No doubt you’ve heard, “There’s an app for that” in casual conversation.  The expression has quietly seeped into the cultural groundwater, tainting everyday speech in a way that “Can you hear me now?” did only a few years ago.  Tip your hat to the iPhone. It is inarguably, by any standard, a revolutionary device.

And, while the ability to find a nearby restaurant or gas station is pretty remarkable – or the chance to pass a few minutes during your long LRT ride feeding organ loving zombies is fun, neither act is exactly changing the world.

But, the iPhone is about to be harnessed for some truly ground-breaking social work thanks to a Minneapolis company called Ultralingua, with a little help from Babble-On Recording, and a grad student from the U of M named Ruben Joanem (pictured) who is fluent in Haitian/Creole.

All of us are gladly donating our time to what should be something truly memorable.

Ruben Joanem Recording in Studio A at Babble-On Recording Minneapolis

The cause?  Relief for the people of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that flattened Port-au-Prince, and devastated many other areas of that country on January 12th 2010 – killing nearly 250,000, leaving 300,000 or more  injured, along with an estimated 1,000,000 homeless.

The idea? To create for the iPhone (and other platforms), a spoken Haitian-Creole/English phrase-book application (with text) that could easily be used by first responders to assist in giving critical care. In essence, when everything comes together, it should be as simple as, “Just say the word, and it shall be done”.

Now, that… is cool.

Of course, this is no small undertaking.  There are over 2000 words and phrases that, in the end, will need to be done. Recording just the first 800 phrases or so alone has taken more than eight hours of recording and nearly a fortnight of editing, and extensive sweetening.

In approaching final processing, in particular, this was a unique opportunity for us here to really hone our skills at mixing for the iPhone medium – many experiments were necessary to ensure that Ruben’s voice could be heard clearly and distinctly on such a small hand-held device when it was placed in a noisy environment.

It’s fair to say that we cannot duplicate the sonic chaos that must exist on the streets of Haiti, but, if our corner of the world at 6th and Hennepin and its noisy rush hour can serve as an adequate testing ground for such a wonderful device, we’re okay with having waited a few more moments for that left turn onto 6th street that now, somehow, seems far less annoying than it used to be.

Perspective, as they say.

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