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whisper, whistle... ?

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  • Wilson, Carl
    Hi everybody - I ve been out-of-listserv-reading-mode for awhile, but things are a little more peaceful now. Thought i d come back with a question: So this
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 3 10:54 AM
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      Hi everybody - I've been out-of-listserv-reading-mode for awhile, but things are a little more peaceful now. Thought i'd come back with a question:

      So this summer we've got the Ying Yang Twins whispering and Juelz Santana doing it with a whistle. My question (and it's kind of a convoluted one) is what pop precedents there are for this use of novelty human-produced sounds as production elements. Obviously there's the whole legacy of yodelling, and the Slim Whitman sort of whistling, but I'm particularly interested in cases where these sounds are used not so much as part of the lead singer's performance but as embedded texture on which the song is built, almost like an instrument. (Wait [The Whisper Song] is both, I would argue.) There are a few cases such as Bjork's last album where this is the whole point, but that's not really in a pop way (though experimental examples are good for context). The only standout example I can think of before now is beatboxing. Others?


      carl w.
      =============
      Carl Wilson
      The Globe and Mail
      http://www.zoilus.com
    • Carl A Zimring
      ... Aside from the vocal sounds in doo-wop, can I test the boundaries of your question and bring up the vocorder/talking box sounds Joe Walsh and Peter
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 3 12:26 PM
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        > So this summer we've got the Ying Yang Twins whispering and Juelz Santana
        > doing it with a whistle. My question (and it's kind of a convoluted one)
        > is what pop precedents there are for this use of novelty human-produced
        > sounds as production elements. Obviously there's the whole legacy of
        > yodelling, and the Slim Whitman sort of whistling, but I'm particularly
        > interested in cases where these sounds are used not so much as part of
        > the lead singer's performance but as embedded texture on which the song
        > is built, almost like an instrument. (Wait [The Whisper Song] is both, I
        > would argue.) There are a few cases such as Bjork's last album where this
        > is the whole point, but that's not really in a pop way (though
        > experimental examples are good for context). The only standout example I
        > can think of before now is beatboxing. Others?

        Aside from the vocal sounds in doo-wop, can I test the boundaries of your question and bring up the vocorder/talking box sounds Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton used in the 70s?

        I seem to remember some disco songs where the rhythm was built around heavy breathing and bass guitar but am drawing a blank on names this early in the morning.

        Oh yeah, are Cocteau Twins not poppy enough for consideration?

        Carl Z.
      • Carl A Zimring
        Here s a good one: I Feel Free by Cream.
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 3 12:49 PM
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          Here's a good one: "I Feel Free" by Cream.
        • Wilson, Carl
          ... That s a good thought, tho it s definitely a bit on the margin of the question - but the question s a little fuzzy still, so sure, why not? ... Heavy
          Message 4 of 9 , Aug 3 1:26 PM
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            > Aside from the vocal sounds in doo-wop, can I test the
            > boundaries of your question and bring up the vocorder/talking
            > box sounds Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton used in the 70s?

            That's a good thought, tho it's definitely a bit on the margin of the question - but the question's a little fuzzy still, so sure, why not?

            > I seem to remember some disco songs where the rhythm was
            > built around heavy breathing and bass guitar but am drawing a
            > blank on names this early in the morning.

            Heavy breathing rhythm tracks would be *so* on target. If something occurs to you, let me know.

            Donna Summer's Bad Girls, with its "toot toot, ahhh, beep beep!" hook just popped into my mind. That feels relevant.

            > Oh yeah, are Cocteau Twins not poppy enough for consideration?

