by carl wilson

The Secret Love Affair
of Speech and Song: A History


Saxophonist Leon Kingstone introduces Charles Spearin's "Mrs. Morris" in the middle of a Broken Social Scene concert.

Following up on my piece last week about Charles Spearin's The Happiness Project, in which he turns the cadences of his neighbours' conversations about happiness into the melodies and rhythms of songs, I've put together a quick (well, not so quick) cultural history on how musicians have tried to transform human speech into music through the ages (but particularly, often thanks to technology, in the 20th century).

[ ... continues on the jump ...]

Caveats: In places my knowledge of these instances is not deep, and any corrections of fact are welcome. I know I left out talkboxes, vocoders and other voice-processing stuff from the '70s to today - that's the subject of a future, more substantive project. Plus, I've moved some of my general remarks from the original version of this post to the end, for efficiency's sake. Future posts might cover some omitted examples, especially with your help.

Prehistory to Gutenberg: Chant, lyric, epic
Sacred texts and epic poetry in many cultures are transmitted orally as chant/song long before they are written down, from the Hindu Vedas to Homer's Odyssey to Gregorian chant. The Vedas, in particular, use a tonal system that places them very much in the twilight zone between speech and song.


Mantra Pushpam - Vedic Hymns: This mantra is from Taithreeya Aranyakam of the Yajur Veda.

c. 8th-13th Century: African talking drums
Griots in the ancient Ghana empire use drums whose tones imitate speech to communicate across distance in villages; even in their musical use in various places in Africa they operate with a kind of grammar related to language, though of course they can be and often are played without reference to those systems.


Nigerian-born drummer Rasaki Aladokun, "Master of the Talking Drum" and former King Sunny Ade accompanist, demonstrates and explains.

1580s: Florentine Camerata, monody
Renaissance humanists in Florence create more intelligible vocal style (voice-and-accompaniment rather than polyphony) to emulate their suppositions of how ancient Greek drama was spoken-sung (their suppositions were wrong, but...); an influence on operatic aria and recitative in particular (and western musical history in general).


Giulio Caccini (c.1550-1680), "Amor, io parto," for soprano voice, from "Le nuove musiche, 1601" set on an anonymous text (Montserrat Figueras, soprano; Hopkinson Smith, baroque guitar; Harmonia Mundi).

1868: Modest Mussorgsky, Zhenitba
Russian composer attempts to write opera in heightened but naturalistic speech patterns; he abandons it after Act 1 but uses a moderated version of the technique in later works such as Boris Godunov.


Boris Christoff in the death scene from Boris Godunov. Vienna, 1980s.

1904: Leos Janacek, Jenufa
Moravian composer incorporates his own notation of local "speech melodies" into his opera, though how directly he did so remains a debate among musicologists.


The end of the first act of Janacek's Jenufa from The National Theatre in Prague in 2005 with Tomas Cerny and Dana Buresova.


The great Czech violinist-vocalist Iva Bittova sings Janacek's song "Muzikanti" (Musicians) from "Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs" (Moravska lidova poezie v pisnich) with the Skampa Quartet. See a past Zoilus post about Bittova.

1912: Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
German modernist composer uses sprechstimme ("spoken voice") as a less-tonal extension of traditional recitative; the technique is taken up by Alban Berg in operas such as Lulu.


Glenn Gould & Patricia Rideout perform Pierrot Lunaire on the CBC in 1975.

1914: F.T. Marinetti, Zang Tumb Tumb
Italian Futurist leader performs manic nonsense-syllable sound poem, which influences Luigi Rossolo's "art of noise" as well as Dadaists such as Kurt Schwitters, whose Ursonate (1922-1932) extends sound poetry into four movements of gibberish lasting nearly 45 minutes (though today, Canadian poet Christian Bök can perform it in under 19 minutes, from memory - download from UBU Web).


ZTT.


>Ursonate.


Christian Bök covers a sound poem in Icelandic (a language he does not speak).

1920s Wah-Wah sounds in jazz.
Jazz solos using mutes and hand flutters over the end of a horn create a sing-talk kind of wah-wah sound, often to humorous effect. Often heard in Duke Ellington's band, for interest. The "wah-wah" pedal later achieves this for guitar.

