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A while back, Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura captured the world’s attention after a surreal outburst at a press conference regarding his alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money. No doubt seeing fertile ground for comedy, one creative musician then made Nonomura the stuff of Internet legend by setting the man’s sobs to a guitar track.

Guitarist Felix Martin and his talented collaborators operate under a similar concept, setting guitar, drums, and bass to speeches from North Korean officials, Hugo Chavez, and others. This project isn’t for laughs, though. With an ear for the rhythm and pitch of the spoken word, not to mention masterful heavy metal stylings, Martin and company elevate the aptly named Human Transcription project to the realm of art. Politics and propaganda have never sounded so good.

Hailing from Venezuela, Felix Martin is known for playing self-designed 14-string electric guitars, which have enabled him to push the boundaries of the “tapping” style used by many recent guitarists. His website details his motivations for first embarking upon The Human Transcription almost three years ago.

“The main concept of The Human Transcription is to extract the music that comes from spoken words, in this case, speeches in different languages. In other words, to notate the natural human speaking voice into music notation, and then arrange it to the musical instruments.”

Contributing to the effort are bassist Kilian Duarte, drummer Phil Galatioto, and Martin himself. Clearly, the three have gone to great pains to capture the natural feel of several languages around the world, with famous speeches serving as a showcase for each. And so, without further ado, let’s take a look at some recent entries.

1. Korean

The video opens with a male North Korean official speaking to the camera. Though we can’t understand what he’s saying, the man’s tone and bearing suggest he’s expounding the virtues of some aspect of the regime. Martin and the band capture his speech perfectly, playing hard without overshadowing what Martin himself calls the “very tonal and rhythmic” Korean language.

As we meet the second speaker, a young female soldier, the music becomes lighter, almost bubbly. We see more of these variations as the video moves between male and female soldiers and officials. Just when you think you’ve gotten the gist, however, the music turns wild and fast as the camera pans over a mass rally in Kim Il-sung Square.

Things only get better later on as we see troops practicing martial arts and surveying field equipment. Maybe heavy metal is just what the regime needs to turn the propaganda machine up to 11.

2. Arabic 

In the project’s most recent upload, the three musicians give listeners a feel for Arabic’s fast tempo through none other than deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Though much of the music plays at a frenetic pace, matching Gaddafi’s exhortations and gesticulations, we hear a moment of relative calm around 0:37, as well as another switch-up at 2:34.

3. Portuguese

Featuring possibly the most energetic track yet, this video adds music to a speech from Lula da Silva, in which the former president of Brazil expresses solidarity with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Portuguese is known for being an expressive, musical language even without the addition of instruments, making this track all the more fitting. Note the burst of notes around 0:36, at the moment when the audience breaks out in applause.

At this point, Martin has uploaded four of a planned eight installments of The Human Transcription. Which politician will get featured next? We can’t wait to find out. In the meantime, check out the rest of the videos, as well as some incredible live performances, on Martin’s YouTube channel.

Source: Kotaku Japan, Felix Martin homepage
Featured image/video: YouTube