the same thing.

From conservatoire-trained opera singers to self-taught impressionists, the ‘voice professionals’ Steve and Sophie worked with have all come to understand how their mouth produces noises and how to keep their system in great shape for performance.

At this one-off MOUTHY event, Steve and Sophie explored the incredible range of sounds the human body can create via the experiences of professionals who make those noises for a living. Featuring an opera singer, an impersonator, a voice coach and an extreme vocalist, Mouth Noises, was an interactive talk and an opportunity the audience to try out some of the featured vocal techniques.


Steve Cross is a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow and freelance promoter of comedy and science events. He often works as Science Showoff, when hosting chaotic comedy cabarets. He created Food Showoff, a comedy night about how humans relate to food, with the Science Gallery and Helen Zaltzman, for the last season.

Twitter: @steve_x

Sophie Scott is a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London’s Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience. Her research explores both verbal and non-verbal communication and the human brain, studying how the brain supports communication and how this can go wrong. Sophie’s work uses brain imaging techniques such as fMRI to address these questions, as well as other behavioural and physiological techniques, including cross cultural studies. She has studied the human voice – from speech to identity, from beat boxing to impressionists, from emotion to meaning. Her work recently has addressed the role of social meaning in the voice, and also the nature of emotional authenticity in the voice. She has been pioneering the study of human laughter.


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