How to Wreck a Nice Beach has more than history encoded in its pages

Dave Tompkins has written a book that is far more than the history of a piece of equipment. While How to Wreck a Nice Beach is, as its subtitle says, the history of “The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop ,” it is more accurately summed up in the subtitle to the subtitle: “The Machine Speaks.”

Tompkins follows a linear path of the vocoder, with sidetracks into the Talk Box, Sun Ra’s Outer Visual Communicator, the Speak ‘n’ Spell, and the Moog synthesizer. He traces it from its early development as a piece of equipment designed to break up communications and encrypt them in a wash of random noise onward, through a myriad of forms, all the up to where we know it today, which is as something that will take your voice and make it sound like a robot (the Cylons on the original Battlestar Galactica, most notably).

Categories: Music