Living: Song of Myself, on Tape

Japanese sound-blending machines are making U.S. melodies

Many Americans are frustrated crooners who sing in the shower and warble along with their Walkman tapes. But aside from belting out the national anthem with the crowd in the bleachers or cutting loose with the congregation on Sunday, most have been too shy or too sober to sing in public. Now thousands of closet Sinatras and Madonnas are publicly vocalizing, thanks to a nifty electronic device from Japan called the karaoke.

The name means "empty orchestra," but Americans are getting to know the device as music less one -- the one being the amateur performer who sings along with the...

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