How to Wreck a Nice Beach

More Crosstalk on the Vocoder
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Something To That Effect

Laser Base Plates

By Dave Tompkins at 3:51pm ET

Bill Sebastian imagined his Outer Visual Communicator as a hexagonal piece of a larger dome, like the one the Martians jacked from Buckshot Fuller for It Came From Outer Space. Sebastian built the OVC for Sun Ra, partially in a basement at MIT (where he worked on laser-base plates for NASA) and in a barn in Ore City, Texas.

The farmers freaked.

To jump back and quote myself: Bill envisioned that he and Sun Ra would sit inside the OVC Dome and remap the chromatic spectrum of the universe. Without acid.  All you need is a touch-sensitive capacitant keyboard, a 16-foot hexagonal screen, “17 millions colors at mind-dazzling speeds,” retinal compliance from the Suboptic Shadow World, and five years of your pre-digital life.

“The best view is inside the dome,” Sebastian told me.

Donnie Wahlberg and Jordan Knight remember Bill Sebastian as the resident synethesiologist at Michael Jonzun’s Mission Control Studios in Boston. The OVC made Sun Ra’s Chicago-Saturn commute go a little faster.  Though, as any Incredible Melting Man will tell you, one should be careful when staring at the sun through the rings of Saturn.

If that is indeed Bill entering the OVC Dome in the photo above, I’m pretty certain he’s never coming back.

In the meantime, I’m meeting with Bill today to give him a copy of How to Wreck a Nice Beach. (Bill is one of my favorite book contributors.)

As for Boston: We did the book thing last night at a downtown bar called Good Life. They had my slideshow hooked up to all the TVs in the bar, which has two floors. (A bar without a TV in Boston is a lonely-ass bar.)  So after the Sox beat the Twins, baseball fans were treated to eight TVs of Michael Jonzun in cosmic French tresses, my stepbrother’s old Camaro, the Peachoid of Gaffney South Carolina, the Federal Screw Works of Troy, Michigan, Bell Labs vocoder guys, etc.—the usual, the works.

I also met nice some folks from MIT who research the psycho-acoustics of bird talk. (Vocoder inventor Homer Dudley considered birds as the o.g. speech synthesizers.) One of their professors worked at Bell Labs and had engineered an electronic bird larynx*. I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard—Mao was playing “Heaven of My Life” by Change, so you (hopefully) know how that goes. Or it could’ve been Wajeed’s talk box version of “I Want You,” which is a sick addition to the Marvin Chronicles. He also played a good weird remix of Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much.” (Never knew how that went.) And MIT danced. Thanks for coming out MIT. Go nightjar. Go Waajeed.

Thanks Mao, Hua, 7L, Coleman, Blade Runners, Geeta, Tall Matt, Pete L’Official, Jeff at Good Life and all the TVs.

*It is possible that I completely checked out after hearing the words electronic bird larynx, because really, could it get any better?

1 Comment »

  1. I knew Bill in 1979 at the starsystems loft on thayer street in boston.
    I was a young 17 year old apprentice of Joe Nucci’s, the black and white printing genius at the loft. That year changed my life. i think of Bill and his light machine with awe and fondness. Tell him hello from me if you can. Michael Greenberg

    Comment by Michael Greenberg — December 14, 2011 @ 2:49am

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