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Nose and mouth

Language Removal Service {format} {format} 4:47 Larry Massett

Language without the words.

Broadcast: Jun 11 2003 on NPR All Things ConsideredSeries: Language Removal Subjects: Comedy, Technology, Spoken Word

Profile: Act of voice removal

June 11, 2003 from All Things Considered

MICHELE NORRIS, host: When we humans attempt to speak, we must force air out of our lungs, past our vocal chords, use our throats and nasal cavities to add tone and use the tongue, palate and lips to adjust the sound further. As you might imagine, with all that speech hardware working away, a lot of other noise is made. Independent producer Larry Masset found a man who has a special interest in all those unintentional sounds.

LARRY MASSET reporting:

Please meet Douglas Flieshut, artist, inventor and co-founder of Language Removal Services.

Mr. DOUGLAS FLIESHUT (Co-founder, Language Removal Services): What--what is Language Removal Services? Language Removal Services is--is--it's--it's--Language Removal Services is--we are...

MASSET: Wait a minute. What is Doug trying to say and who does he talk so funny?

Mr. FLIESHUT: It--it seems that--that there are many sort of--I mean--they're--they're--and there are many--there are many uses for--for the service.

MASSET: As a matter of fact, he doesn't talk funny. We all talk this way, with ums and ahs and static of all kinds. You don't hear it much in radio or TV because somebody, some editor like me, has come along and cleaned up the tape. Here is Doug Flieshut with the static removed.

Mr. FLIESHUT: We are the world's leading provider of language removal services. There are many uses for the service.

MASSET: Right. And what they do is the opposite of what I just did. I took out the static; they take out the language. What's left are the breaths and the lip smacks and ums and ahs, all the stuff we're usually not supposed to listen to. Doug calls this a static language portrait. Here, for example, is Marlene Dietrich.

(Soundbite of static language portrait of Marlene Dietrich)

MASSET: Now here's Sylvester Stallone. Note the jungle sounds in the background.

(Soundbite of static language portrait of Sylvester Stallone with jungle noises)

MASSET: Notice, too, that in some odd way you can still recognize Stallone or Dietrich as though taking away the words reveals an essence of the personality.

Mr. FLIESHUT: These static language portraits are really frozen portraits of a person's speaking habits, and they outline a spirit or soul that underlies that language.

(Soundbite of static language portrait of Maya Angelou)

MASSET: The poet Maya Angelou.

Mr. FLIESHUT: We're not interesting really in taking away the language as much as substituting a more fundamental and sort of essential language based on the body, on breath and suck and hum.

(Soundbite of static language portrait)

MASSET: After a while, after you get over the fun of recognizing your favorite celebrity, `Oh, that's Marilyn Monroe. Hey, Miles Davis,' you find yourself listening to them almost as music. Sometimes they really are music. Here is what language removal does to the late 19th-century Italian opera singer Ottolini Porto.

(Soundbite of ecstatic language portrait of Ottolini Porto)

MASSET: Here I suspect they've done something a little more complicated than just cut out the voice. Flieshut calls this an ecstatic portrait, and he's a big cagey about the technique.

Mr. FLIESHUT: How is it done? I don't know that I would feel comfortable telling you that, because it's a dog-eat-dog world; the world of language removal, that is.

MASSET: In any case, if you're interested, you can look them up on the Web, check out their new CDs and their recent projects. You'll also find you can hire them to remove your language.

Mr. FLIESHUT: There are many uses for the service, which range from self-awareness to vanity to identification and security purposes. Our clients range from the stars to very ordinary people. We don't turn anyone away.

MASSET: I should warn you, though, Flieshut says sometimes removing a person's language to expose the essence will expose instead the lack of essence.

Mr. FLIESHUT: We have performed a language removal on a personality and come up with absolutely nothing. One is led to the conclusion that certain people don't have a soul.

MASSET: The choice is yours.

(Soundbite of static language portrait)

MASSET: For NPR News, I'm Larry Masset.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.