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Wasp  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Small analogue–digital hybrid synthesizer designed by Chris Huggett with rock musician Adrian Wagner and manufactured between 1978 and 1981 by their firm, Electronic Dream Plant (EDP), in Combe, near Oxford. The Wasp was also briefly available in kit form. This synthesizer has a two-octave, solid, monophonic ‘keyboard’ with pitch-bend and portamento controls; the diatonic keys, knobs, and lettering are yellow on a black background, to match the instrument’s name. For a real keyboard, it substitutes flat copper plates under a printed vinyl sticker. The conductive plates sense skin capacitance to trigger the associated pitches. The Wasp contains two oscillators, a white-noise generator, a filter, and an envelope shaper, and offers various voltage-controlled features, as well as a small built-in loud speaker and sockets for connecting to other EDP products. The circuitry incorporates a digital pitch-coding system which facilitates links with other devices, including microcomputers. In its shiny black plastic case and with batteries in place, the Wasp weighs only 1.8 kg (a deluxe version with wooden case and conventional keyboard is heavier but still easily portable). Although relatively inexpensive, small, and rather fragile, the Wasp was powerful and versatile for its time and developed an enduring following. EDP developed a still smaller model, the Gnat, with one oscillator and pulse width modulation, and the Caterpillar, a three-octave keyboard controller with four-voice polyphony. Other EDP creations included the Keytar, a guitar controller based on the Wasp, which was never produced, and a microcomputer-based 252-step sequencer called the Spider....

Article

Weezer  

Gillian Turnbull

Rock band. It formed in Los Angeles in 1992. Members of a lineup intact since 2001 include Rivers Cuomo (b New York, NY, 13 June 1970; lead vocals, guitar), Brian Bell (b Knoxville, TN, 9 Dec 1968; vocals, guitar), Scott Shriner (b Toledo, OH, 11 July 1965; bass guitar, vocals, keyboards), and Patrick Wilson (b Buffalo, NY, 1 Feb 1969; drums, vocals). Original guitarist Jason Cropper was replaced by Bell during the band’s early recording years; other past members include Matt Sharp and Mikey Welsh. Josh Freese has also acted as drummer for the band; there is discussion among fans as to whether he will become a permanent member.

The band achieved success early in their career with the release of the single “Buddy Holly” (1994); its music video, directed by Spike Jonze and interspersed with clips of the television show Happy Days, was widely acclaimed. For their first seven albums, Weezer was signed to Geffen (DGC) Records; they moved to Epitaph in ...

Article

Alyssa Woods

(Omari )

(b Atlanta, GA, June 8, 1977). American rapper, singer, and record producer. Kanye West burst onto the rap scene in 2004 with his debut album, The College Dropout, and has established himself as one of the industry’s most prominent artists. Immersed in the Chicago hip-hop scene, he learned to sample and program beats at the age of 15. While studying at Chicago State University, West began selling his beats to prominent rappers and decided to drop out of school to devote more time to his music career. West’s reputation as a producer was solidified by his work on Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint (2001), where his sped up sample of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” on the song “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” helped launch the single to the Billboard Top 10. West adopted the technique of speeding up samples from the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, making this his signature sound....

Article

Rob Bowman

(b New York, NY, Jan 10, 1917; d Sarasota, FL, Aug 15, 2008). American music journalist, producer, and record executive. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Kansas State University in 1946, Wexler got a job at the music industry trade magazine, Billboard. In a 1949 article for Billboard Wexler coined the phrase “rhythm and blues” to replace “race music” as the umbrella term for the new forms of black popular music that came to prominence immediately after World War II.

In 1953, Wexler became a partner in Atlantic Records, alongside Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, building the label into an industry powerhouse over the next 20 years. With Nesuhi handling most of the company’s jazz releases, Ahmet and Jerry supervised/produced sessions with the cream of 1950s R&B artists including Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker, and the Drifters.

In 1960, Wexler made a deal with the Memphis-based Stax Records to distribute their recordings. Over the next eight years, this meant that Atlantic distributed records by Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Albert King, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd, among others. In a unique arrangement, in ...

Article

Garrett Thorson

Rock duo. It was formed in southwest Detroit in 1997 by guitarist/vocalist Jack White [Gillis, John Anthony] (b Detroit, MI, 9 July 1975) and drummer Meg White [White, Megan Martha] (b Detroit, MI, 10 Dec 1974). A key group in the American garage-rock revival of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the White Stripes emerged from the Detroit underground scene, rising to international fame on the strength of their unique combination of blues roots and punk influences with raw (and often amateurish) lo-fi recording and performance practices. The color-coded red, white, and black visual presentation of the band, and the mythologized brother-sister relationship purported to exist between its members (in reality ex-husband and wife) also sparked interest.

After three full-length albums on the Long Beach independent label, Sympathy For The Record Industry, the White Stripes achieved mainstream success with their fourth album, Elephant, on V2 Records in ...

Article

Lukas Pearse

(Jesse )

(b New York, NY, May 12, 1940; d Los Angeles, CA, Sept 16, 2008). American songwriter and record producer. Born in Harlem, New York, Whitfield relocated to Detroit with his family as a teenager. After briefly writing and producing songs for Detroit’s Thelma Records, he was hired by Motown owner Berry Gordy, Jr., to help with quality control and the selection of releases. He quickly became part of the songwriting and production staff.

He paired with lyricist Barrett Strong, and the two wrote and produced many Motown hits, most notably “I heard it through the grapevine,” which was recorded by many artists including Gladys Knight and the Pips as well as Marvin Gaye. He was instrumental to The Temptations, writing or cowriting hits such as “Papa was a rollin’ stone” and “Ain’t too proud to beg,” and shifting their sound from doo-wop and R&B toward funk and psychedelic soul. Writing longer songs for the group, which featured extended instrumental breaks and the group’s singers sharing lead vocals, earned Whitfield and Strong a number of Grammy Awards....

Article

Wilco  

Jonas Westover

American alternative rock/country band. Wilco was formed in 1994 by musicians who had formerly played in other groups, most notably Uncle Tupelo. The band’s name derived from the military combination of “will comply.” Although the band’s roster has changed significantly since its creation, both Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt have remained stalwart members. Their style has retained a guitar-heavy sound with traditional rock, country, and pop elements laced with experimental tinges. Soon after joining forces, the group released their debut album, A.M. (1995, Reprise), which had mild success and led to a lengthy tour. They later worked with singer Billy Bragg to create new songs based on lyrics by Woody Guthrie. The resulting album, entitled Mermaid Avenue (1998), found commercial success and critical acclaim; it was the subject of a documentary film, Man in the Sand, and also led to a follow-up release, Mermaid Avenue, Vol. II...

Article

Ryan R. McNutt

(Douglas )

(b Inglewood, CA, June 20, 1942). American songwriter and producer. As the musical leader of the Beach boys during the 1960s, Wilson penned a series of massively successful hits that expanded the sound palette of radio pop. Though he subsequently struggled with mental illness and drug abuse, a late career revival brought with it recognition as one of the most important popular songwriters of the 20th century.

Wilson and his younger brothers Dennis and Carl grew up in Hawthorne, California. Their father Murray Wilson, occasionally abusive, strongly pushed his sons towards musical endeavors, making particular note of Brian’s talent with harmony and piano. In high school the brothers recruited cousin Mike Love to be part of a singing group; classmate Al Jardine, joined shortly thereafter. Eventually given the name the Beach Boys, the group signed with Capitol Records in 1962.

Over the next two years, the group would release nine albums, all but two of which were produced by Wilson—a rare privilege for a popular recording artist at the time, but granted due to the group’s astoundingly rapid success. His sound, noted for both studio perfectionism and immaculate vocal harmonies, was equally influenced by Phil Spector and Chuck Berry. Wilson wrote or cowrote nearly all of the band’s material, with songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “I Get Around” becoming touchstones of American mass culture in the early 1960s. However, the pressure of recording and touring, combined with stage fright, led to a nervous breakdown in ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Michigan, 1949). American composer, pianist, producer, and guitarist. He is best known for his evocative and introspective solo piano works. He often draws on nature for his picturesque titles, perhaps responding to his time in the Midwest and areas such as eastern Montana. He did not receive any formal training, but instead learned to play the organ by ear in 1967 by listening to records. In 1971, he turned to the piano, influenced by 1920s jazz and the stride piano style of Thomas “Fats” Waller and Teddy Wilson, among others. He studied music at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. The style he developed has been described by Winston as “rural folk piano,” and he was asked to record by John Fahey for Takoma Records in 1972. His first album, Ballads and Blues, did not receive much popular or critical acclaim, but it brought Winston to the attention of New Age guru William Ackerman in ...

Article

A. Scott Currie

American jazz group. It was founded in 1977 by Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett—all veterans of St. Louis’ seminal Black artists group —and David Murray, their California-born compatriot, soon after Kidd Jordan of Southern University brought them together for a short residency in New Orleans. Following their return to New York, inspired by enthusiastic audience response to their performances without a rhythm section, they launched what would become one of the most successful, long-lived, and critically acclaimed ensembles to emerge from the loft-jazz scene. In short order, they consolidated an influential ensemble style balancing tight innovative written arrangements with adventurous free quartet improvisations, bridging the divide between mainstream and avant-garde, and eventually breaking through to widespread notoriety with their much heralded 1986 tribute to Duke Ellington. Until his tenure with the group was abruptly ended in 1989, Hemphill played a central role in defining the group’s sound, concept, and identity through his compositions and arrangements, which dominated the quartet’s repertory in its first decade. Although the other members had by then evened the score with their own distinctive compositional contributions, they nonetheless found it difficult to fill his chair, working briefly with Arthur Blythe, James Spaulding, and Eric Person, before settling on John Purcell, who rounded out the quartet from the mid-1990s through its 25th anniversary. Frequently expanding beyond its original chamber-ensemble concept during this period to include projects with African percussionists, jazz rhythm sections, and vocalists, as well as other horn players, the group recorded tributes to such artists as Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, and Hemphill, who passed away in ...