Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Great Advances in Christmas Music Technology
(click here for introduction, and here for a word on copyright)

Deck the Halls
Mannheim Steamroller

Chip Davis was a junior high school music teacher, turned advertising jingle writer, turned inventor of the "C.P. McCall" character (of "Convoy") fame, when he decided to record himself playing classical music on one of those "synthesizers" that were so newfangled in 1974. He created his own record label and a fictitious name for his "band" -- "Mannheim Steamroller" -- and spent the 70s selling his "Fresh Aire" albums to stereophiles who appreciated his recordings because they were crisp and clean and unsullied by any human emotion.

But Davis will always be remembered for a technical innovation he developed in the early 1980s. Before Davis came along, synthesizers were played with the hands -- usually in the form of a piano-style keyboard. Davis was the first to design a synthesizer that operated in the form of a woodwind. Indeed, it was a very peculiar woodwind.

More specifically, he developed the technology to turn the human fart into synthesized sound.

Naturally, the first album to use this musical farting technology was a Christmas album, 1984's "Mannheim Steamroller Christmas." And as you no doubt recall, the hit Christmas song that year was Davis's stirring recording of "Deck the Halls." The stunning sound of electrolyzed flatulence trumpeted through every Montgomery Ward's in America.

Surely you remember it:

BRAAAAAP bruh brap buh brap buh BRAP brap...
[thunderous tympani]
[thunderous tympani, cue disco beat]

Aw, it's no use. There's no way to convey the glorious sound of the electrorectophone, as his technology was called. (And I'm sure as hell not linking to it.) Man had converted farts into music, and America wiped away tears of joy.

For over a decade, America's desire for the new electrorectophonic music proved to be insatiable: Christmas in the Aire (1985), Somebody Aire Out the Bathroom (1988), Music From A Christmas Tamale Dinner (1993), Nothing You Haven't Heard Already (1995), and the so-called "cry for help" album, Just Hand Ten Dollars to the Clerk and Shoot Yourself in the Head (1997). Eventually, the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums stopped coming. Technology had moved on: the electrorectophone was eclipsed by a new technology developed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which allowed them to play the electric guitar by farting.

But for a brief two decades, Chip Davis sat atop the world every Christmas. And when he played, we all felt the mighty wind.

 10:01 AM

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