American Book on Electronic Voices Gets Big Reception in Japan

Japanese press enthusiastically greets book as origin for acts like Perfume

Hip hop and popular music writer for The Wire, Vibe, and The Village Voice Dave Tompkins has written the history of electronic voices from Nazi research labs to Stalin’s Gulag camps, from the 1939 World’s Fair to Hiroshima, from artificial larynges to Auto-Tune. Newly released in Japan, the book has found a very receptive audience.

 

 

The book, which is available in paperback and on Kindle, is described as such:

The vocoder, invented by Bell Labs in 1928, once guarded phones from codebreakers during World War II; by the Vietnam War, it had been repurposed as a voice-altering tool for musicians and soon became 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 the morning before 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.

 

"How to Wreck a Nice Beach" doesn't quite work in Japan, so the translation by Takatsugu Arai is going by the simplified name "Electro-Voice."  The Japanese press has enthusiastically greeted the book as an origin story for musical acts like the auto-tuned dance pop band Perfume.

 


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Scott Green is editor and reporter for anime and manga at geek entertainment site Ain't It Cool News. Follow him on Twitter at @aicnanime.

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