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Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.
May 2, 2009 6:10 AM   Subscribe

A few months ago I heard a song from the Côte d’Ivoire. Twelve minutes long, Champion DJ’s ‘Baako’ is built around a baby crying through Auto-Tune. The software bends the baby’s anguish into eerie musicality. The ear likes it. The mind isn’t so sure. ‘Baako’ is disturbing. The aestheticized cry no longer corresponds to any normal emotion. Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams. dj/Rupture writes an essay about auto-tune.
posted by geos (49 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

This old dude begs to differ.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:23 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


DJ /rupture also has a show on WFMU called Mudd Up, also available as a podcast. And he also put together an album for WFMU: "DJ Rupture's All AutoTune All the Time: From Harlem Nueva Jork to the Berber Maghreb, DJ Rupture presents a hearty tribute to the vocally-enhanced singers and players of music", which I sadly missed (especially now with this article to accompany it).

I thought it was interesting that Lil Wayne records straight through auto-tune. I still think it sounds awful, but the commitment is admirable in a way, like completely denying that there could not possibly be any better way to process the vocals.
posted by bjrn at 6:25 AM on May 2, 2009


Also, nice link. Enjoyed it.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:29 AM on May 2, 2009


You can listen to the baby-crying song here and yes, it is strange and disconcerting.
posted by SamuelBowman at 6:33 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The song is named 'Baako' and it's the fourth song down in the first table, sorry for not mentioning that in my first post.
posted by SamuelBowman at 6:35 AM on May 2, 2009


This is an interesting cut. But is it just me or is the auto-tune frenzy getting out of hand? It makes every damn song sound the same.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:44 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like Matt Smith's crying baby song much better. Can't get it out of my head.
posted by Tubes at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Baako made me laugh and laugh. What is it about weeping babies that is just so hilarious?
posted by FatherDagon at 7:01 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Umph, my big toe ruptured.
posted by Mblue at 7:16 AM on May 2, 2009


auto-tune is a scourge upon the face of the earth. i just don't understand why anyone thinks it sounds pleasing.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:23 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting cut. But is it just me or is the auto-tune frenzy getting out of hand? It makes every damn song sound the same.

Yee-eeeeee-eee-es, iiit doooees.
posted by LSK at 7:24 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

This old dude begs to differ.


So does Kurt Cobain.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:24 AM on May 2, 2009


‘Baako’ is disturbing.

I would have gone with "tedious," myself, but chacun a son goat.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2009


I just read the eassay in tha lst link. We've got it all wrong.

Not only is Auto-Tune not actually used to fix bad vocals, it actually takes an extraordinary singer with a special different talent in order to make the human voice work in concert with the computer when Auto-Tune is used.

Special singers like Katie Couric.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:59 AM on May 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


*the last* link.

Gragh. Coffee.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2009


Sounds like fast-forwarding but without the relief of the song being done sooner.
posted by hal9k at 8:03 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My mind is sure my ear doesn't like it. I thought I was stuck on a stuck midi loop until the baby finally started crying. Then there was nothing for me. Not something I could tune out and use as background music, not something I could enjoy either.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:38 AM on May 2, 2009


Don't worry, y'all, the kids will get off your lawn with their newfangled music soon enough. It's safe to unclench.

Auto-tune is just a tool, and it's trendy because it's new. R&B has already had Roger and Zapp and other kinds of electronic voice manipulation. This too shall pass, and before it does it's brought about at least one thing that I find remarkable.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:43 AM on May 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


No melodious screams before auto-tune? It's not just Roger Daltry and Kurt Cobain, but whole genres of metal beg who to differ.

I heard no babies, just chatty pledge-time DJs.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:45 AM on May 2, 2009


I would love to play with an Auto-Tune plugin just to hear the novelty of my voice being on-key just once. It would be the musical equivalent of looking in one of those fun-house mirrors to see myself look "skinny".

But hearing it on almost every song on so many albums is a little weird. It's sort of like if every guitar solo was done through that Peter Frampton "talking guitar" doodad.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:03 AM on May 2, 2009


> I heard no babies, just chatty pledge-time DJs.

