history

The amazing touch-controlled synth made in secret in 1978 China

At the tail end of China’s Cultural Revolution, one inventor secretly created a futuristic take on traditional instruments – and it easily still inspires today.

I don’t know much about this instrument, but given CDM’s readership, I expect our collective knowledge should say something (not to mention some of you speak the language). But according to the video, it’s the work of Tian Jin Qin, a ribbon-controlled analog synthesizer first prototyped in 1978 and featured here in a documentary movie entitled “Dian Zi Qin / 电子琴” (1980).

There’s some irony to the fact that a simple touch instrument was something driven underground in China just one generation ago. Now, of course, China leads the world in manufacturing touch interfaces, has been the center of a global revolution in touch-powered smartphones (based loosely on the same principle, even), and even drives a significant portion of today’s technological innovation.

But… even without getting into that, this design is freaking great. It’ll make you immediately wonder why a single ribbon design is so popular, when the ability to finger multiple ribbons, fretless style, both relates to traditional instrument designs and allows more sophisticated melodic playing and expression.

Like… you’ll watch this video and want to go build one right now.

The synth is essentially two connected designs. An main synth console features organ-like push-button timbre controls and rotaries, plus four touch plates that respond both to being depressed and to continuous control vertically along the surface. (That arrangement, in turn, closely resembles the ROLI Seaboard keys, as well as having some lineage to the Buchla modular’s touch plates. In fact, a couple elements of the design suggest that the creator may have seen something like the Buchla 112 keyboard.)

The Chinese twist, though, is really the upright, fretless touch interface. This instrument is as subtle and sophisticated as Keith Emerson’s ribbon controller for the Moog wasn’t. Zithers are among the most ancient of instruments across a range of cultures, as antecedents what we’d now consider both southeast Asian and European musics. Someone following the narration here or with background in Chinese instruments (which I largely lack) could say more, but it seems inspired by instruments like the guqin. That family of instrument can be plucked or fingered with glissandi (or played with a slide). The electronic rendition here simplifies a bit by using 4 metal strips whereas Chinese classical instruments can feature more strings.

So I will indeed put this out to CDM readers. Anyone out there who’s done research on this creator or knows about this instrument?

Anyone built something like this?

(Apologies, I’d normally do the research first and then write but … as Ted Pallas who tipped me off to this promised, I indeed wanted to share it right away.)

For all the turbulence of our modern time, one thing I believe can keep us out of a Dark Ages is the fact that we are more connected globally than ever, or at least potentially so. From the walls around China and the east to the former Iron Curtain, we’re discovering that a lot of the people kept unknown to those of us in the West were pretty ingenious. And maybe we get a second chance to learn from them and share.

The post The amazing touch-controlled synth made in secret in 1978 China appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Behringer promises $49-99 Eurorack, but gets its ideas from Roland and forums

Uli Behringer is apparently just getting started trolling the industry, promising US$49-99 Eurorack. But so far, that announcement involves renderings of Roland gear and a plea for user forums to tell them what to do.

That’s right: even as people are buzzing about Behringer, all we’ve got are some shady renders, and a forum post. The designs are straight from decades-old Roland gear. There’s not even the work to engineer them. And the rest is talk.

Heck, I could do this. CDM is proud to bring you $19 Eurorack modules. Of what? Don’t know. You tell us. When? Someday. How will they work? Oh, they might use an old design. Or you might design them. Don’t know – again, that’s up to you!

Let’s be clear: promising Eurorack modules for under a hundred bucks ought to be a popular idea. But then it’s easy to promise something. And it’s perhaps worth pointing out, if you don’t mind doing some soldering yourself – or even prefer that – you can assemble a budget modular system. Or, heck, you can run VCV Rack and even buy some top-quality modules for it for $100, all in. But that’s unlikely to stop random people on forums and news comments, who will embrace the idea that Behringer alone could do modular on a budget.

