Susan C. Bennett is all around us. Chances are, wherever you are in the world, if you are taking a Delta Airlines flight, it will be the original voice of Siri that you hear at the check-in gate. While you wait for your flight in the cafe, you see a tv screen. You hear the voice again, this time on both Coca Cola and McDonalds tv adverts before hearing it on The Discovery Channel. That voice belongs to Susan C. Bennett – Durtti wants to meet Susan and thinks she should do all (or most) of the talking.
What is your happiest childhood memory, Susan?
Probably when our next door neighbour gave me his upright piano, because he heard me playing tunes by ear on a toy piano when I was 4. It changed my life!
For those of us who don’t know, could you please explain what “concatenation” is and how it relates to what we hear as Siri?
Concatenation is the process by which technicians and computers extract sounds from recordings of phrases and sentences (created to get all of the sound combinations in the language), and reform them into new phrases and sentences for digital devices.
What did you study in college and can you see a time in the near future when Siri will be teaching a class full of students?
In college, I majored in classics and music, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a living. Teaching was one idea, because I didn’t think I could make a living as a musician. But, I discovered that I could, so I began playing professionally in college and continued from then on.
As for the future…Yes, I can see technology guiding education, and Siri would be a natural, because so many kids already know her and “talk” to her.
What is the most memorable thing that someone has said to you when they discovered that you are the original voice of Siri?
I don’t recall anything memorable, really. Mostly people just act very surprised and gasp in some way!! Hahaha!
You spent 4 hours a day for one month in July 2005 recording the speech for what you thought was a standard voice application, unrelated to Apple. That month of work eventually became the basis for Siri, although Apple do not wish to ‘humanise’ Siri by recognising any specific human involvement. When you eventually told CNN and the world in 2013 that you are the voice of the original Siri, did you have feelings of relief, elation, both or something else?
I always felt ambivalent about being the voice of Siri. On one hand, it was very flattering to have been chosen as the voice, especially since my husband’s and my house is full of Apple products. On the other hand, it was a surprise!
Apple came in after the fact (the original recordings were done for a text-to-speech company), so none of the original Siris worldwide knew that we were going to become the Apple voices. I think we got caught in the large gaping hole between “business as usual” and the speed of technology.
Durtti is all about putting inspirational people we feature from around the world in touch with one another. Is there one particular person, either from history, or alive today, that you would like us to track down and feature if possible?
Being a musician and singer, I’d love to hear about almost any rock artist. The list is too long for me to choose just one!
Finally, Susan, have you ever lost your iPhone?!
Yes, and it was a disaster!
It happened just as I had revealed myself as the voice of Siri and I was on my way to NYC to be on the CNN New Day show. Someone stole my phone in the airport and I ended up missing an interview on the Today show because of it!
Fortunately, that’s the only time I’ve lost it, and hopefully it’s the last time!
More at www.susancbennett.com
If you would like to know more about becoming a voiceover artist, Susan has given Durtti some great suggestions and advice here on how best to go about it. Read more…