2003   AUGUST 22   #234

Cook Records - Not Programmed For Love

The first side of this novelty "party" record is "The High Cost Of Dying", which is...

"an actual unrehearsed phone conversation with an undertaker on the hilarious subject of how to get (deceased) Uncle Willie buried. WATCH OUT! --You're likely to die laughing as you listen to this record -- then your relatives will be making the same kind of phone call."

I'm not big on this kind of thing. But it does date back to 1962, in case you think the crank call records of the late 90s were some kind of innovation.

The B side of this LP is called "Listening in on Computer Conversations". A narrator, with a distinctive lisp, tells us about advances in artificial intelligence and speech synthesis, with examples that are clearly his own voice sped up a bit with some oscillator/radio noise mixed in. The jokes are mostly lame-o double entendre, some of which is also done with a female voice with a slight Hungarian accent. Eventually, the computer mixes mathematics and missiles, satellites and sexual longing into a mambo-driven, bleepy-blorp augmented, how-many-adjectives-can-I-shove-in-a-sentence jazz-combo classic.

Oddly enough, one of the other sketches is an airline reservation system that is actually available today (I think from several sources)!

Liner notes:

This is truly an electronic age. Now they are bouncing television signals off an orbiting satellite, taking photographs in outer space with cameras powered by solar cells that get their energy from sunshine, and, of course, there are high-speed computers which store data and work out in a few minutes mathematical problems formerly requiring months or years of ordinary computation.

One of the long-standing ambitions of the human mind has been to build a machine which can duplicate human speech. Not just to repeat sounds -- such as is the case with tape recorders -- but to create original speech based on an analysis of various data.

Such machines are now a reality. The ones now in existence can synthesize human speech so accurately, it is almost possible to duplicate the voice of any person you might name -- such as Winston Churchill, JFK, Frank Sinatra, and -- we were going to mention Jimmy Cagney -- but almost anyone can imitate him.

On this record you will hear a digital computer that not only can synthesize speech, but since it has been programmed (fed) with a great deal of human experience it actually knows what it is talking about. This is an achievement some humans can't match.

In any case, rather than present the voice (and thoughts) of just one computer, we arranged a sort of competition between two different types of speech synthesizing machines. You will hear them talk, recite poetry, and sing along with a band (Can you imagine Mitch [Miller] waving his baton at a bunch of singing computers? You're right -- the union would never permit it.)

The rivalry between the engineers who designed the machines is apparent on the record. Each strives to outperform the other and the result is sometimes chaotic, with one machine interrupting the other, singing louder, and displaying other human traits.

Anyway, when you hear the computers talking you are first going to be incredulous, then fascinated, then frightened by the implications (Is modern man obsolete?) then delighted by the performances.

Is this an educational record? It is like hell -- it's as entertaining as a fight between two mothers-in-law . . . as delightful a spoof as you ever heard . . . and as rare a piece of discography as you'll ever get your hands on. You'll always be glad you bought this record -- especially when your friends offer you twice what you paid for it. We can almost guarantee you'll be invited to parties -- "provided you bring that Cook record about computers."

What happened to Cook Records?

from, http://www.mcn.org/b/nufstuff/nwa/cook.html :

"The recordings Emory Cook released on his Sounds of Our Times and Cook Laboratories labels reflected his philosophy of sound. An audio engineer and inventor, Cook used his recordings to demonstrate his audio equipment and manufacturing techniques. From 1952 to 1966 he recorded, manufactured and distributed some of the highest quality audio recordings in the world. His releases included Euro-American classical, U.S. popular, Caribbean popular, and traditional music, as well as a variety of mechanical and natural sounds.

Emory and Martha Cook donated their record companies, master tapes, patents, and papers to the Smithsonian Institution in 1990. Every title is being kept in print and is available for purchase. Administered by the Center for Folklife Programs and Social Studies, Cook Recordings is one of the ways the Center supports cultural conservation and continuity as well as integrity and equity for traditional artist and cultures."

Yep, go to Smithsonian's Cook records web page, http://www.folkways.si.edu/cook.htm, and there, snuggled in with spectacular sound effects and priceless worldwide ethnic recordings is:

• Burlesque Uncensored (1954) COOK 01071
• The Compleat In Fidelytie: Sounds Natural and Unnatural
(1956) COOK 01044
• A Double Barrel Blast. High Cost of Dying and Computer Conversation
(1962) COOK 01078

- Henry Lowengard

TT-2:27 / 2.3MB / 128kbps 44.1khz
from "A Double Barrel Blast", COOK 1078 (1962)

Max Swanson writes:
As a not-to-active ham operator, (call sign, KA0IZH), I must point out the sending of a couple very clear CQ's at the end of "Programmed For Love." This is the standard prefix to a general request for a contact or QSO. Some say CQ originated as a contraction of "Seek YOu;" some say it was just easy to tap out on a code key. At any rate, the super-smart computer is calling out for love, hopefully in all the right places.