Nor are these new designs. Behringer describes them as related to the “legacy 100m” modules. Uh… that “legacy” would be Roland’s. And as with other Behringer forum posts targeting Roland, there seems to be no original idea other than copying what Roland has done. The timing is suspicious, as well. Uli took to the forums Saturday. CDM readers will know that we shared the news (along with some German press also in attendance) that Roland was reviving its 100M line with new SYSTEM-500 modules, showing them here in Berlin on Thursday. And of course, that’s an extension of a line that already existed.

New Roland SYSTEM-500 analog Eurorack modules spotted in the wild

Clones seem to be the order of the day, as Behringer promises to “bring back” more “legacy” hardware. In fact, Behringer are so hard up for ideas of what to actually do, they’re going beyond just posting quick what-if renders of Roland modules, or continuing this trend of posting teasers as a series of questions. (“What do you want to see? What should we charge? What color should this be? What do you want for lunch?”) Behringer are now posting to message forums asking for people to submit ideas:

You present is with your design (you need to have at least a working prototype) and perhaps show us a video etc. so we can understand your concept.

Provided you are OK with it, we could then post the video here and if there is enough interest, we would consider manufacturing and distributing the product for you. In return we would allow you to get a percentage of the revenue.

At the same time we would be featuring you and your designs so you get the well deserved exposure.

Here’s the thing: there’s already a community of engineers making hardware. Roland are certainly not above criticism, but to the credit of the Japanese giant, when they entered the market they partnered directly with an existing vendor. (On the modular side, they worked with Malekko Heavy Industry. The Roland Boutique Series SE-02 was made with Studio Electronics.) Buchla are working with original engineers, and many of the Buchla-inspired designs are made by people with years of experience doing Buchla repair. Moog are returning not just to original designs but original parts. I could go on …

And that’s to say nothing of vendors from MakeNoise to Mutable Instruments doing original designs. That originality translates into sound.

Behringer’s trolling is way ahead of their actual products. The Minimoog clone Behringer-D is accurate – and accurately reproduces the tuning instability of the original’s analog oscillators. The Behringer DeepMind is actually a pretty decent synth, but it’s also got competition in the same price range – some of it with fresher ideas – and Behringer’s endless forum posts about speculative products and clones ironically distract from the accomplishments on their one genuinely original synth.

I think the Eurorack manufacturing community is headed into some tougher times, especially as a glut of used products catches up faster than the market can grow. And price pressure will surely become a reality.

But what’s most stunning of all is that Behringer is disrupting the industry and attracting attention without actually making anything. This may give them additional attention, but somebody ought to same something.

Behringer Eurorack Modular [GearSlutz]

The post Behringer promises $49-99 Eurorack, but gets its ideas from Roland and forums appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Make Noise are turning a classic 1972 synthesis book into a video series

Even as modular synths make a comeback, the definitive work on the topic languishes out of print since its 1972 publication. But now, one synth maker is translating its ideas to video.

The folks at Make Noise, who have been one of the key makers behind Eurorack’s growth (and a leader in on the American side of the pond), have gone all the way back to 1972 to find a reference to the fundamentals behind modular synthesis.

“Where do I find a textbook on modular synthesis?” isn’t an easy question to answer. A lot of understanding modular comes from a weird combination of received knowledge, hearsay, various example patches (some of them also dating back to the 60s and 70s), and bits and pieces scattered around print and online.

But Allen Strange’s Electronic Music: Systems, techniques, and controls covers actual theory. It treats the notions of modular synthesis as a fundamental set of skills. It’s just now out of print, and a used copy could cost you $200-300 because of automated online pricing (whether anyone would actually pay that).

So it’s great to see Make Noise take this on – if nothing else, as a way to frame teaching their own modules.

And… uh, you might find a PDF of the original text. (I think most people read my own book in pirated form, especially in its Russian and Polish translations – seriously – so I’m looking at this myself as a writer and sometimes educator and pondering what the best way is to teach modular in 2018.)

I’m definitely watching and subscribing to this one, though – and this first video gives me an idea… excuse me, time to load up Pd, Reaktor, and VCV Rack again!

