Clone Metamorphosis

In this interactive workshop, Joel Stern and Sean Dockray will present the Machine Listening project, before engaging participants in a collective activity to produce AI-generated voice clones. These clones will be utilised to read excerpts from Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and other texts in which the transformation of voices is pivotal. The workshop aims to explore the concept of the voice as a technology capable of eliciting both recognition and estrangement. Chris Danta will provide insights during the event, informed by his research in literature, evolutionary theory, and artificial intelligence.


Workshop Segments

  • A brief introduction to Machine Listening (15 minutes)
  • Participants each record a sample introducing themselves. (Name, why you’re here, and a reflection on your own voice.) (5 minutes)
  • Joel to create voice clones in ElevenLabs. Each clone shuld be named Clone Workshop: [name]
  • Sean organises participants into groups. Each group should have a person with a Mac laptop
  • Groups download Parapraxes
  • Open the application. Sean to give a brief tutorial on the main screen.
  • Groups experiment with reciting texts using different cloned voices. (15 minutes).
  • Upload interesting examples to shared drive
  • Listening session to most interesting samples. (15 minutes)
  • Chris Danta responds, reflecting on voice clones, Kafka and Metamorphosis
  • Second experimentation with cloning, this time focussed on passages from Metamorphosis.
  • Collective listening to the recitations.

Some scenes in literary texts in which the voice of a character becomes uncanny because it is doubled.

From Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The Voice of Science” (published in 1891 in The Strand Magazine)

The company had formed an expectant circle round the instrument [a phonograph]. There was a subdued hush as Rupert Esdaile made the connection, while his mother waved her white hand slowly from left to right to mark the cadence of the sonorous address which was to break upon their ears. “How about Lucy Araminta Pennyfeather?” cried a squeaky little voice. There was a rustle and a titter among the audience. Rupert glanced across at Captain Beesly [the voice in the recording]. He saw a drooping jaw, two protruding eyes, and a face the colour of cheese. “How about little Martha Hovedean of the Kensal Choir Union?” cried the piping voice. Louder still rose the titters. Mrs. Esdaile stared about her in bewilderment. Rose burst out laughing, and the Captain’s jaw drooped lower still, with a tinge of green upon the cheese- like face. “Who was it who hid the ace in the artillery card-room at Peshawur? Who was it who was broke in consequence? Who was it—” “Good gracious!” cried Mrs. Esdaile, “what nonsense is this? The machine is out of order. Stop it, Rupert. These are not the Professor’s remarks. But, dear me, where is our friend Captain Beesly gone?” “I am afraid that he is not very well, ma,” said Rose. “He rushed out of the room.”


From Franz Kafka’s story “A Report to an Academy” (published in 1917)

But what a triumph it was then, for him [Red Peter’s human teacher] and myself alike, when one evening, before a large gathering of spectators – perhaps there was a party or fête, there was a gramophone playing, an officer was strolling among the crew – when that evening, briefly unsupervised, I reached for a bottle of rum that had been carelessly left in front of my cage, and then, under the growing attention of the company, drew the cork in the approved fashion, set it to my lips, and, without hesitating, without making a face, like a studied drinker, with round bulging eyes and bobbing Adam’s apple, really and truly emptied it; threw away the bottle not in despair but as a consummate master; forgot to rub my belly; but instead, because I couldn’t help it, because I felt compelled to, because my senses were befuddled, called out a word, ‘Hallo!’, broke out in human speech, with that cry leapt into the community of humans, and felt their echoing response: ‘Listen, he’s speaking!’, as something in the nature of a kiss pressed against my whole sweat-dripping body.

source: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, trans. Michael Hofmann, 233

From Franz Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis” (published in 1915)

‘Gregor,’ came the call – it was his mother – ‘it’s a quarter to seven. Shouldn’t you ought to be gone by now?’ The mild voice. Gregor was dismayed when he heard his own in response. It was still without doubt his own voice from before, but with a little admixture of an irrepressible squeaking that left the words only briefly recognizable at the first instant of their sounding, only to set about them afterwards so destructively that one couldn’t be at all sure what one had heard. … It appeared his own words were no longer comprehensible, though to his own hearing they seemed clear enough, clearer than before, perhaps because his ear had become attuned to the sound.

source: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, trans. Michael Hofmann, 90, 98