It starts at about 0:22:59 in. Clicky (okay, perhaps you have to wait ~30 seconds before the baby starts).
posted by bjrn at 9:03 AM on May 2, 2009


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

This old dude begs to differ.

So does Kurt Cobain.


So, after a fashion, does Blind Willie Johnson.
posted by gompa at 9:21 AM on May 2, 2009


Bookhouse, thank you for pointing me to that link (Auto-tune the News) ... cracked me up and brought a smile ... an excellent use of Auto-tune and I agree that KAtie Couric has the best voice for this!
posted by aldus_manutius at 9:36 AM on May 2, 2009


I didn't really find any of that beautiful, eerie or entertaining. It just sounded like a bored sixteen year old got his hands on a nice keyboard, hit the "samba" beat then started playing with vocalizations through his cool new microphone with the fancy voice-changer buttons.

Get off my lawn!
posted by Malice at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2009


Baby crying through auto-tune on youtube.
posted by geoff. at 9:52 AM on May 2, 2009


Question... What has pissed off more people than auto-tune... No, not another auto-tune baby crying, but Disco, The Disco Pandemic of 1975.
posted by alteredcarbon at 10:02 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


My first impression of auto-tune was that the sound it produces it total shit and I hate it. I feel like its a crutch for bad singers who can get famous basically for being attractive instead.

But I also take a moment to pause. When I first heard rap and hip hop as a teenager, I thought it was total shit. It annoyed me that there wasn't any melody progression in the beats. Now I listen to some rap (Dan the Automator, Deltron 3030, that kind of thing) and I enjoy the lyrics *as* the progression.

So I have to wonder if I'll feel differently about Auto-Tune five years from now.
posted by ben242 at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I liked the essay if just for the fact that it had the female Moroccan pop clip, which showed that auto-tune can actually have interesting applications. The majority of recording artists/producers using the feature have seemed to be really lazy, however. I don't think I'm coming from a "these young kids" perspective either; I always have this problem when bandwagon-jumpers turn a concept into a cliche. Remember when rock bands started touring with cellists a few years back?
posted by queensissy at 10:04 AM on May 2, 2009


Just yesterday I discovered the best whining-baby music in the world. Seriously, I've listened to it ten times already.

Ondine, from The Happiness Project [previously]
posted by moonmilk at 10:12 AM on May 2, 2009


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

Dude needs to listen to the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor (Beverly Sills tears it up-- digitized video, so the picture quality isn't great, but still).
posted by jokeefe at 10:18 AM on May 2, 2009


There are definitely songs where the auto-tune sound works, I think Daft Punk's Harder Better Faster Stronger is a good example of that.
posted by bjrn at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Word up, ben242. Did I say that right? You kids today, with your hep to the riff talk.

We'll get used to it as it pervades. Ask the people who disliked Charlie Christian plugged-in. But Auto-Tune is a little scary, seeming to be aiming at perhaps artificially- or centrally-defined notions of perfection rather than at simple enhancement or at increasing creative options.

But then again, I suppose amplifying your archtop so it can be heard over the brass & reeds is also "aiming at perfection" too, in its own way, isn't it? Then, as people toy with the new tool, it starts "increasing creative options."

The thing that really quails me, though, is the next to last line of the Frieze essay: "T-Pain and the software manufacturer, Antares, are currently at work on bringing Auto-Tune to your mobile phone."

Does this mean that soon, in order to be taken seriously, not only must I have a lush head of hair, teeth as white as brand-new baseballs, & a stunning gym-muscle physique, but I'm going to have to warble like a robot with wax-paper speakers, too?
posted by Forrest Greene at 10:45 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know you never want to see her or hear about her again, but...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:14 AM on May 2, 2009


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

Found ya ten of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2009


As someone with a 8 mos old baby, that's just horrible. Torturous actually, my brain is saying one thing and my ears are saying something else. Unsettling as fuck....I'd rather listen to early White House records on infinite loop than that horror sound. It is so wrong on 12 different levels.