1943: Harry Partch, U.S. Highball
As many of you will know, this midcentury American eccentric invented a microtonal 43-tone harmonic system and a host of bizarrely beautiful junkyard instruments to play them. What's less known is that Partch's initial motivation was to find a music that could better capture the subtle melodies of speech - to actually score the way people ordinarily talk, rather than (as most of the composers in this list do) "rounding" their tones off to the nearest standard instrumental note. This piece based on overheard hobo dialogue is one of the finest examples.


Partch's piece performed & discussed by Robert Osborne.

1951: Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, Symphonie pour un homme seul
Musique-concrete innovators incorporate speaking voices along with other "unmusical" sound in compositions for records, tape, mixers, soon followed by others such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti and John Cage. (For some reason embedding is turned off for this video, which on YouTube is also misattributed to Yoko Ono.)

1957: The bebop/beat-poetry connection.
This year marks the first "jazz poetry" reading at the Circle in the Square, with David Amram and Jack Kerouac. Ken Nordine releases the first of his Word Jazz albums, which explicitly attempt to reproduce the effects of bop in prosody. The jazz-poetry practice (which I should note was presaged by scat singing and Lord Buckley, and one might try to get Vachel Lindsay [though that poet-performer, with his racist views, viscerally disliked jazz] and the Harlem Renaissance poets such as Langston Hughes in too) becomes clichéd so rapidly that it's being parodied already in the following year's B-movies and TV (like High School Confidential and Peter Gunn - "there ain't no jelly doughnut!") and would soon be a staple of sixties sitcoms from The Munsters to Petticoat Junction, not to mention ongoing Dobie Gillis character Maynard G. Krebs.


Amram recalls the Circle in the Square reading in a TV news segment decades later.


Ken Nordine's "Colors".


Ornette Coleman with an unidentified reader (Kenneth Patchen? Herbert Huncke?) and percussionist, while Allen Ginsberg looks on, date unknown.

1960: Charles Mingus & Eric Dolphy, "What Love?"
Two jazz masters take a playful approach to imitating speech on their instruments in several early '60s cuts; this one in which Mingus's bass "argues" with Dolphy's bass clarinet, from Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (one of my favourite records), is the best-known. Sadly I can't find video evidence online, but if you have or download the recording, go to about 8:30 in the 15-minute track to hear the start of their dispute, though the most uncanny highlights come at about 11 minutes in, here's the relevant section - the interplay becomes more intensely dialogic as it goes on.

What Love? (excerpt)

1960: Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
Roach's jazz landmark not only united bop and African music, poetry and protest, but in the cadences of many of Abbey Lincoln's performances, linked African-American song to the style of political speech in the Civil Rights Movement.

1965: Steve Reich, "It's Gonna Rain"
American Minimalist pioneer plays two identical tape loops of an apocalyptic Pentecostal preacher out of phase so that his voice gradually begins creating overtones and contrapuntal rhythms with itself - an influence on much voice-based work to follow, including David Byrne & Brian Eno's vocal-sample-based tracks on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, most obviously "Help Me Somebody."


A documentary clip about this period in Reich's work.

1967: You're in Love, Charlie Brown
The muted-horn, jazz wah-wah technique is adapted by Bill Melendez, the producer of the Peanuts TV specials, for the "Charlie Brown's teacher" voice. The incomprehensible (usually scolding) blather of adult talk was actually played on trombone: "Composer John Scott Trotter directed his trombonist to 'enunciate' the teacher's dialog as though it were a trombone riff. Trotter did a great job... he would read the teacher's line, e.g., 'Linus, where's your homework?' then direct the trombonist to repeat Trotter's inflection through his instrument." Here's a clip. (Go to about 1:20.) And here's a pure blast of Peanuts wah-wah adultspeak:

Charlie Brown's teacher voice.

I mention this one partly because Spearin told me it was an influence on The Happiness Project, the first place he'd heard an instrument used to simulate dialogue. As a kid, he would listen to his parents' conversations, often not knowing or caring what they were talking about, and listen to low-pitched Dad and high-pitched Mom as if they were two Peanuts voices singing a duet.

1970: Alvin Lucier, "I Am Sitting in a Room"
Composer recites text into tape recording, plays it back to re-record it, over and over, until the text is swallowed up in echoes and resonance and becomes pure tone. Another seminal track in contemporary music and sound art.


