“Yes, Mongo sampled a typewriter. If you are asking yourself right now, ‘What can I do with a typewriter sample?’, you need to hit yourself in the face with a frying-pan and then ask yourself, ‘What CAN’T I do with a typewriter sample?'” – The Razorwire Ballet
You never know when this might come in handy. Whether you want foley effects of the golden age of print, or weird percussion starting points, or sound design opportunities, the Imperial Typewriter is here for you.
Perhaps more importantly, though, you can also use it to rig a kind of Ferris Bueller-style automated typing sound to make your parents think you’re working on the Great American Novel when in fact you’ve stolen your mate’s dad’s Ferrari and gone joy-riding.
This Imperial is a blast from the past, with a wide carriage designed for larger paper sizes, little glass panels in the side to let you see its workings, and a shiny chrome bell on the back. (Mongo uses it for his poetry.) We’ve sampled it lovingly at 24-bit, including a mass of keystrikes, carriage returns, paper winds, clicks, buzzes, spool ratchets and other noises – 69 samples in all. The white keys of one octave are given over to keystrikes, which are varied randomly from a pool of 21 samples, while C4 is your space-bar and the black keys are things like shift, carriage return, the end-of-line bell and so on; so you can ‘type’ with one hand and use the other to punctuate your ‘typing’ with the appropriate other mechanical noises.
Then one octave up from that we have a sequence of one-sample-per-key sounds: paper being spooled, the platen being shifted, the sound of the carriage being tabbed to the end, and so on. And finally there’s a little surprise up at the end, where you can thrill to the sound of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” being typed out by Mongo’s thick, spatulate fingers.
If realism isn’t your thing, why not record the output of Typewriter and then pitch it down four octaves for spacey subsonic rumbles? Or time-slice the platen feed samples for weird glitch effects? Or pitch the keystrikes up and use them as strange little maracas?
They say that a roomful of monkeys with typewriters will, given sufficient time, reproduce by chance the works of Shakespeare. Well, I’ve tried this with the nearest equivalents I could get (typewriter, Mongo, the lab store cupboard) and I think we may still have some way to go. But meanwhile, there’s Typewriter for Kontakt.