How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks

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Melville House, Nov 8, 2011 - Music - 352 pages
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The history of the vocoder: how popular music hijacked the Pentagon's speech scrambling weapon

The vocoder, invented by Bell Labs in 1928, once guarded phones from eavesdroppers during World War II; by the Vietnam War, it was repurposed as a voice-altering tool for musicians, and is now the ubiquitous voice of popular music.

In How to Wreck a Nice Beach—from a mis-hearing of the vocoder-rendered phrase “how to recognize speech”—music journalist Dave Tompkins traces the history of electronic voices from Nazi research labs to Stalin’s gulags, from the 1939 World’s Fair to Hiroshima, from artificial larynges to Auto-Tune.

We see the vocoder brush up against FDR, JFK, Stanley Kubrick, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Kraftwerk, the Cylons, Henry Kissinger, and Winston Churchill, who boomed, when vocoderized on V-E Day, “We must go off!” And now vocoder technology is a cell phone standard, allowing a digital replica of your voice to sound human.

From T-Mobile to T-Pain, How to Wreck a Nice Beach is a riveting saga of technology and culture, illuminating the work of some of music’s most provocative innovators.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

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User Review  - eichin - LibraryThing

Fascinating crossover between conservative WW2 and Cold War history and flaky (even "degenerate" :-) late 20th century music making. It shows the enourmous connectivity inside the electronic music ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Harlan879 - LibraryThing

What the funk? This is a brilliant concept for a book, turned into an unedited collection of incomprehensible (unless you already know a lot about funk and early hip hop, not to mention a lot about ... Read full review

Contents

AXIS OF EAVESDROPPERS
I WAS LIKE
FUTURE BEAT ALLIANCE
ITS NOT THE END OFTHE WORLD
HOW TO RECOGNIZE APEACHTREE FREAK
DEATH OF AMONK
ROBOT REDBOARD
TUBBY RUN THE SKIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ART BIBLIOGRAPHY
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Dave Tompkins, a former columnist for The Wire, writes frequently on about hip-hop and popular music. His work has appeared in Vibe, The Village Voice, Wax Poetics, and The Believer. Nearly a decade in the making, this is his first book.


From the Hardcover edition.

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