Lecture 1 - Say it With Sound

Exploring how humans and other animals use noises to communicate

Lecture 2 - Silent Messages

Professor Sophie Scott explores the world of silent communication

Lecture 3 - The Word

Asking where our incredible linguistic ability comes from and whether any other animals use language in any form at all?

Lecture 1 - Say it With Sound

From musical mosquitoes to rumbling elephants, Say It With Sound explores how humans and other animals use noises to communicate.

Sophie Scott, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, is joined in the theatre by a chorus of chirping crickets, hissing cockroaches and groaning deer to reveal the very different ways that animals have adapted their bodies to send audible messages that are vital to their species. She also explores how and why the human voice evolved to become the most versatile sound producer in the natural world. In a dramatic experiment Professor Scott reveals how our vocal cords can open and close more than a thousand times a second and how we can use our throats for breathing, eating and communicating.

Professor Scott demonstrates what sound actually is and how it travels, not just through air, but water and solid materials. Unpacking the power behind sound, she uses it to shatter glass and reveal how the human body can resonate in a way that amplifies our voices to send our messages further. She also explores how different species use very different frequencies to communicate and why humans can only hear a fraction of these animal messages.

Professor Scott investigates why our voices all sound very different, to the degree that we all have unique vocal prints, She also looks at how computers are learning to recognise these. She further shows how we have developed the biological functions that enable us to create such incredible noises - from the arias of an opera singer to the complex sounds of a beatboxer.


Photography by Paul Wilkinson Photography


for BBC4