Language Master Adoration and Propaganda Page
After every Activity Universal or Cosmonox or Spirit Duplicator show, there's always that guy with the beer who asks me "so what is that weird box with the cards?"
The Language Master was created a few decades ago and was used to teach kids reading, phonics, speech therapy, etc. It records a brief snippet of audio on a magnetic stripe on a punchcard-size piece of cardboard. There are two tracks, one for the teacher and one for the student.
How do I use it for making music, then? I record sound onto the tracks, either through the built-in microphone or through the line-in jack, and then play things back. It's easy to repeat phrases, make scratching sounds, or switch rapidly back and forth between two different audio tracks. Language Masters usually have an inconveniently located half-speed switch, which makes it easy to get octave-down rumbles or, alternately, octave-up rodent sounds. Depending on how I manipulate the card, I can get warbles, distortion, tremolo, scratches, and other tape effects.
All well and good, then - you're ready to go on some internet auction site and pick one up! But what are the bad things about the Language Master?
- It's impossible to be precise. Even if you have an M.A. in turntablism, this machine's design just does not allow for precise play.
- You only get a few seconds per track, so you can't do anything too complicated. Complex chord changes? Ha ha ha!
- Anything put through its preamp gets distorted all to hell. Some would say that this is a feature, not a bug.
- Squeak! Squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak squeak!
- The cards don't last too long. They're just cardboard, so vigorous play (not to mention sweat and other body fluids) can cause them to break down after one or two takes of a song.
So why would anyone devote their musical life to this weird gadget that always breaks down and always breaks your heart? Here's a Language Master Manifesto:
- Wing it!
- You only get one take!
- Impossible perfection!
- Don't expect anyone to understand!
- But on dark nights
- It will scrape and coo
- You'll find the gem in the compost heap
- Decomposing all around you
Updated Feb. 3, 2017