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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Techno-Synth-Pop, TRANS, Vocoders and Neil Young

Neil Young
Techno-Synth-Pop Phase

(Click photo to enlarge)

So some interesting comments on the recent post Synchronicity and Neil Young with a video of the song "Transformer Man" and some gadget discussion involving vocoders and synthesizers.

While it is very unclear exactly what is happening in terms of the vocals, instruments and devices, it does allow for some possibilities.

From a comment by Matt L.:
Is he dialing up sounds on that thing? Is that a vocoder?

Nils and Neil are both singing through the vocoder, if you check out the other tracks. Particularly in Sample and Hold, and Computer Age, where both are playing guitar. They have (wireless?) headsets being used to process the vocals through the vocoder.

At one point Neil sings through both the wireless and the stage mic and you can hear his natural voice combining with the vocoder-affected voice (on Computer Age), which I think is a really nice touch, as it melds the human and the electronic sounds into one - very symbolic of what he was getting at as well.

So, I don't know, I think he's pantomiming.

Okay, I just checked, and all the photos of 1980-era vocoders appear to be of large, rack-mount boxes. So I think the little box is an imaginary ipod.

Or perhaps a PONO!
You're right Matt. We did go back and check and it does seem that it's a hybrid PONO.

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At 1/08/2013 07:18:00 AM, Anonymous mxdx said...

The handheld machine certainly isn't a vocoder as the actual vocoder Neil used on Trans was the much bigger Sennheiser VSM 201:

And if you play a vocoder you need a keyboard to trigger the specific notes the voice should be transformed into, so someone at the side of the stage must have played those keyboards both for Neil and Nils (which actually is visible in the video).

Maybe the handheld thing is just the wireless microphone's radio transmitter. I don't think that Neil mixed the levels of his original voice and the vocoder voice with it (which would have been technically impossible back then, I think).

At 1/08/2013 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Matthew L. said...

Thanks, Thrash!

And Thanks mxdx for clearing up the vocoder question.

That thing is a PONO, man, I'm sure of it. Neil from 2012 traveled back in time, found himself in 1980, gave himself the PONO and told himself, "Do not despair, for the future holds vast communication technology that will free us from the prison of the flesh!"

Neil from 1980 was like, "Woah." And this became the first time Neil quit smoking pot.

At 1/08/2013 09:02:00 AM, Blogger Matthew L. said...

So, with all that in mind, then what Neil is doing when he's messing around with that PONO, is attempting to communicate with NOW.

"Hello, me from the future, can you hear me?"

Of course himself from the future is busy touring with Crazy Horse, so he doesn't have time to respond.

At 1/08/2013 09:03:00 AM, Anonymous The Zuma Band said...

I think Neil has been time traveling, probably when he was having his epileptic incidents, and thus his foreknowledge of events and technologies. The cover of "Trans" is all about that. It has the "Back To The Future" DeLorean, a '58 Cadillac (which prefigures the LincVolt), the hitch hiker character/NY and some hologram NY version thumbing rides to the future/past.

"Neil told me about going into other lives. He'd go to this same place every seizure, and all these people would go, "Oh, haven't seen you around- how ya doin'?" He was called by some other name. Neil was just in another world, another reality, and just about the time he started to adjust and adopt to that reality, he'd get yanked out of that one and find himself back in this reality again.....that's the strength of his creativity.."
-Sandy Mazzeo quoted in "Shakey"

At 1/08/2013 10:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it sounds especially funny when he talks and simply says "thank you, thank you" while the device is applied to his voice. Something more to think about: When he introduces Computer Age on the Berlin video he speaks with the voice saying:"Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs in a computer age"...

Here is demonstration of the Sennheiser Neil was using, it´s in german but the demonstration around 1:40 contains the effect that Neil used for Transformer Man:

At 1/08/2013 11:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was Joel Bernstein controlling the vocoder from the side of the stage. (?)


At 1/08/2013 02:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1/08/2013 03:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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I also think Mr. Soul sounds a lot like Satisfaction,

At 1/08/2013 07:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... Does that photo show Brucie Bassie playing a Steinberger !?!?!?!?!

-- Eric in sunny FLA


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