A dance-video interpretation of Lucier's work.

1970s African-American spoken word and diasporic dub poetry.
From militant black nationalist vocal group The Last Poets (who called their music "jazzoetry") to soul poet Gil Scott Heron and the great Linton Kwesi Johnson in the UK, the forerunners of rap funked up the linguistic volume, with a steady riddim and a strong vein of political protest, throughout the dismal decade.


1971: The Last Poets, "When the Revolution Comes."


1972: Gil Scott Heron, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."


1978: Linton Kwesi Johnson, "Dread Beat an' Blood."

1978: Paul Lansky, "Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion"
In a highly influential piece, the pioneering computer-music composer processes the sound of his wife reading text by a Renaissance poet. Lansky went on to compose many more voice-based pieces, including this one:


Lansky's "Pattern's Patterns" animated by Grady Klein, from Lansky's CD, Alphabet Book.

1979: Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight"
First hit rap single is widely mistaken for a novelty rather than the start of a pop-music shift that would make stylized speech nearly as important as singing and sampling (beginning with DJ'ing) as vital as drums.


Original 1979 promo video.

1982: Scott Johnson, "John Somebody"
johnsomebody.jpg
New York composer uses transcribed pitches and rhythms of taped casual chatter ("You know that guy - John somebody... ?") as the basis for a fully harmonized score with electric guitars. He later used the technique in a piece for the Kronos Quartet called Cold War Suite, featuring the voice of the great journalist I.F. Stone in "How It Happens".

John Somebody part 1.
"Lawless Things" from Johnson's Cold War Suite, featuring tapes of I.F. Stone.

1984: Hermeto Pascoal, "Tiruliruli"
Brazilian jazz giant (a favourite of Miles Davis) accompanies loop of excited soccer announcer; Pascoal develops his own theory of "Som da Aura" (sound of the aura) in which he musically imitates not only voices of ordinary Brazilians but barnyard sounds, inanimate objects, etc., trying to capture their essences, their souls, in sound, to capture the ongoing music of the world. He can even do it spontaneously in concert, with members of his audiences, with remarkable accuracy.

Tiruliruli (from the album Canoa da Lagoa, Municipio de Arapiraca).


Pascoal sets the speech of three blind sisters to music.


Pascoal does the same with the voice of actor Yves Montand.

1988: Steve Reich, "Different Trains"
Interviews with Holocaust survivors weave in and out of train sounds and a string quartet in this moving, Grammy-winning "speech melody" piece, the first place most music fans heard the speech-into-melody technique. Reich goes on to use digital samples of voices in works such as The Cave (1993), City Life (1995) and Three Tales (2002).


Steve Reich discusses Different Trains on ARTS: The South Bank Show on ITV in 2006.


Reich's City Life, part 3: "It's Been a Honeymoon" (1995).

1990: Réné Lussier, "Le trésor de la langue"
In the aftermath of the controversies around the collapse of the Meech Lake Accord, the prominent Quebec "musique actuelle" guitarist composes an album based on the voices of francophone culture, politics and literature (the title means "The treasure of language"). His guitar traces the tunes of everything from Charles de Gaulle's "Vive le Quebec libre" speech and the FLQ Manifesto to warmer, sweeter aspects of Quebec life. Lussier was quoted: "It's remarkable what melodies we speak to each other every day! And no one's the least bothered by these phrases, but transpose them into music and they can become surprising, even disturbing!"

I wish I had an excerpt to share (my copy is on cassette and I don't have conversion capability); if anyone can help, please do.

1990s-2000s: Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Maranthappa
Influenced by multiculturalism and hip-hop, interconnected young New York jazz musicians compose pieces based on speech in different languages, etc. Here's an NPR story about Moran's 2006 "Artists Ought to Be Writing," based on artist Adrian Piper's early 1970s manifesto. And here's part of a piece Moran and his trio-mates (bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits) based on a phone conversation between two Turkish friends, from 2003's The Bandwagon:

"Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul)" (excerpt)

2001: Topology, Airwaves.
This Australian contemporary-music group (not well-known in North America) with composers Robert Davidson, Jonathan Dimond and Jamie Clark, create an entire suite of music based on historical radio archives. (Davidson in particular had already done some work on speech-into-song.) They used different genres of music to represent their various subjects, from radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi himself to Churchill, Hitler, Malcolm X, Einstein and more. In this damned-funny example, Bill Clinton's "That woman, Miss Lewinsky" press conference is tartly matched to the jaunty anthem of his own political campaigns.

