One of the more recent phenomena is “auto-tuning”, where a digital plug-in can fix a singer’s pitch automatically. This leaves certain artifacts on the sound, and just like guitar amplifier distortion before, these artifacts have become an interesting sound effect that is intentionally employed. You can hear this in Kanye West’s “Heartless”.
Amazingly, Autotune can be used on non-musical sources such as speech to create a melody where previously there was none. The band The Gregory Brothers have created a —well, that’s the task, isn’t it?– comprised of various news sources that have been auto tuned. News anchors and politicians are all “unintentional” singers. They have created an entire series of these, and they often pump these things out 2 or 3 days after the original broadcasts, which is very impressive.
Amazingly, it turns into really good music. I have watched this particular clip at least 20 times now, and I still marvel at its ingenuity. There’s a through composed structure, good melodies, rises and falls, and everything you would expect from a real composition. The Gregory Brothers play various characters in the piece and do the only real singing and instrument playing, and the style sounds like a mix of new R&B and disco.
What do you call this? What do think about digital adjustments to our recorded voices in general?
If that wasn’t enough for you (watch for the The Music Man reference):