“My whole world it’s a man’s voice,” says Harry Yeff. And he’s not just talking about his past life as a beatboxer hero (aka Reeps One). Yeff is also a digital artist, and has traveled the world meeting artists and artists who share his passion. He has spent the last five years collecting, explaining, the most important words in the world.
The goal of his project is a simple fact: Every day, words that can be saved disappear – whether it is a bird that is about to disappear or a digital voice that is lost in a phone switch. That’s why Yeff and his partner Trung Bao created Voice Gems: a project that uses AI to turn famous and vulnerable voices into digital gems and physical sculptures. These AI-generated gems are not random: A voice with a low pitch will take on a deep blue quality; this construction shows that the person spoke slowly and calmly; children’s voices, with great resonance, leave behind rainbow-colored jewels.
Yeff has recorded quotes from celebrities such as Ai Weiwei, Jane Goodall, and Lily Cole. But they also keep many personal words. He tells the story of an audience member who wanted to propose to his friend and was approached after the WIRED event that Yeff carved a gemstone from the couple’s laughter as a gift to replace their diamond wedding ring. We forget that digital is part of our history, Yeff says, and that it is disappearing. Indeed, digital is “traditional and spiritual”—the repository of our lives.