2006: Diana Deutsch, "Speech-to-Song Illusion"
(aka, "Sometimes Behave So Strangely").

deutsch.jpg
I discussed Professor Deutsch's University of California research in my piece on The Happiness Project. For a fuller explanation of her research on the "speech-to-song-illusion" - not to mention fascinating stuff on the effect of speaking a tonal language (in which words have radically different meaning at different pitches, as in for example Mandarin) on the ability to develop perfect pitch - give a listen to this segment with her on WNYC's Radio Lab. Here's an mp3 of her demonstrating the "speech-to-song effect" - in which any spoken phrase played back in a loop can transform seamlessly into music, in this case a hook so weirdly catchy I can still hum it to myself more than a year after I first heard it. As she explains (to much greater effect) on the radio show, she stumbled on it quite by accident when a tape loop of her own voice caught her ear. (Many more aural illusions can be found on Prof. Deutsch's own website.)

Diana Deutsch's Speech-to-Sound Illusion

2008-09: Political campaign propaganda on YouTube.
During the U.S. presidential race, musical settings of political speeches became practically an Internet trend, including, most famously, Will.i.am's celeb-stuffed "Yes We Can" video, which turned Barack Obama's New Hampshire primary speech into a tune that recalls Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." But much more fun are New York pianist Henry Hey's puckish jazzifications of Sarah Palin, John McCain and George W. Bush.


Hey does McCain & Palin.


Hey does a January press conference by Bush.


Sarah Palin again (with animated typography).


And of course, will.i.am's hugely popular "Yes We Can".

2009: Charles Spearin, The Happiness Project
Which brings us, finally, back to doh.

It's not only an intriguing area musicologically - where, each of these practices implicitly asks, is the actual divide between speaking and singing, and how much is music an extension of language or vice-versa? - there's also something almost inherently spiritual in the question (think of chants and mantras), an impulse that resurfaces in Spearin's project. We sing language and language sings us.

It's also inherently, potently democratic - it's not only the musically gifted who have something to sing but all of us, in our interactions, in our mundane and demotic remarks, are singing the songs of the self, the songs of the social. Many composers have grabbed on to speech-music's potential as a tool of political critique, and as a way of bringing history to life - no doubt partly because when we think of public speech, political speech is at the forefront of our associations (personally I await the first great symphony to be composed with snatches of dialogue from TV shows). An interest in greater naturalism is often involved (Harry Partch and Leos Janacek, each in their different contexts, wanted to represent speech more truthfully, particularly the vernacular of the poor) as is a kind of populism and occasional ethnolinguistic pride, as in the case of, again, Janacek's tributes to Moravian culture or Réné Lussier's to that of Quebec. And will.i.am and YouTube get in here too.

While Spearin's project may be less musically rewarding than some of the others, the conceptual marriage of form and subject really makes up for it - he is unearthing its politics in a broader non-ideological way and bringing the question full circle back to its spiritual origins. Many of the other 20th century examples are more formalist or structural in their concerns, but not Spearin (or Partch or Pascoal, I'd venture). These are voices you can breathe in.

Read More | General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 19 at 5:22 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (22)

 

COMMENTS

I think that's the late Studs Terkel who's working with Ornette Coleman. He wrote about him and collaborated with him; this is likely one of those collaborations.

Posted by J on March 18, 2009 1:35 PM

 

 

This reminds me of Jean-Michel Jarre's 1984 record, Zoolook -- Jarre (an otherwise uninteresting ambient/new age/synth guy) fed samples of speech in a couple dozen languages through his Fairlight CMI and turned out a kind of Fourth-World collage that still sounds kind of compelling. (Helps that Laurie Anderson turns up to spout Ball-esque gibberish).

Posted by Paul M on March 1, 2009 10:10 PM

 

 

Listening to "U.S. Highball" -- had never heard it before -- it's terrific! -- and the vocal writing reminds me of the opening number in "The Music Man," which also takes place on a train, the traveling salesman trading gossip. The song "Trouble" from the same show is a piece of virtuoso proto-rap, the salesman's "rap," not sung, but definitely musical. ("I say ya got Trouble, right here in River City, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool!")

