How to Wreck a Nice Beach

More Crosstalk on the Vocoder
  • About the Book
  • About the Author
  • Reviews
  • Buy the Book
Something To That Effect

Why I Want Boston to Continue Mailing Elbows to Orlando, and It’s Not Just Because Their Point Guard Is Named After Rondo Hatton

By Dave Tompkins at 10:30am ET

(Image: Bill Sebastian with his Outer Visual Communicator, circa 1980. According to Sebastian, the OVC was designed to remap the chromatic spectrum of the universe. Photograph by John Bishop for Video magazine.)

This Thursday, May 20th, I’ll be in Boston with my road DJ/Boston expat Chairman Mao, as well as 7L and Hua Hsu, who’ll be recreating his Miami Bass “F-the Rookies” minimix live at the Good Life bar in downtown Boston. (Click here for details on Good Life. The event starts at 9:30pm.)

I have much to say about Boston, so this week will be called “Rondo Week.”

Along with deep space—and perhaps my apartment, which I currently share with two retired WW II bombs, a demagnetized chainsaw magnet* and a 1933 juicer**—Boston was a second home to the vocoder.

The first public demonstration of vocoder songs took place at Harvard’s Tercentenary Celebration in 1936. Here’s an exclusive peak at the Harvard set list:

“How Dry I Am”
“Good Night Ladies”
“Barnacle Bill”
“Bells of St. Mary’s”
“Swanee River”
“My Teacher’s Screwy”

Bill Sebastian’s Outer Visual Communicator (OVC) was built in a basement at MIT, where  Swedish speech acoustician Gunnar Fant invented a vowel synthesizer called the Orator Verbis Electris (OVE).

The OVC was conscripted in Michael Jonzun’s war against all Pac Man machines, in a vocoder song called “Pack Jam,” which was recorded in Boston under the alias “Pak Man.”  Jonzun said he wanted to turn a man into jam—and he did.

Gunnar Fant published an article called “Acoustic Theory of Speech Production with Calculations Based on X-Ray Studies of Russian Articulations.”

The OVC was built for Sun Ra.

The OVE was meant for you and me.

*The chainsaw magnet now keeps my long-necked succulent from escaping out the window

**The juicer is crank-operated and really easy to clean. The efficiency in which it depulps the unsuspecting Cali naval is genuinely frightening.

1 Comment »

  1. Thats definitely a young Bill Sebastian, I grew up down the street from him. He took his genius to MIT after High School in Dallas, Fascinating article on a very fascinating individual.

    Comment by OakCliff — August 2, 2011 @ 1:43am

Leave a comment

Stop Smiling Books

© 2010 Stop Smiling Media, LLC. All rights reserved.