Poll

What do you think of spoken-word and other non-singing/non-instrumental sound effects in music?

In the words of Frank Zappa, "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar."
1 (8.3%)
Sometimes adds to the song, sometimes detracts from it.
8 (66.7%)
Usually interesting and enjoyable.
2 (16.7%)
It's rare that creative musicians don't use some of this, and if they don't, they should.
0 (0%)
It doesn't make much impression on me one way or the other.
1 (8.3%)

Total Members Voted: 12

Author Topic: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music  (Read 10990 times)

Offline Manatee

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Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« on: Mon, 2009-04-20, 11:40:32 »
I've noticed a trend, especially but not exclusively in prog, toward using spoken recordings and other sound effects not directly connected to the music as parts of the songs (sometimes just in the intros, sometimes more).  There's no question in my mind that some of the songs that include these things are very good, even great in some cases, but I'm curious as to whether people think this improves the music, takes away from it, or something in-between.
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Offline PH

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 2009-04-20, 11:51:37 »
I voted "Sometimes adds to the song, sometimes detracts from it."
I can only think of songs where it adds to the song, but I can imagine that sometimes it can be distractive.
Pink Floyd is of course a name that comes up immediately, and they did it very well.
Another one where I think it adds to the song and overall feeling is the Nolan & Wakeman albums.

Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 2009-04-20, 11:59:35 »
I'm going to wait a bit to give my comments and make my vote since I don't want to bias the outcome, but I've got some thoughts.   ;D
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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 2009-05-14, 23:34:13 »
OK, I'll give my little speech now.   ;)   I voted "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar" because frankly, all those odd spoken bits and non-musical sound effects annoy me -- they can be interesting a few times, but then they become like prose or worse, by which I mean, you can read something interesting more than once, but IMO much less often than you can listen to a good piece of music.  I like to read, and I do read my favorite books more than once, but I usually have to let some time pass until at least some of it isn't fresh in my mind.  That's not the case with music, where I might play a new find dozens of times in a short period (after which I'll probably need to give it a little rest).

There are exceptions, of course:  One obvious example is the cash register at the beginning of Pink Floyd's 'Money', but I think that's an exception because it's so well-integrated into the music that it's practically used as a musical instrument itself.  Although if I have to pick, prog is my favorite style of music, I must say, prog acts seem to make even more use of these effects than most bands, perhaps with the idea of being "outside the box."  An example of one that bugs me is the spoken part about angels at the beginning of the title track to Milliontown.  It was arguably interesting and thought provoking once or twice, but I really don't need to hear it each time I listen to the song (which aside from that, I quite like).  Our beloved Arena seem to do something like this at the beginning of every album (at least the last 4 studio albums), although it tends to be quiet and more background sounds than coherent words, which makes it seem less intrusive to me.  I'd still prefer it if they skipped that part though, especially since their album openers are among their strongest songs IMO.  Anyway, this won't generally bother me so much that I won't buy an otherwise excellent album, but I'd still like to hear less of it.  It's sort of like a beautiful woman with tattoos.  It's not enough to make me go "yech, I can't stand her," but I think the ink obscures what's beautiful rather than enhances it.

I admit to being rather opinionated, but there it is.

And don't even get me started on death grunts.   ;D

Responses welcome.

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Offline Steve Jones

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 2009-05-14, 23:56:54 »
For me a non-musical item (be it spoken or SFX) stands or falls depending on it's quality and what it contributes to the overall picture.  I'm not for or against them per se.

Spoken word-wise, I love the chat in 'American Soldier' whilst I hate that in Grace Jones' 'Slave to the Rhythm'.  The reason is that, for me at least, the Queensrÿche stuff is an integral part of the whole album and adds something positive, whilst the Grace Jones narration is egotistical twaddle and an irritating waste of space.  Purely my personal opinion, of course, and I'm sure there are many out there who love the latter!