Reminded of Franklin Bruno's great line, describing Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews on the "My Fair Lady" soundtrack as the first great rapper/diva duo.

Posted by john on March 1, 2009 12:07 PM

 

 

what about the books?

Posted by jamie on February 26, 2009 5:59 PM

 

 

Too more areas to consider, Carl: Since at least the 1920s, when DeFord Bailey was doing it on the Grand Ole Opry--and other blues harp players were doing it many places--harmonica players were all able to do voice-like playing of the "Mama; I want my mama" variety-. And there's a tradition of talking steel guitars, too; look at, for example, Alvino Rey and, I think they even called it "His Talking Guitar" in the 40s and on. (He used to play on the King sisters TV shows much later.)

Posted by Barry Mazor on February 25, 2009 3:37 PM

 

 

Yeah...the examples are rife.

And I think the fact remains that 'awesome' and 'interesting' do not occupy the same space.

Thank you for making this apparent.

Posted by nilan on February 25, 2009 11:23 AM

 

 

Another sub-topic in the speech-music borderland investigation: Songs that incorporate laughter.

I heard a 16th century Italian "street song" about flirting that scored laughter last night. (Will look up composer & title if you're interested.) So it predates Edison. "The Laughing Song" was one of the biggest hits of the cylinder era; someone recorded a Portuguese cover in Brazil in 1902! Spike Jones's version of the "light instrumental" hit "Holiday for Strings" has an infectious laughter section. Many other examples, natch.

Posted by john on February 25, 2009 10:42 AM

 

 

you can't overlook bulbous bouffant by the vestibules!

Posted by david on February 24, 2009 12:37 AM

 

 

Lanksy is a goddamn genius.

going the other way, i once heard an amazing song by Bill Doggett (or some other cheesy guitar guy) where he makes his guitar say "I don't know" in a very very convincing and mind blowing manner. .

Posted by david b on February 23, 2009 6:40 PM

 

 

Earl Scruggs has a talking banjo piece too, "Mama Blues," in which the banjo "speaks" the voice of Mama in dialog with Scruggs, who's talking.

Other related artforms:

Cheerleading (featured in at least two classic rock songs, "Be True to Your School" and "Blitzkrieg Bop" -- Hey ho, let's go!).

Playground skip-rope chants and clapping chants.

Posted by john on February 23, 2009 2:48 PM

 

 

Did Giulio Caccini really live circa 130 years?

Posted by marco on February 23, 2009 1:34 PM

 

 

Actually, since we're talking both about speech made into music and music made into speech, and since you mentioned the wah-wah effect that enabled a lot of the "talking guitar" sub-genre of the blues, and since someone mentioned Bo Diddley, I'm now reminded of Albert Collins' single "Conversation with Collins," a great blues cut in which he carries on an extended conversation with his guitar. Just throwing that into the mix.

Posted by marco on February 23, 2009 1:18 PM

 

 

A few more related artforms:

1. Talking Blues.

2. Bo Diddley's insult-fest-with-groove, "Say Man." (I remember reading that Diddley recorded a few others like that, but I've never heard them.)

3. Classical Indian mouth-drumming, where singers imitate the sounds of tablas.

4. Auctioneering.

5. Around 100 years ago the poet Lafcadio Hearn transcribed the calls of street vendors into poetry, but I'm sure the calls were musical too. Think of the hot dog man at the baseball stadium. "Getch yer red HOTS."

Posted by john on February 23, 2009 11:10 AM

 

 

Gotta go to bed, so haven't yet checked the links & vids -- looking forward! -- but in meantime can't help but comment:

Ellington's wah-wah brass players got the technique, I'm pretty sure, from Armstrong's mentor King Oliver. Check out the cornet solo on "Dippermouth Blues," 1923.

I haven't watched the Cage clip, but he's huge in all of this.

A sociology prof-turned-social worker once told me that a very small percentage -- 20%? don't remember -- of the information conveyed by speech is related by the actual lexical content. The far greater percentage is conveyed by rate (tempo), volume (dynamics), and tone of voice (timbre) -- all musical values (though he didn't use the musical terms). Language, on the level of the phrase, is always already tonal. As the vast majority of people speak in phrases (sometimes jelling into proper sentences but more rarely than most people would like to admit), I think it's safe to say that spoken language is tonal, period. In any case, fascinating that more information is conveyed by the music of speech than by the words (according to what this guy told me, and it occurs to me that I should track him down and ask him his source).