Allen Strange wrote the book on modular synthesizers in the 1970s. Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls. Unfortunately since the expanded 1982 edition, it has never been reprinted, and in today’s landscape where more people have access to modular synths than ever before, very few have access to the knowledge contained within. This video series will explore patches both basic and advanced from Strange’s text. Even the simplest patches here yield kernels of knowledge that can be expanded upon in infinite ways. I have been heavily influenced by Strange since long before I became a modular synth educator. Please share this knowledge far and wide. The first video in the series covers one basic and one slightly less basic patch using envelopes.

http://www.makenoisemusic.com

The post Make Noise are turning a classic 1972 synthesis book into a video series appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why

Moog Music have announced they’re painstakingly recreating a 1969 modular classic. So we asked the engineers why they’d do that – and why it costs 35 grand.

It’s clear now that Moog has two lines of products. The Moog Music products most people buy really are distinct from this. When founder Bob Moog relaunched his company (first as Big Briar, later as Moog Music), he focused on things like Theremins and the relaunched Minimoog Voyager, followed by the immense hit of new Moogerfooger pedals. And as far as the new synths and effects went, what you got were really modern takes on the originals – descended from the classic models, down to the signature ladder filter and so on, but updated with modern parts and new design features. Those pedals also ensured that Moog wasn’t just a brand for keyboardists and synth nuts, but, guitarists and instrumentalists too.

Moog have never tried to be a low-cost brand. But you can’t exactly call them elitist either. From putting products like the Minifoogers in reach to semi-modulars well under $1000 to some terrific iOS apps that sell for just a few bucks, Moog sell alongside a lot of other stuff.

But, if that’s Moog’s day job, they have this … side hobby. And that’s been recreations – not just of the original Minimoog, but of much more complex modular instruments. What appeared to be a one-off novelty (a recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular rig) turned out to be an ongoing fascination of the company’s engineering team. And they’re not easy or inexpensive to make.

This week, the North Carolina-based company announced a new edition of the IIIp – an all-in-one, benchmark edition of the original modular line. It’s the instrument Wendy Carlos (Switched on Bock), George Harrison (Abbey Road), and Isao Tomita (Snowflakes Are Dancing) all used.

It’s definitely a luxury item. Forty will be made, at a cost of US$35,000 each, shipping around May.

If this were just a pricey absurdity, though, I wouldn’t be writing about it. There’s no doubt this is a classic – what Moog prove again is that a historical instrument can go right back into production. Nor is $35k expensive when thinking of musical instruments in the acoustic domain; as Moog championed in the 60s, it seems the Moog company want you to think of synthesizers in the same category as a fine violin or piano.

But all that being said – this still surely leaves us with some questions. (“Are you nuts?” springs to mind.) So I asked the Moog Music company to explain themselves. Here are their answers from the team that worked on the recreation.

For some context, I’ve actually asked Moog this once before – the first time round. But it’s nice to update these answers for the new hardware and its specific component and build requirements.

Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

Why the IIIp, specifically? It’s a modular system, but of course here you’re selling a pre-configured set of modules. What was special about that selection? (And why recreate that rather than the modules alone?)

The IIIp is the portable cabinet version of the IIIc, so this was a logical follow-on. The overall sonics of these systems is unmatched. The entire system is discrete, with no modern ICs anywhere to be found, so the depth and dimension that comes from them can be overwhelmingly physical. Offering modules alone is tricky for us. Moog is still a small, employee-owned company — we hand build every modular system that leaves our factory. The demands of re-creating these systems is quite large due to parts, resources and cultural limitations (these days it’s rare to have complex machines built by hand in the United States).

Were any parts difficult to source? (rare, or costly?) Did any substitutions have to be made because of availability?

Building the Synthesizer IIIp to original spec requires an immense attention to detail and seriously tests our commitment to hand-crafting our legacy modular synthesizers, which presents new challenges every day. Key components for these projects that were common place 50 years ago are now obsolete and no longer available through traditional distribution channels, so we have to source our NOS supply through a divergent network of surplus vendors. Sometimes, a part has become obsolete and no surplus is available, such as with the inductors used in the 914 Filter Bank. Modern equivalents just won’t do in terms of retaining the sonic character of the original, so we worked closely with one of our parts suppliers to re-issue the custom inductors exclusively for our legacy modular projects. Even S-trig cabling is getting harder and harder to source reliably.

