Boylan, J. Gabriel. "Robot Rock." The Nation 290.25 (28 June 2010): 34-36. Rev. How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop: The Machine Speaks. By Dave Tompkins. Hoboken, NJ: Melville House/Stop Smiling, 2010.
Publisher's statement on the book begins, "The history of the vocoder: how popular music hijacked the Pentagon's speech scrambling weapon. This is the story of how a military device became the robot voice of hip-hop and pop music. Though the vocoder, invented by Bell Labs in 1928, was designed to guard phones from eavesdroppers, it expanded beyond its original purpose and has since become widely used as a voice-altering tool for musicians. It has served both the Pentagon and the roller rink, a double agent of pop and espionage" <http://mhpbooks.com/book.php?id=309>. "Weapon" is a little strong, and Boylan's review succinctly summarizes the military uses of the Vocoder and nicely summarizes its place in music, along with such electronic devices as the theremin and much better known synthesizer.
8. MUSIC, RDE, 20/VII/10