Sound Effects Genius Michael Winslow Performs the Sounds of 32 Typewriters (1898–1983)

“When forced to leave my house for an extend­ed peri­od of time, I take my type­writer with me,” once wrote essay­ist-humorist David Sedaris. “Togeth­er we endure the wretched­ness of pass­ing through the X‑ray scan­ner. The lap­tops roll mer­ri­ly down the belt, while I’m instruct­ed to stand aside and open my bag. To me it seems like a nor­mal enough thing to be car­ry­ing, but the typewriter’s declin­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty arous­es sus­pi­cion and I wind up elic­it­ing the sort of reac­tion one might expect when trav­el­ing with a can­non. ‘It’s a type­writer,’ I say. ‘You use it to write angry let­ters to air­port secu­ri­ty.’ ” But Sedaris, one of the last high-pro­file hold-outs against elec­tron­ic word pro­cess­ing, wrote those words almost fif­teen years ago — even before air­port secu­ri­ty real­ly cracked down in our post‑9/11 real­i­ty. Sure­ly he has since picked up and pre­sum­ably learned to use a com­put­er. We now find our­selves in an age when type­writer usage has tran­scend­ed the sta­tus of an act of nos­tal­gia and attained the sta­tus of an act of rebel­lion; if you insist on using a clas­sic old Under­wood Rem­ing­ton, or an Invic­ta, or a Con­ti­nen­tal Stan­dard, or Olympia Moni­ka Deluxe, well, you must real­ly have a state­ment to make.

Yet I dare­say that for all their mechan­i­cal heft, free­dom from inter­net-borne dis­trac­tion, and thor­ough­ly ana­log aes­thet­ic appeal, type­writ­ers bring with them a num­ber of bur­dens. We have their dif­fi­cul­ty in clear­ing TSA lines, yes, but also their thirst for phys­i­cal ink and paper (“I can always look at my loaded wastepa­per bas­ket and tell myself that if I failed,” said Sedaris, “at least I took a few trees down with me”), and their noise — oh my, their noise. You can hear the vary­ing sounds of 32 mod­els belong­ing to many suc­ces­sive type­writer gen­er­a­tions in the video at the top of the post. They don’t come as straight record­ings, but as sounds repro­duced by mouth to per­fec­tion by that one-in-a-mil­lion mim­ic Michael Winslow, best known from the Police Acad­e­my movies as Sergeant Larvell “Motor Mouth” Jones. “The His­to­ry of the Type­writer Recit­ed by Michael Winslow” orig­i­nat­ed in the mind of Span­ish artist Igna­cio Uri­arte, who, accord­ing to Frieze“has employed stan­dard office sup­plies such as Biros, high­lighters and jot­ters,” not to men­tion “the ubiq­ui­tous spread­sheet tool Microsoft Excel, per­haps soon fac­ing its own obso­les­cence.” This pro­duc­tion “telling­ly cul­mi­nates with the sounds of a machine from 1983, the year before the arrival of the first home com­put­er with a graph­i­cal inter­face.” Which leads one to won­der: can Winslow do hard dri­ve nois­es?

We’ll def­i­nite­ly add “The His­to­ry of the Type­writer Recit­ed by Michael Winslow” to our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Endur­ing Ana­log Under­world of Gramer­cy Type­writer

Woody Allen’s Type­writer, Scis­sors and Sta­pler: The Great Film­mak­er Shows Us How He Writes

Dis­cov­er Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curi­ous Type­writer, the “Malling-Hansen Writ­ing Ball”

Mark Twain Wrote the First Book Ever Writ­ten With a Type­writer

Dis­rup­tive Tech­nol­o­gy: Stu­dent Brings Type­writer to Class

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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