How many of these things are you making?

40 worldwide.

What about the cost — how does the cost of making this today compare to the 1960s cost? (accounting for some major inflation there, naturally!)

Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money (based on 1969 R.A. Moog Price List price of $7,985), so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems. The cost of handcrafting these instruments in the exact same way today as we did in the past has increased at a staggering rate — and even though it may be hard to believe, we have worked diligently to keep the cost to the consumer as low as we have. Obviously we are aware that only a few can afford these systems, but the more instruments we get into the world, the more opportunities people have to experience them.

Cost of course is something people will notice. Is this the design of the thing versus what we make now, the low quantity, a combination?

Anything that is 100% handcrafted by human beings in low quantities costs a lot more to make. The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build. Next, each cabinet has to be hand wired and dressed (including hand crimping the connectors). And after that, all of the modules are placed into the system and the entire system is burned in and tested. Every single module gets recalibrated so that the system is calibrated to itself, which is what ultimately forms a cohesive instrument.

What’s the market for something like this?

Composers, sound designers and students of the sonic arts (Universities) are drawn to instruments like the Synthesizer IIIp. Artists who seek to pin-point human emotions and set them to resonate through the power-of-sound tell us that nothing moves through speakers and directly into your body like these systems do.

How does continue making remakes fit into the larger Moog strategy? To be honest, I suspect a lot of us figured we’d see a couple and then it’d stop, not that it would continue!

Moog is made up of a group of widely diverse individuals who all share a passion for creating inspirational tools. This isn’t just our passion alone, but a legacy of creative energies going back 7 decades. As Moog employees, we are immensely inspired by the process of bringing our early synthesizers back to life. The potential of these systems is still unfolding — there are still sounds that will emanate from them that haven’t been heard before!

Thanks as always to the folks at Moog for being open to talking about this. And — yeah, I want to hear one of these in person, especially having learned modular synthesis in school on vintage Moog and Buchla modulars and being endlessly inspired by Wendy Carlos’ compositions and orhchestrations. Though — well, I may still try to get my sounds into your body from my gear! We’ll have more on Moog soon – including that nice new DFAM that we can actually afford! -Ed.

https://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/synthesizer-iiip

The post Moog is making a $35,000 modular 1969 synth – so let’s ask them why appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Buchla synth legacy secured, with new leadership, returning engineers

There’s renewed interest in his pioneering synthesis techniques. But now the future of Buchla’s hardware brand looks bright, too – under new management.

Don Buchla’s ground-breaking approach to electronic musical instruments has gotten a second lease on life, as a new generation has embraced making sound with modulars – and, for that matter, weird and experimental sounds generally. That’s meant that Don’s place not only in the history of hardware, but alongside the San Francisco Tape Music Center (and composers like Morton Subotnick and Pauline Oliveros) has found a growing audience.

Alongside that, the re-invigorated Buchla brand saw the re-launch of the Music Easel plus the debut of the new 252e Polyphonic Rhythm Generator.

It should have been Buchla’s return to glory. But it was marred by Don Buchla’s failing health, then financial troubles at Buchla Elecronic Musical Instruments, legal battles between Don Buchla and the new owners of the company he had founded, and finally the loss of Don Buchla himself.

There was no doubt Don Buchla’s legacy would live on – but would new Buchla instruments?

As of today, we have a much better picture for Buchla the brand. Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments (and the original Buchla & Associates) are no more. In its place, meet Buchla U.S.A.

On today’s nicely-binary January 11, Buchla U.S.A. LLC has announced it has purchased the former Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments and all its assets. The new company will be headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the leadership of CEO Eric Fox. Fox is also owner of Foxtone Music, the US distributor for Buchla, Dreadbox, Polyend, and Black Market.

