Sonntag, 22. November 2009

The Master of the 808

In this video Tadao Kikumoto of Roland music talks about how he wasn't completely satisfied with his invention, the now legendary TR-808 drum machine. Especially the handclap sounded weak to him, like "breaking a bamboo stem". While the interviewer clearly can't hide his ardor, Kikumoto remains humble and keeps up his engineer / man of science habitus, a notion so old school that it seems touchingly nostalgic to us, white lab coat and all.

Here's another odd pop cultural find: a triptych featuring three pioneers of electronic music transformed into icons. Mr. Kikumoto can be found on the left with another invention of his, the TB-303. In the middle it is synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog and on the right we recognize Roger Linn, the man behind the LinnDrum machine and the MPC-60. In another dialectical turn, the triptych has apparently already been appropriated as a skateboard design.

Click for a larger picture

Anyway, back to topic. While Mr. Kikumoto's perfectionism demands our admiration, we are certainly glad that despite his reservations he did release the handclap after all. It became a staple of 80s (and beyond) music and it certainly is one of the most famous and recognizable sounds of electronic music.

When it comes to 808 handclaps there's nobody who pushed it as far as Chris "The Glove" Taylor. He had the trebliest, sharpest and most stinging 808 handclaps of them all. Listen to "Reckless", an early Ice-T song and witness The Glove going completely over the top. Occasional handclaps are duplicated again and again and again, bathed in delay until they become an amorphous cluster of sound hovering in midair like a giant swarm of birds or insects. (Extra geekiness: Another product of The Glove's aesthetics of hyperbole appears around the 1:44 mark - listen how the snare roll disintegrates into an early instance of glitch music, some 10 years before it became a popular genre.)

If you are interested in the triptych you might want to visit the artist's homepage where he is selling posters of it:

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