I'd also put the history of the vocal interjection into the story somehow, from Bob Wills's falsetto "Yah-hah"s to James Brown's virtuoso grunts and screams, to Mingus's uncanny mimicry of a wah-wah trumpet, singing the third horn line on "Haitian Fight Song." And then, maybe, the musicality of actual verbal interjections: Armstrong's "swing it boys"; Ringo's "rock on George one time for me"; JB's "take it to the bridge"; or, way back in 1926, George Gershwin & Fred Astaire bantering between choruses of a tap solo on their piano-tap duet at the end of "The Half Of It Dearie Blues" ("How's that, George?" "Just great, Freddy! Do it again!" "Fine!"); all of which, from the p.o.v. of classical performance standards, are pretty astonishing, and seem to me related to whatchyer talkin' about here.

Laurie Anderson & John Giorno related too.

Endless topic -- great stuff.

p.s. Russolo. Not Rossolo.

Posted by john on February 23, 2009 4:26 AM

 

 

Excellent post. "it's not only the musically gifted who have something to sing but all of us [...]" reminds me of the African proverb "If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing."

Posted by michelangelo on February 20, 2009 8:02 PM

 

 

My dad went to music conservatory with David Amram and they both played french horn in Oscar Pettiford's band at one point.

See for example "Two French Fries" on disc 4 of this compilation:

http://www.amazon.com/Oscar-Rides-Again-Pettiford/dp/samples/B0012908V4/ref=dp_tracks_all_4#disc_4

Posted by J-Lon on February 18, 2009 12:32 PM

 

 

Nice collection of ideas Carl. Thanks for posting. I enjoyed playing some of the clips off against each other. It becomes evident how much they have in common.

Posted by Half on February 18, 2009 12:12 PM

 

 

wow. best post carl. there goes the day...

Posted by aw on February 18, 2009 12:11 PM

 

 

Wow, what an interesting history!

Seeing the Gould performance of the Schoenberg, I'm spurred to add Gould's own "contrapuntal radio" technique to the list: in the three sound docs comprising the Solitude Trilogy, he pioneered the use overlapping lines of speech to create musical counterpoint, as well as a simultaneous counterpoint of ideas.

There's a great youtube snippet in which he "conducts" the recorded speakers and then explains how his assembly of the work (in this case, The Idea of North) was influenced by Webern's tone rows, among other things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Snt35m2fzBw

Posted by marco on February 18, 2009 10:18 AM

 

 

fantastic post!

Posted by andrew on February 18, 2009 12:42 AM

 

 

Yes - not a Zappahead at all, but I ran across a couple mentions of In the Dangerous Kitchen in the course of this, listened to the track and went, later for that bullshit. I didn't realize that about the Vai guitar parts, though, or I might have mentioned it.

However I did mention My Life in the Bush of Ghosts - in the entry on Reich's "It's Gonna Rain." I felt like it was familiar enough to the Zoilus audience not to require further illustration. (I don't have trouble personally with their recontextualizations though I can see the pov of those who do.)

Posted by zoilus on February 17, 2009 9:59 PM

 

 

I was thinking of doing a blog entry along these lines after I heard Spearin's track - but thank you, you did a much more thorough, historical entry than I ever could have managed!

I'd only add that Frank Zappa transcribed speech patterns to be played by guitarist Steve Vai a few years prior to Johnson's John Somebody: when I heard Johnson's piece, Zappa seemed a clear influence on the technique (though, fortunately, not on the sound: it so happens this is one of the most irritating things Zappa ever did, since he used his most obnoxious "dumb" voice most often in this mode - see "The Dangerous Kitchen" for an example).

I think Byrne & Eno's recontextualization of found voices deserves mention here as well: something like "Help Me Somebody" uncannily demonstrates the origins of R&B; vocal inflections in the preaching cadences of the black church (although one might argue there's something fishy about B&E;'s appropriation of same...and certainly, some Muslims were offended by the quickly suppressed track "Qu'ran").

Posted by 2fs on February 17, 2009 9:22 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson