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Wall of Sound: Noise as the Basis of Culture

“And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted,

he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.”

—Exodus 32:17

Poor Phil Spector.  He may be a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the producer of a string of hits from “Be My Baby” (The Ronettes) to “The Long and Winding Road” (The Beatles).  But now, thanks to Court TV, it looks as if he will be remembered chiefly for owning the “castle” in which B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was found dead, with a bullet in her head.  (That he had made a habit of making death threats, and that, around the time of the killing, he had told the Telegraph that he is “relatively insane,” and that, immediately after the killing, he reportedly told police, “I think I killed somebody” may not have helped his case.)

Before his arrest and trial, Spector was most famous for his production technique, the “Wall of Sound.”  To achieve it, he piled layer upon layer of superfluous sound onto each recording, ornamenting lead vocals with near constant background vocals, choirs oohing and ahhing, strings, horns, two basses, several guitars, and a host of echo and doubling effects.  His treatment of “Long and Winding...

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