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May 9, 2010

15 Down, 37 To Go "How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The History of the Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks" (52 Books, 52 Weeks)

A book that follows the history of the vocoder doesn't sound very interesting, and I have to admit almost leaving it in my incoming books pile. Then I turned the book over and saw blurbs by three music writers I respect (Sasha Frere-Jones, Jeff Chang and Oliver Wang), so I decided to give the book a second chance.

Dave Tompkins wrote this book over a decade, and his expertise in the subject is evident. Thoroughly researched, How to Wreck a Nice Beach keenly balances explorations of the machine's original cryptographic incarnation and its eventual uses in entertainment. The book is more than the mere history of the device, Tompkins also explores the impact the vocoder has had on music, especially the hip-hop community. Tompkins' enthusiasm for his subject is evident, and makes for a fascinating story about a device that somehow bridged the worlds of both spies and musicians.

My next book is Happy: A Memoir, by Alex Lemon.

also at Largehearted Boy:

52 Books, 52 Weeks
Online "best of 2009" book lists
Online "best of 2008" book lists
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)