Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Perrey and Kingsley
The musical duo Perrey and Kingsley (Jean-Jacques Perrey, b. 1923 and Gershon Kingsley, b. 1929), were pioneers in the field of electronic music. Prior to their collaboration in 1964, electronic music was considered to be purely avant-garde. The notion of electronic music for the masses was nearly unthinkable.
German-born Kingsley fled Nazi Germany for Israel and began his career in music as a pit conductor for Broadway musical shows after graduating from the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music . Perrey was a French accordion player and medical student who abandoned his studies after meeting Georges Jenny in 1952. Jenny was the inventor of the Ondioline , a vacuum tube-powered keyboard instrument that was the forerunner of today's synthesizers and described as having a sound "between a flute and a violin." Vibrato and tremolo were possible, but the player actually had to shake the instrument's keys to accomplish it! Jenny hired Perrey as a salesman and demonstrator of the new instrument. As a result, he later came to the attention of French singer Edith Piaf who sponsored a number of his solo recordings.
Their first meeting
Perrey and Kingsley came together during Kingsley's stint as a staff arranger at Vanguard Records, an independent label in Santa Monica, California that specialized not in avant-garde music, but in folk music. At that time, Perrey was experimenting with tape loops in the style of French avant-garde musician Pierre Schaffer . Each loop was a laboriously constructed collection of filtered sounds, pitch-manipulated sounds and even animal calls. The end result of their first collabrative effort in 1966 combined Perrey's tape loops with Kingsley's live instrumentation and was filled with melodies and sounds like an animated cartoon gone berserk. It was titled The In Sound From Way Out! and was released on Vanguard that same year. Since this was decades before the advent of widespread digital technology, each cut took more than a week of painstaking editing and splicing to produce.
The twelve rather whimsical tracks bore names like "Unidentified Flying Object" and "The Little Man From Mars" in an attempt to make electronic music more accessible. The offbeat titles and happy, upbeat melodies added a genuine sense of humor to popular music years before another notable musician, Frank Zappa, would do likewise. In fact, "Unidentified Flying Object" and another of the album's cuts, "Electronic Can-Can" became theme music for "Wonderama ," a Metromedia Television children's program of the early 1970s. Though most of the melodies were original, two borrowed from the classics. "Swan's Splashdown" was based on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" while "Countdown At 6" borrowed from Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance Of The Hours ," much as Allan Sherman did in 1963 with his hit recording, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh." The final cut on the album, "Visa To The Stars" is credited to "Andy Badale," who would go on to fame as Angelo Badalamenti, arranger of the music in many of David Lynch's movies. In contrast to the rest of the album, "Visa To The Stars" is a more serious gesture and lacks the unusual sound effects of the other eleven cuts. It is highly reminiscent of the style of Joe Meek and his hit, "Telstar" by The Tornados. Perrey's Ondioline carries the melody throughout.
Hollywood takes notice
Their second and final collaborative effort came in 1967 with the release of Spotlight On The Moog (Kaleidoscopic Vibrations). This was a similar sounding effort, but instead of all original compositions, the album had versions of popular songs of the day and was somewhat more sophisticated in its recording technique. In this album, Perrey's tape loops and effects were added in post-production after Kingsley's orchestrations were recorded, a technique used by electronic artists to this day. It also bore two notable singles. "The Savers" would go on to fame in 1968 as the Clio Award-winning music for a television ad for No-Cal soft drinks and in 1971 as the theme to the television game show "The Joker's Wild". About the time "The Savers" was being used on television, engineers with the Walt Disney Company were at work on a new parade at Disneyland, the "Main Street Electrical Parade." The idea was to cover floats with thousands of electronically-controlled colored lights and to set the show to music. A Disney engineer stumbled on a cut called "Baroque Hoedown," an upbeat, almost sparkling number best described as "harpsichord gone country." It would become the underlying theme of the parade for the next three decades at Disneyland and is still in use today at its new home, Disney's California Adventure.
Their impact today
Though Perrey and Kingsley never enjoyed tremendous commercial success, their music inspired a generation of musicians and was used extensively in advertising. Moog Indigo, a Jean-Jacques Perrey solo album from 1970 featured a cut called "E.V.A." This slow, funky track is one of the most sampled in hip hop and rap music history. In the US, it's currently being used in a TV ad for Zelnorm , a prescription medication for, of all things, irritable bowel syndrome. The same album produced "The Elephant Never Forgets" which is used as the theme of the Telemundo comedy, "El Chavo." Even the Beastie Boys used both the title and cover art of the first album for their own In Sound From Way Out! album in 1996 while Smash Mouth borrowed the opening riff from "Swan's Splashdown" for their 1997 hit, "Walking On The Sun." Gershon Kingsley's biggest contribution to mainstream pop music came in the early 1970s as the composer of "Popcorn," the single biggest hit of the German phantom-band "Hot Butter" led by Stan Free .
Their work for Vanguard is available on a three-CD set called The Out Sound From Way In! The Complete Vanguard Recordings. The bonus CD features two remixes of "E.V.A." by Fatboy Slim, remixes of "Winchester Cathedral" and "Lover's Concerto" from Kaleidoscopic Vibrations as well as "Electronic Can-Can" and "Unidentified Flying Object," each by techno artists Eurotrash.
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