More good news: Buchla U.S.A. will bring back two Buchla protégées, engineer Joel Davel, who worked alongside Don for over twenty years, and Dave Reilly, who the company describes as “hand-picked” by Don to manufacture new hardware.

The legal address is in Minneapolis, but design and manufacturing will remain in the Bay Area. So don’t worry – you aren’t going to have to start referring to “upper midwest synthesis.” (Well, not to describe this, anyway.)

Now, you know CDM is not in the habit of quoting press releases very often, but this one also comes our way from Marc Doty, history guru, synthesist, and friend-of-the-site, who now has a coveted new “@buchla” email address. And in that press release, we get this charming quote from the new CEO:

“With such an amazing legacy I am really excited about telling the story of Don and working closely with Joel and Dave to develop new products in the spirit of Don… and even revisiting/reimagining some of his designs that never actually made it out into the wild!” said Buchla U.S.A. CEO Eric Fox, about this historic purchase. “I hope to involve as many of the artists and people that inspired Don as possible, moving forward. We owe it to him and the generations of new users to give them a sense of what he was all about.”

So got that? New products, plus vintage designs that never saw the light of day.

That sounds good.

After over half a century, it seems the Buchla story isn’t over yet.

www.buchla.com

Buchla fans may still be waiting for Buchlafest, but you get Maestro Morton Subotnick at Moogfest. Photo (CC-BY) Ethan Hein.

The post Buchla synth legacy secured, with new leadership, returning engineers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Arturia add CMI, DX7, Clavinet – and Buchla Easel – in software

Arturia refreshed their mega-collection of synths and keyboard instruments, with new sought-after additions – including a recreation of the Buchla Easel.

Get ready for some numbers and letters here here. The resulting product is the Arturia V Collection 6. The ancient Roman in me apparently wants to read that as “5 collection 6” but, uh, yeah, that’s the letter “v” as in “virtual.”

And what you’re now up to is 21 separate products bundled as one. Inception-style, some of those products contain the other products, too. (If you just want the Buchla, sit tight – yes, you can get it separately.)

So, hat we’re talking about is this:

Synths: models of the Synclavier, Oberheim Matrix 12 and SEM, Roland Jupiter-8, ARP 2600, Dave Smith’s Sequential Prophet V and vector Prophet VS, Yamaha CS-80, a Minimoog, and a Moog modular. To that roster, you can now add a Yamaha DX7, Fairlight CMI, and a Buchla Music Easel.

Keys: Fender Rhodes Stage 73 (suitcase and stage alike), ARP Solina String Ensemble, Wurlitzer. And now there’s a Clavinet, too.

Organs: Hammond B-3, Farfisa, VOX Continental.

And some pianos. Various pianos – uprights and grands – plus other parameters via physical modeling are bundled into Piano V.

The bundle also includes Analog Lab, which pulls together presets and performance parameters for all the rest into a unified interface.

This isn’t all sampled soundware, either – well, if it were, it’d be impossibly huge. Instead, Arturia use physical modeling and electronics modeling techniques to produce emulations of the inner workings of all these instruments.

About those new instruments…

There’s no question the Clavinet and DX7 round out the offerings, making this a fairly complete selection of just about everything you can play with keys. (Okay, no harpsicords or pipe organs, so every relatively modern instrument.) And the Fairlight CMI, while resurrected as a nifty mobile app on iOS, is welcome, too. But because it’s been so rare, and because of the renaissance of interest in Don Buchla and so-called “West Coast” synthesis for sound design, the Buchla addition is obviously stealing the show.

Here’s a look at those additions:

The DX7 V promises to build on the great sound of the Yamaha original while addressing the thing that wasn’t so great about the DX7 – interface and performance functionality. So you get an improved interface, plus a new mod matrix, customizable envelopes, extra waveforms, a 2nd LFO, effects, sequencer, and arpeggiator, among other additions.

Funk fans get the Clavinet V, with control over new parameters via physical modeling (in parallel with the Arturia piano offering), and the addition of amp and effect combos.