SFX seem to be an integral part of prog and I generally love 'em - things like Roger Waters' 'Amused to Death' blow my mind every time *horns*


Edit:  Too much listening to Opeth, I suppose, but I don't notice death grunts any more.  I'd played Mastodon 4 times without spotting them, then some observant soul here passed comment and I thought 'oh yes!' :-[
« Last Edit: Thu, 2009-05-14, 23:58:38 by Steve Jones »
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Offline PH

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 2009-05-14, 23:59:45 »
Nice speech Man-with-the-Tea!
Applause! ;D
*ola*

I wonder what all the others have to say about it. ;)


EDIT:
All right Jonesy. I agree with you there.

Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #6 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 02:39:59 »
Nice speech Man-with-the-Tea!
Applause! ;D
*ola*

Thank you, sir.

Quote
I wonder what all the others have to say about it. ;)

So do I, which is, of course, why I started this poll/thread.   ;)
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Offline maddox

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 15:16:59 »
Sometimes adds to the song, sometimes detracts from it.

 ;)
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Offline Bupie

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #8 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 16:29:25 »
Considering the results of the poll so far, I guess I don't have to mention my vote  ;)

OK, I'll give my little speech now.   ;)   I voted "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar" because frankly, all those odd spoken bits and non-musical sound effects annoy me
There are exceptions, of course:  One obvious example is the cash register at the beginning of Pink Floyd's 'Money', but I think that's an exception because it's so well-integrated into the music that it's practically used as a musical instrument itself.

I really dislike it but so do I about the whole song  :-[

Quote
Our beloved Arena seem to do something like this at the beginning of every album (at least the last 4 studio albums), although it tends to be quiet and more background sounds than coherent words, which makes it seem less intrusive to me.  I'd still prefer it if they skipped that part though, especially since their album openers are among their strongest songs IMO.

I really like it on Witch Hunt : I think it increases the dramatic atmosphere of the song. It works great for me too on Chosen. I didn't notice it on other openers  ::)

Quote
It's sort of like a beautiful woman with tattoos.

Now I'm getting excited   :-[  ;D

Quote
And don't even get me started on death grunts.   ;D

Too bad that Nicky is not much around those days  :D

Quote
Responses welcome.

Fortunately, you didn't ask for well argued ones  ;D

More seriously, most of the time the long spoken parts get boring after a few listens but the short ones are OK for me. For instance, I love the spoken (some say rap) section on Roll The Bones.
« Last Edit: Fri, 2009-05-15, 16:31:18 by Bupie »

Offline Nicky007

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #9 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 17:15:34 »
Too bad that Nicky is not much around these days  :D

 ;D

I'm here and there and everywhere  :D


And don't even get me started on death grunts.   ;D

I suppose you mean what we devotees call "growl"  ;)

Well, we've had a lot of discussion on this in the Room, so I'l be short here.

Depends on who and where (not everywhere)  ;)

Opeth and Scar Symmetry are among my fave groups, and the growl is an inherent part of their music; I don't even think about it, just enjoy it (just like Jonesy, i.e. not his growl, but his reception of it)  ;D

The vocals of Mastodon and Slayer are mainly shout, and I enjoy them too.

Once I realise that musicians are serious, intense, and progressive, I open up entirely to what they try to convey to me.


Same with speaking etc. If it's a group that I experience as serious, I try to figure what the message is, and usually it sets a lot going in me.

DT have a lot of stuff like this, and in my mind it really adds to their palette (a sublime example being The Great Debate, which is one of my fave DT-pieces). Of course Floyd too, Arena, Queensrÿche, Nevermore - I'l just say that all serious groups use these features to spice up their stuff  *horns*

Welcome to progrock guys:  We're dealing with musician-poet-philosophers who habitually push all frontiers  8)

Nicky.
« Last Edit: Fri, 2009-05-15, 17:33:01 by Nicky007 »
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Offline PH

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #10 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 17:51:54 »
DT have a lot of stuff like this, and in my mind it really adds to their palette (a sublime example being The Great Debate, which is one of my fave DT-pieces). Of course Floyd too, Arena, Queensrÿche, Nevermore - I'l just say that all serious groups use these features to spice up their stuff  *horns*

Welcome to progrock guys:  We're dealing with musician-poet-philosophers who habitually push all frontiers  8)

Nice example of The Great Debate Nicky! *horns*
Try imagening that song without the speaking voices, I can't.

Offline Teunis

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #11 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 20:40:22 »
I chose: 'Sometimes adds to the song, sometimes detracts from it'. I know which option is going to win  ;). Well, in some albums that contain a story, like on Ayreon's 'Into The Electric Castle' and Nolan & Wakeman's 'Jabberwocky' it adds to the story. Sometimes it's annoying to me, like f.e. in Sieges Even's opening track on the album 'Paramount'.
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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 20:51:40 »
;D I''m here and there and everywhere  :D

If you're here, you'd best give me a heads up, so I can lay in a supply of Guinness and tofu.

Quote
I suppose you mean what we devotees call "growl"  ;)

Well, we've had a lot of discussion on this in the Room, so I'l be short here.

Depends on who and where (not everywhere)  ;)

Opeth and Scar Symmetry are among my fave groups, and the growl is an inherent part of their music; I don't even think about it, just enjoy it (just like Jonesy, i.e. not his growl, but his reception of it)  ;D

The vocals of Mastodon and Slayer are mainly shout, and I enjoy them too.

I've learned to live with them, but I still feel that they generally detract from good music except in very limited situations, where the singer is portraying a character that would actually growl (like a monster or demon).  At this point I feel about the same way about grunts/growls as I described in my tattoo analogy -- I'd prefer if they didn't use them, but if everything else about the music is good, I won't give up on it just for that.  As you know, I've been getting into Opeth myself, and I do know they do some growling.  Still not my cup of tea, but they are otherwise top-notch, so I deal with it.

Shouted vocals don't bother me, assuming they're appropriate for the song (generally loud, aggressive, heavy, and fast songs do well with shouts IMO).  The mighty Devin does his share of shouting, and it fits.  He actually growls in at least one place I've noticed, but in that instance, he really is portraying a monster - The Planet Smasher from Ziltoid the Omnicient.  That same album also has a fair amount of dialog, but it's a strange album -- sort of 3/4 music, 1/4 comedy.  I like the album quite a bit, but even so, I probably won't play this one as often as some of his other albums since I imagine the spoken parts will get a little old after a while, despite being quite funny.

Quote

Once I realise that musicians are serious, intense, and progressive, I open up entirely to what they try to convey to me.

Same with speaking etc. If it's a group that I experience as serious, I try to figure what the message is, and usually it sets a lot going in me.

DT have a lot of stuff like this, and in my mind it really adds to their palette (a sublime example being The Great Debate, which is one of my fave DT-pieces). Of course Floyd too, Arena, Queensrÿche, Nevermore - I'l just say that all serious groups use these features to spice up their stuff  *horns*

Welcome to progrock guys:  We're dealing with musician-poet-philosophers who habitually push all frontiers  8)


Well, I won't disagree that proggers push frontiers -- It's why they're called 'progressive'.  My position, though, is that some experiments work better than others.  Naturally, as with all music and art, some people will respond well to certain things and others won't.  Nothing wrong with that -- I was curious as to what the rest of you thought about this because it happens to be something that usually doesn't work so well for me, and as you noted, it's commonly used.  Also, as I've said, there are instances where these effects do fit for me, but it's the exception rather than the rule.

One Dream Theater example I can site (and I hesitate a bit to say this because I know the majority of the active Roomies consider them one of the all-time great bands) is the song '6:00'.  That song came on many times when I was using Pandora a lot, and even though Dream Theater never did really click for me, for the most part that is a song that I do like -- except for one problem, which is the old woman saying "I know all about the honor of God, Mary Jane."  (forgive me if I've gotten the quote a bit off).   I find that extremely jarring, and it "takes me out of the song."   After a several plays I started skipping the song because I found that so irritating.  I'm not trying to get anyone to stop liking music they like -- that would be pointless and rude.  I'm just saying that for me, some of these effects really do lessen my enjoyment.  As you say, the musicians push frontiers, but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily always making good choices when they do so.  Also, I feel that voice-overs and sound effects have been around so long and been used so much that they've ceased to be innovative (again, there are, of course, exceptions) and are now so common that they're usually not breaking any new ground. Artists are free to express themselves as they see fit, but as consumers of art, we're also free to feel whatever we happen to feel about that art.

Anyway, once again, I don't demand that everyone agree with me -- I was mostly interested to hear your opinions and generate a discussion.  If we all agreed on ever aspect of music, there wouldn't be much to discuss here other than what cheese Paco just had and who's drinking Guinness today.   ;D
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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 21:16:32 »
I really like it on Witch Hunt : I think it increases the dramatic atmosphere of the song. It works great for me too on Chosen. I didn't notice it on other openers  ::)

Bedlam Fayre starts with some crowd noise and then what sounds like the music played by a carousel.  It's not all that obtrusive -- in fact the first part is hard to hear unless you're listening carefully.  Mostly the result of it for me is that song effectively starts about 30 seconds after the track begins.

A Crack in the Ice is a very slight one.  It starts with maybe 15 seconds of what may be complete silence (or is so quiet that my 46-year old, Ramones-abused ears can't detect it).  After that, there's the escalating pulsating sound (which I think is legitimately part of the music), and my only slight quibble is the piercing tone that last for just a short time.

On the whole, I don't think Arena's sound effects are very obtrusive ones, particularly since they usually occur at the beginning of a song, so they don't disrupt the flow once the musical part starts.

Quote

Too bad that Nicky is not much around those days  :D


Nicky always turns up eventually, and indeed, he did.  I have noticed, however, that we're missing a pony, and her birthday is coming up.   :-\

Quote
More seriously, most of the time the long spoken parts get boring after a few listens but the short ones are OK for me. For instance, I love the spoken (some say rap) section on Roll The Bones.

I agree to some extent, especially if the music continues while the speaking is going on (if done well, then it's not that different than if it was sung).  I also mind this stuff less if it's done before or after the musical part of the song -- as long as it's not a telephone ringing or a baby crying.  Those two always make me wince.
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Offline Steve Jones

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 21:31:42 »
as long as it's not a telephone ringing or a baby crying.  Those two always make me wince.

You've picked what are two of the most monumental FX known to Jones-man there, despite the fact I loathe babies and phones with equal measure. The ringing phone in the background of Arena's 'Crying for Help III' is awesomely atmospheric - love it.  The squawking brat at the start of Sieges' TAONBTS is way cool, too. *horns*

Perhaps we should compile a list of straight, no frills albums - for those moments when only stuff that can be nailed to staves will do ;)
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Offline PH

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 2009-05-15, 22:07:55 »
One song suddenly comes to my mind: Sylvan's Pane Of Truth.
The screaming of the couple who are having a fight... Man, that always scares the living crap out of me.
I can imagine someone not liking this.
But then again, it's part of the story and I think it fits in perfectly and I'm always left with goosebumps all over.
(And it's just an awesome song!)

Offline Bupie

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 2009-05-16, 09:51:01 »
Another example that I found weird at first and now am found of is Kansas' How My Soul Cries Out For You when there are some screamings and broken glass before teh drum solo. Great rockin' song BTW  *horns*

Offline maddox

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 2009-05-17, 18:56:06 »
Funny enough, i always find spoken words essential when it's added to a certain song.
In my book there wouldn't be a spoken part in the song if the musicians didn't think that it would add something to the song.
There are a lot of songs that have this. Pink Floyd did it a couple of times (The Wall for instance), even Civil War of Guns 'n Roses wouldn't be the same great track if they didn't used those movie samples.
Good example is indeed Dream Theater's The Great Debate: It definitely wouldn't have the magical touch if the samples/spoken words were left out.
The same goes for Space Dye Vest. It creates something magical, that certain feeling that lifts it above the rest.
I'm not saying that any band should do it, or that it should be on every song that bands will release from now on. That's the paradox of it: Too much would make it less fun.

