Professor David Howard

Personal profile

Professor David M Howard FREng, PhD, CEng, FIET started his university career as a Lecturer in Experimental Phonetics in the Department of Phonetics and Linguistics at UCL (1979-1990). He moved to the Department of Electronics at the University of York (1990-2017) where he gained a Personal Chair in Music technology and was Head of Department. David moved to his current post as the Founding Head of the new Department of Electronic Engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2017. 

David is a member of the External Affairs Committee of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Education and Skills Policy Committee of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. 

Educational background

David M Howard holds a first class degree from UCL in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a PhD (1985) in Human Communication from the University of London on Larynx Frequency Speech Processing for Cochlear Stimulation

Research interests

David researches in the area of human speech and singing voice production and perception.

Current research opportunities include (1) looking towards exploring the use of Virtual reality to explore the interior of the vocal tract visually and acoustically suring speech and singing, involving acoustic modelling of the vocal tract such that the output acoustic signal can be rendered anywhere within the tract, ideally in real-time, and (2) advancing the functionality of the Vocal Tract Organ which was used to create the vowel sound from the Egyptian Mummy, Nesyamun [(Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 45000 (2020)]. The Vocal Tract Organ would become a true ‘Vox Humana’ organ stop enabling exploration of multi-part vowel textures in performance. 

David's current research activities include the application of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) to enhance user experiences (he is CI on the StoryFutures AHRC Project 2019-2023), the use of VR and AR for immersive story telling in heritage (CI on AHRC grant 2018), the use of data science in museums and heritage (CI on AHRC grant 2019), fundamental frequency estimation, pitch perception, tuning in a cappella choral singing, singing development in choristers at Wells Cathedral (on-going 6-monthy recording visits since 1990 With Prof Graham Welch and Dr Evangelos Himonides from UCL), vocal tract modelling with specific application to his Vocal tract Organ which enables 3-D printed vocal tracts to be sounded via the provision of an electronic larynx and played wither via a keyboard or joystick controllers. The Vocal Tract Organ was presented in a Flash-Mob Opera (Puccini's 'O mio babbino caro') context with colleague and soprano Dr Helena Daffern as part of their after dinner presentation to the Summer Soiree of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal at the University of York in June 2013. In 2020, David was part of the team that created a vowel sound from the Egyptian Mummy, Nesyamun, using the Vocal Tract Organ {Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 45000 (2020)}; a paper that has had huge publicity and over 300k downloads..

Other work

David was elected Fellow of theRoyal Academy of Engineering in 2014. Previously he was a Trustee (2004-2007) of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) during the period when it became the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). David was President of the British Voice Association (1997-1998) and Chair of the Engineering Professors' Council (1999-2001). He was on the IET pool of Accreditors (1997-2010) and he chaired the IET Education and Skills Policy Panel (2002-2014). He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Linking his research and choral conducting activities, David was made an Honorary Member of the Association of Croatian Choral Directors in 2016.

David was the Founder Editor of 'Voice - The Journal of the British Voice Society' (1992-1996), Editor-in-Chief of 'Logopedics, Phoniatrics Vocology' (2002-2015) and a member of the Editorial Boards of 'Forensic Linguistics: The International Journal of Speech Language and the Law' (1999-present); 'Organised Sound' (2001-present); 'The Journal of Voice' (2004-present), 'International Journal of Research in Choral Singing' (2007-present) and 'Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology' (2015-present). 

David has been involved in a number of Forecsic Audio investigations including: 'Acoustic analysis of audio tapes in respect of: South African Airways: Loss of B747 off Mauritius, November 1987' (1989), 'Acoustic analysis of audio tapes in respect of: Anko (in liquidation) v. Woolworth plc.' (1989),  Music Factory Master Mixes v. Big Wave Records Ltd. "Jive Bunny" (1990),'Acoustic analysis in respect of: R v Charles Ingram & Ors (Who wants to be a millionaire?)' (2003) and 'Acoustic measurements on passenger trains in relation to the passenger crossing fatality at Gomshall Station, 21/8/04' (2004).

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