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date: 15 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. By examining a brief history of several sound production technologies that preceded Auto-Tune, this essay suggests that a “doping of the voice” occurred—an elusive phenomenon hidden by industry engineers, but amplified by artists who sought to make the voice as pliable and sounding as the instruments that often accompanied it. On the one hand, the dope dealt by the commercial sound industry resembled expensive designer drugs—technologies that promised to make one both sound as well as look better (e.g., early dubbing for film, double-tracking for music). On the other hand, a doping of the voice was practiced by experimental artists (Yoko Ono, Charlemagne Palestine, Hollis Frampton) in order to dirty the voice’s narrative context: grinding its phonemic elements, challenging its purity as signature of the body, and wresting it away from any kind of philosophical or psychological interiority.

Keywords: vocal manipulation, pitch correction, Auto-Tune, artificial double-tracking, Dolby Noise Reduction, digital delay, analog, experimental sound, experimental film

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