But...

What about the songs with a 'speaking' singer?
Like Fish for instance. He did it partially on The Perception Of Johnny Punter and for the most part on Jungle Ride, speaking his text with a Scottish poet-ish accent.
Does that adds something to the song?
Or not?

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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 2009-05-17, 19:53:38 »
What about the songs with a 'speaking' singer?
Like Fish for instance. He did it partially on The Perception Of Johnny Punter and for the most part on Jungle Ride, speaking his text with a Scottish poet-ish accent.
Does that adds something to the song?
Or not?

As to the speaking singer, as I said above, if it's integrated well into the music, then the effect is not that different than if the words were sung, so yes, that can be fine.  And again, I will admit there are exceptions where a non-musically-integrated spoken part or sound effect works well, but I'm of the opinion that the 'technique' is used far more often than it is used well.  Others may (and clearly do) disagree.   ;)
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Offline Nicky007

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 2009-05-18, 12:42:54 »
Nicky always turns up eventually, and indeed, he did.

 ;D

Yup, won't miss a good exchange on prog, despite material resistance of all sorts  :(


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I have noticed, however, that we're missing a pony, and her birthday is coming up.   :-\

Yeah, I miss Bluey too. She was always up to a lot of fun, and she's well-versed (if not in etiquette then) in prog  :)


If you're here, you'd best give me a heads up, so I can lay in a supply of Guinness and tofu.

And broccoli - need somethin green  ;D


I've learned to live with them, but I still feel that they generally detract from good music except in very limited situations

What once and for all nailed growl to prog for me was Scar Symmetry. Main vocalist Christian Älvestam (now sadly, former; to my knowledge, he's born with the ¨) switches seamlessly between clean, falset, growl, and shout, and does'm all convincingly. Initially it may be experienced as some sorta rape, but if you persevere, you simply have to throw the towel (or whatever) and yield, and eventually you enjoy.

Since then, growl has been a no-brainer to me.

Nicky.
« Last Edit: Tue, 2009-05-19, 16:18:46 by Nicky007 »
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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 2009-05-18, 20:04:14 »
And broccoli - need somethin green  ;D

I am something green.  ;)

Although, believe it or not, I actually like broccoli.   :o

"On topic": I can't think of a single good song with the sound of broccoli cooking in it.   ???

Hey, it's my topic, and I'll make fun of it if I want to.   ;D
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Offline keyboardistmatt

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 2009-05-18, 23:54:51 »
Example:- "Lung" "Liver" and "Sinus" by Type O Negative; 3 soundscapes. No music at all, but interesting and very freaky!

These can be found on the album 'World Coming Down'. ;)
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Offline Nicky007

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 2009-05-19, 16:24:17 »
"On topic": I can't think of a single good song with the sound of broccoli cooking in it.   ???

No, but Floyd's Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast comes close. Ya got the rice crispies poppin iac.

Otoh "good song" is maybe not the right characterisation of this track.

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Offline Steve Jones

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 2009-05-19, 16:48:23 »
I can't think of a single good song with the sound of broccoli cooking in it.   ???

Hawkwind's Dave Broccoli is really cooking throughout most of 'Space Ritual' ;) ;) ;)
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Offline Manatee

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Re: Speaking and non-musical sounds in music
« Reply #24 on: Tue, 2009-05-19, 23:08:09 »
No, but Floyd's Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast comes close. Ya got the rice crispies poppin iac.

Otoh "good song" is maybe not the right characterisation of this track.

Perhaps it would be better if the rice crispies were grooving with a Pict.   8)
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