Vocoder  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A vocoder (name derived from voice encoder) is a speech analyzer and synthesizer. The vocoder has also been used extensively as an electronic musical instrument.

Musical history

In 1970, electronic music pioneers Wendy Carlos and Robert Moog developed one of the first truly musical vocoders.

Carlos' and Moog's vocoder was featured in several recordings, including the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, in which the vocoder sang the vocal part of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Also featured in the soundtrack was a piece called "Timesteps," which featured the vocoder in two sections. Originally, "Timesteps" was intended as merely an introduction to vocoders for the "timid listener", but Kubrick chose to include the piece on the soundtrack, much to the surprise of Wendy Carlos.

In the late 1970s, vocoder began to appear in pop music, for example on disco recordings. A typical example is Giorgio Moroder's 1977 album From Here to Eternity. The vocoder is featured prominently on the Alan Parsons Project album, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edgar Allan Poe" and later on the "I Robot" album. Vocoders are often used to create the sound of a robot talking, as in the Styx song "Mr. Roboto".

Vocoder has appeared on pop recordings from time to time ever since, but in most of cases vocoder works just as a some kind of special effect in pop music. However, many experimental electronic artists and representers of "new age" genre often utilize vocoder in a more comprehensive manner. Jean Michel Jarre (album Zoolook, 1984) and Mike Oldfield (album Five Miles Out, 1982) are good examples. There are also some artists who have made vocoder an essential part of their music. Those include the famous German group Kraftwerk, Roger Troutman's Zapp, jazz/fusion keyboardist Herbie Hancock during his late 1970s disco period, Patrick Cowley's late recordings and more recently, avant-garde-pop group Trans Am. The song "O Superman" by avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson is a popular recording released in 1981 that incorporates the vocoder. The KLF used vocoder-distorted voices in their 1991 "Stadium House" mix Last Train to Trancentral (Live from the Lost Continent). In 1998, Marilyn Manson utilized the vocoder heavily in their glam- and 70s-influenced LP Mechanical Animals, whereon such songs as "User Friendly" and "Posthuman" among others make substantial use of the technology. Since 1998, Manson has favored the live concert use of vocoders and many concert-goers can hear him use the technology when performing many songs, notably, "Antichrist Superstar". The bands Mogwai, The Faint, Air, Ween, and Death from Above 1979 all have extensive use of the vocoder. Daron Malakian, guitarist of System of a Down has used a Vocoder in the songs Sugar, War?, and Old School Hollywood. Muse also used a vocoder on their latest album, Black Holes and Revelations, most notably when performing the song "Supermassive Black Hole' live. French house duo Daft Punk are also very well-known for their use of vocoders for their songs that contain lyrics. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters used a vocoder in the 1999 song, "Generator". During his live performances, singer-songwriter Martin Sexton is well know for singing into a vocoder to simulate lead guitar while he simultaneously plays rhythm.

Legendary funk artist Prince recorded the vocals to his 2006 song "Incense and Candles" using a vocoder. This song can be heard on the album 3121.

Sam La More and GT's new wave / electro supergroup Tonite Only recorded their hits Danger (The Bomb) and Where The Party's At using a Clavia Nord Modular vocoder. Nodisco was the first band that recorded full vocal lines in italian with a vocoder, in several songs from the album Pensiero Attivo, in 2004. Eurodance/techno band Eiffel 65 uses a vocoder in almost every song in their first two albums Europop and Contact!, but not so much in their self titled album, Eiffel 65

T-Pain's signature vocals in his songs are frequently used with a vocoder.

Imogen Heap uses the vocoder and her voice only for the song Hide and Seek on the album Speak for Yourself. She manipulates this via a MIDI keyboard to create the harmonies she wants her voice to do.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vocoder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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