MRI Exposes the Physics of Beatboxing

January 23, 2013 | Andy Cush

In an effort to better understand the science behind a relatively new form of musical expression, a team of researchers at the University of Southern California conducted an extensive MRI study of the various sounds produced by one 27-year-old beatboxer. The scientists made audio and x-ray video recordings of each sound in the man’s repertoire, cataloging them and determining how they were produced and how they relate to language.

“We were fascinated by the art of beatboxing, and wanted to learn more about how these artists are able to produce such an astonishing array of sounds,” researcher Michael Proctor told Wired.co.uk. “As linguists, we wanted to compare the paralinguistic production of sounds in this type of musical performance with the ways that speakers of different languages produce speech sounds.”

Check out the videos and audio here.