Okay, but let’s get on to the two really exciting offerings (ahem, I’m biased):

The CMI V recreates the 1979 instrument that led the move to digital sampling and additive synthesis. And this might be the first Fairlight recreation that you’d want in a modern setup: you get 10 multitmbral, polyphonic slots, plus real-time waveform shaping, effects, and a sequencer. And Arturia have thrown us a curveball, too: to create your own wavetables, there’s a “Spectral” synth that scans and mixes bits of audio.

I’m really keen to play with this one – it sounds like what you’ll want to do is to go Back to the Future and limit yourself to making some entire tracks using just the Fairlight emulation. If you read my children’s TV round-up, maybe Steve Horelick and Reading Rainbow had you thinking of this already. Now you just need a PC with a stylus so you can imagine you’ve got a light pen.

The Buchla Easel goes further back to 1973. It’s arguably the most musical of Don Buchla’s wild instruments, bringing the best ideas from the modular into a single performance-oriented design. And here, it looks like we get a complete, authentic reproduction.

Everything that makes the Buchla approach unique is there. Think amplitude modulation and frequency modulation and the “complex” oscillator’s wave folding, gating that allows for unique tuned sounds, and sophisticated routing of modulation. It all adds up to granting the ability to make strange, new timbres, to seek out new performance life and new sound designs – to boldly go where only privileged experimentalists have gone before.

This video explains the whole “West Coast” synthesis notion (as opposed to Moog’s “East Coast” modular approach):

Arturia makes up for the fact that this is now an in-the-box software synth by opening up the worlds of modulation. So you get something called “gravity” which applies game physics to modulation, and other modulation sources (the curves of the “left hand,” for instance) to make all the organic changes happen inside software. It’s a new take on the Buchla, and not really like anything we’ve seen before. And it suggests this software may elevate beyond just faux replication onscreen, with a genuinely new hybrid.

My only regret: I would love to have this with touch controls, on iOS or Windows, to really complete the feeling. It’s odd seeing the images from Arturia with that interface locked on a PC screen. But I think of all the software instruments in 2017, this late addition could be near the top (alongside VCV Rack’s modular world, though more on that later).

But it’s big news – a last-minute change to upset the world of sound making in 2017.

Watch for our hands-on soon.

Intro price and more new features

Also new in this version: the Analog Lab software, which acts as a hub for all those instruments, parameters, and presets, now has been updated, as well. There’s a new browser, more controller keyboard integration, and other improvements.

Piano V has three new piano models (Japanese Grand, a Plucked Grand, and a Tack Upright), enhanced mic positioning, an improved EQ, a new stereo delay, and it’s own built-in compressor.

There are improvements throughout, Arturia say.

There’s also a lower intro price: new users get US$/€ 249 instead of 499, through January 10.

And that Buchla is 99 bucks if that’s really what you want out of this set.

More:

V Collection

Buchla Easel V

The post Arturia add CMI, DX7, Clavinet – and Buchla Easel – in software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The amazing classic synth and experimental moments on children’s TV

Before it reverted to Internet age-blandness, American kids’ TV enjoyed a golden age of music, scored by oddball indie composers and legends alike.

And, wow, it could even teach you about synthesis.

Perhaps the most famous of thesse moments is when none other than Suzanne Ciani went on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980 to step inside her studio:

Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was actually a composer before going into television, and the show’s deep commitment to music education reflected that. That music was generally of the acoustic variety, but he did one day tote a rare ARP Soloist synthesizer along with his trademark shoes and handmade sweaters – and his message and song about “play” might well be an anthem for us all.

Canadian-born composer Bruce Haack made an epic appearance on that same show in 1968, where he demonstrated a homemade electronic instrument. Haack himself as as prolific a composer of far-out sci-fi music for children as he was (much darker) experimental compositions and psychedelic works.

