Processed vocal sound as a signature
Listening to some artists involved in the field of popular music who adopt the more traditional role of the singer, I experience sound processing as an integrated part of their individual vocal expression. I heard the use of a vocoder for the first time as a 15-year old, in the recording of “Don’t kill it Carol” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (Angel Station, 1979). I was deeply fascinated by it, without exactly knowing why. As already mentioned, I got a big kick from Laurie Anderson’s use of the vocoder and octaver on her speech and song, first with “Oh Superman” (Big Science 1981). Another peak experience with processed voice sound was Josef Zawinul, singing beautifully with a vocoder on his composition “You Understand” (The Immigrants,1988). Further, the highly compressed, filtered and “dry” sound of Swedish Stina Nordenstam on her record And she closed her eyes (1994) became a kind of reference sound for me; I still think of it as the “Stina Nordenstam-sound” when I try to produce something similar.
Playing with sounds
The use of sound as musical material more or less disconnected from traditional functions such as melody, rhythm and harmony has developed in a variety of genres.
I find that some of the artists involved in the improv and noise scenes, such as the Norwegian artists Lasse Marhaug and the former duo Fe-Mail, are interesting to me both because of their approach to performing and their use of sound as musical material:
– A free jazz approach: improvising with relatively open structures/concepts
– Influences from Western Avant-Garde, Fluxus and experimental music, including the French musique concrète, often using field recordings as material
– Influences from popular music and techno, both in the choice of sounds and techniques (or was it the other way around?)
Many popular music artists have, along with the development of music technology, and influenced by the contemporary and experimental music scene, incorporated the use of “sound” as a musical parameter in different ways, both in studio productions and live. For me, Anja Garbarek’s Balloon Mood, Radiohead’s KidA, and Bjørk’s Post, are examples of contemporary studio productions where deliberate and conscious use of electronic devices is creating a rich and individual expression.