            Ehhhh, Cocteau Twins just doesn't seem right.
          • Jason Gross
            For whistling, there s Guy Mithcell s Singin the Blues and Professor Longhair s Big Chief. DJ Frankie Knuckles had The Whistle Song. Don t ask me how
            Message 5 of 9 , Aug 4 12:33 PM
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              For whistling, there's Guy Mithcell's "Singin' the Blues" and
              Professor Longhair's "Big Chief." DJ Frankie Knuckles had "The
              Whistle Song." Don't ask me how I know this but Carly Simon whistled
              on one of her early albums and I'm pretty sure I remember Lennon
              doing it on "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out" and Sir Elton
              on "Benny and the Jets." For some reason, I seem to remember Stevie
              Wonder whistling on one of his albums too but maybe I imagined
              that... I'm sure that any Spike Jones record had 100's of whistles
              and strange vocal noises.

              There's also this recent book on yodels:
              "Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The History of Yodeling Around The World"

              For the Ying Yang Twins' song, I thought the "censored" version of
              the song was much better than the stupidly "explicit" version- leaves
              more to the imagination even if you can guess what they're talking
              about.

              Best,
              Jason

              Perfect Sound Forever
              online music magazine since 1993- now new and semi-improved!
              <http://www.perfectsoundforever.com>
              Yei Wei Blog aka Wild Taste: <http://yeweiblog.blogspot.com/>
            • Wilson, Carl
              Thanks, Jason - to clarify, i m not thinking so much of records where somebody whistles or yodels but ones that integrate that into the overall instrumental
              Message 6 of 9 , Aug 4 2:09 PM
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                Thanks, Jason - to clarify, i'm not thinking so much of records where somebody whistles or yodels but ones that integrate that into the overall instrumental bed - much more Spike Jones than Professor Longhair.

                Do you know if there's a relationship between Frankie Knuckles' "The Whistle Song" and Juelz Santana's "There It Go (The Whistle Song)"? That's one of the things I've wanted to find out.

                carl w
              • Carl A Zimring
                ... I m not coming up with titles from the 1970s, but in more contemporary music, one of my favorite examples of this is Erykah Badu s I Want You . The
                Message 7 of 9 , Aug 4 3:00 PM
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                  > Heavy breathing rhythm tracks would be *so* on target. If something
                  > occurs to you, let me know.

                  I'm not coming up with titles from the 1970s, but in more contemporary music, one of my favorite examples of this is Erykah Badu's "I Want You". The breathing is part of the lead vocal, but the way the vocal is mixed into the track makes it less of a lead and part of the rhythm. It's hypnotic and maybe my favorite song she's done. I don't think it was particularly successful on the charts (it's a long song), so we're stretching the boundaries of pop. Quite danceable though.

                  Would the backing vocals in Steely Dan's "Show Biz Kids" be along the lines of what you had in mind, Carl? The words are almost beside the point, and the vocals carry the rhythm of the track. Plus one wail qualifies as the only solo in the song!

                  Carl Z.
                • Jason Baldwin
                  Carl W. wrote:
                  Message 8 of 9 , Aug 7 1:06 PM
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                    Carl W. wrote:
                    < Heavy breathing rhythm tracks would be *so* on target. If
                    < something occurs to you, let me know.

                    If memory serves, much of the percussion on Tom Waits' last album, REAL
                    GONE, is all vocal loops.

                    -Jason, awake too early in Seattle post-Grand Champeen
                  • Carl A Zimring
                    ... I am suddenly remembering that one of Stevie Wonder s mid-80s songs (c. 1987) has samples of his heartbeat as the rhythm track. Not a vocal, but outside
                    Message 9 of 9 , Aug 7 1:59 PM
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                      > Carl W. wrote: < Heavy breathing rhythm tracks would be *so* on target.
                      > If < something occurs to you, let me know.
                      >
                      > If memory serves, much of the percussion on Tom Waits' last album, REAL
                      > GONE, is all vocal loops.

                      I am suddenly remembering that one of Stevie Wonder's mid-80s songs (c. 1987) has samples of his heartbeat as the rhythm track. Not a vocal, but outside the bounds of typical bodily noises in song.

                      Carl Z.
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