History of Electronic Music: NPR has published an interesting piece looking at the history of the vocoder, featuring Dave Thompkins’ new book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop.
Among the topics covered is the seminal work of Walter Carlos (Wendy Carlos):
The vocoder experienced a major transition from military device to musical effect when Wendy Carlos used it on the soundtrack for 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. Carlos did a vocoder interpretation of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which Tompkins says exposed the vocoder in unprecedented ways.
“Essentially, that introduced the vocoder to its first major audience,” he says. “A lot people had no idea what it was. As the vocoder evolved, they knew the voice but had no idea where it came from.”
You can also preview a selection of Thompkin’s book at the NPR site.