Also, it reminds me of a tribe of people in J.G. Ballard's psychological regression book *High Rise* that worship a doctor who specializes in baby cries and teaches them to communicate in baby noises. I imagine it would that baby language would sound as nightmarish as that "song."
posted by Skygazer at 12:04 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What! All this talk of melodious screams and no mention of Screamin' Jay Hawkins?

Well, that oughta change.
posted by Spatch at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


just fyi and all...y'know those u.n. guidelines for interrogation you've been hearing about in the news? they strictly forbid the use of recordings of crying babies in interrogations. apparently it's the single most intolerable sound known. my guess is it's some sort of evolutionary thing to make sure we take care of the young'uns.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2009


ARGH GODDAMNIT.

Ok, about a month ago I found the autotuned baby-crying video as linked by geoff, above.

I've had it in the back of my mind to make a track out of it ever since. Apparently I'm not the only one. DAMN AND BLAST.
posted by loquacious at 1:36 PM on May 2, 2009


That is really disturbing to listen to. The baby taking in gasping breaths before continuing crying are particularly bad, as they haven't really been auto-tuned so you hear them raw before it turns back into creepy synth music. Very very wrong.
posted by Lotto at 1:44 PM on May 2, 2009


MELODIOUS SCREAMING.

(warning, I accept no responsibility for damage to your speakers, computer, financial health, physical health, soul, mind or body if you actually use that soundboard.)
posted by loquacious at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2009


Wow! Now that I've heard a minute of the track it is just as weird and uncomfortable as people were saying...

...anyone know where I could get a copy of the full 10 minute track?
posted by Kattullus at 3:32 PM on May 2, 2009


I found all these autotuned hiphop songs tedius. I generally like hiphop but those songs all just sounded dumb.

On the other hand Auto Tune the News was friggin' awesome.

Personally, I don't think Autotune has any philosophical implications at all.
posted by delmoi at 4:39 PM on May 2, 2009


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

Yes we did. They were called 'bagpipes'.
posted by mazola at 5:32 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nah, mazola, he specifically said "melodious."
posted by No-sword at 7:22 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, some of you guys in this thread seem to think that auto-tune (shitty pop and R&B singers' best friend), vocoding (daft punk's best friend), and the talk box (zapp & roger's best friend) are all the same damn thing. Do your research, pals. Vocoders use the vocal signal (modulator) to process an instrumental carrier signal, and are damn awesome. The Talk Box blows the amplified sound from an instrument directly into your mouth to make use of your natural bandpass filters and add the vocal modulation before reamplifying the signal coming out of your mouth with a microphone, and is REALLY damn awesome.
posted by tehloki at 9:55 AM on May 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


For example, bjrn, the vocal element of Harder Better Faster Stronger is one long guitar solo being processed with a vocal sample that is looping over and over, using a vocoder. That you thought it was an auto-tuned singer kind of worries me; if you know of anyone who can actually sing with anywhere close to that much vocal range and with that timbre, I think they might have a recording contract coming.
posted by tehloki at 9:59 AM on May 3, 2009


Oh. I thought the auto-tune was a sort of package not just limited to minor adjustmens, but powerful enough to do all sorts of things, from awful R&B effects to the awesomeness that is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
posted by bjrn at 10:09 AM on May 3, 2009


Before Auto-Tune, we had no melodious screams.

This old dude begs to differ.

So does Kurt Cobain.

So, after a fashion, does Blind Willie Johnson.


And Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
posted by mike3k at 5:44 PM on May 3, 2009


A lot of the instances of "AutoTune" which are cited are actually Celemony Melodyne. AutoTune, AFAIK, is a black box which automatically adjusts pitches to fit to a scale; Melodyne is an editor which allows one to adjust note pitches, timings and durations arbitrarily.

Melodyne currently only works on monophonic materials, though they are working on a version that can pick apart chords and adjust their individual notes.
posted by acb at 3:50 AM on May 4, 2009


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