Friday, 22 February 2013

Carl Sagan Dance Party #10

We can thanks the American government for stealing German V2 rocket technology used during the Second World War, which in turn gave birth to both the Cold War arms race and the Cold War space race.  

And we can also thank the American government (and Bell Laboratories), in their attempts to encode military communications against those very same Germans in the Second World War, for inventing the technology to both obscure voices over telephone lines and create cyborg noises on early 80s dance records.  

The vox box to which I refer is the vocoder.

A few years ago music journalist Dave Tompkins wrote a book on the duel life of the vocoder called How to Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II To Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks.  The title comes from the vocally transmogrified and mispronounced input phrase "how to recognize speech," but would seemingly also alude to the storming of Normandy. Tompkins research into military history and analogue synthesizers is comprehensive and the book is superabundant in neato photographs of army laboratories, pioneering electro rappers and old school Cylons.  But the verbiage is unnecessarily self-indulgent and the narrative strains are completely disorganized.  Entire chapters spin out of control as topics of discussion are dropped midstream only to reappear unannounced fifty pages later.  These faux pas are partially mitigated by the author's cool stories about about Sun Ra's Outer Visual Communicator.  But you can probably forgo reading the book in favour of working on your pop-n-lock.  

Carl Sagan would like to thank the unforeseen bi-products of World War Two military technology for the following robotic big bangers.

Nick Straker Band - "Space Age," A Little Bit of Jazz, Prelude, 1981

Jonzun Crew - "Space Is The Place," Space is the Place, Tommy Boy, 1983

Midnight Star - "Scientific Love," Planetary Invasion, Solar, 1984

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