The best all-time “Fairlight CMI on a kids’ program” (because, amazingly, there’s been more than one of those) – Herbie Hancock, Sesame Street, 1983. Herbie keeps a terrific sense of cool and calm that all kids’ shows could learn from in this day of cloying, sugar-sweet patronizing programming:

Synths were all over vintage Sesame Street, often providing sound effects as in this oddly hypnotic Ernie puzzle:

Steve Horelick, the composer behind Reading Rainbow, showed off his Fairlight CMI and how digital sampling worked. (I have vivid memories of watching this as a kid – sorry, Steve.) Steve apparently came up at a time when Fairlight ownership was rare enough to get you gigs – but a good thing, too, as a whole generation still sings along with that theme song. And you probably got a second educational gift from Steve if you ever followed one of his brilliant video tutorials on Logic.

Even better than that is Reading Rainbow‘s synesthesia 3D trip – John Sanborn and Dean Winkler’s Luminaire, which was made for Montrea’s Expo ’86, to music by composer Daniel “No, I’m not Philip Glass” Lentz.

Better video of the actual animation and music, which – sorry, Mr. Glass, I actually kind of prefer to Glassworks:

Somehow this looks fresher than it did when it was new.

A young, chipper Thomas Dolby explained synthesis to Jim Henson’s little known 1989 program The Ghost of Faffner Hall!:

Oh yeah, also, apparently Jem and the Misfits imagined an audiovisual synth in 1985 that predicts both Siri and Coldcut / AV software years before their time. Plus dolls should always have synthesizer accessories:

Apart from education, there’s been some wildly adventurous music from obscure (who’s that?) and iconic sources (the Philip Glass?!) alike.

For a time, an experimental music Tumblr followed some of these moments. Here are some of my favorites.

Joan La Barbara does the alphabet (1977):

And yes, trip out with a composition by Philip Glass written especially for Sesame Street:

You can read the full history of this animation on Muppet Wiki,

More obscure, but clever (and I remember this one) – from HBO’s Braingames (1983-85), evidently by a guy named Matt Kaplowitz.

Not growing up in the UK, I’d never heard of Chocky, but it has this trippy, gorgeous opening with music by John W. Hyde:

American composer Paul Chihara’s 1983 score for a show called Whiz Kids is hilariously dated and nostalgia-packed now. But the man is a heavyweight in composition – think Nadia Boulanger student and LA Chamber Orchestra resident. He has an extensive film resume, too, which now landed him a position at NYU:

From Chicago public access TV, there’s a show called Chic-A-Go-Go, which in 2001 hosted The Residents.

But The Residents were on Pee-Wee, too:

Absurdly awesome, to close: “The Experimental Music Must Be Stopped.” This one comes to us from 2010 and French animation series Angelo Rules:

The post The amazing classic synth and experimental moments on children’s TV appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Gibson just killed Cakewalk, because Philips?!

Gibson, the company known for legendary guitars and killing your favorite DAW in the 90s … now gets the chance to remind the pro audio crowd of the latter.

Gibson is discontinuing all development of Cakewalk products, which would include the SONAR flagship DAW. The explanation: they want to focus on consumer audio electronics, namely Philips:

Gibson Brands announced today that it is ceasing active development and production of Cakewalk branded products. The decision was made to better align with the company’s acquisition strategy that is heavily focused on growth in the global consumer electronics audio business under the Philips brand.

Cakewalk has been an industry leader in music software for over 25 years by fusing cutting-edge technology with creative approaches to tools that create, edit, mix, and publish music for professional and amateur musicians. Gibson Brands acquired Cakewalk in 2013.

For perspective, this means Gibson is pointing to an acquisition that took place just one year after the acquisition of Cakewalk, namely WOOX Innovations. That sale, which cost US$135 million (plus an unspecified brand licensing fee), covered home audio and music accessories, with video products moving to Gibson this year.

And it means that just as Dutch giant Philips moves to “health and well being,” Gibson is moving from being a guitar company into being a consumer electronics megacorp.

Armin van Buuren selling his collaboration with Philips – a product included in the acquisition.

Cakewalk’s SONAR DAW, while it may not be relevant to each reader here personally, had retained a passionate following with many producers, particularly because of its focus on the Windows platform. It’s also one of a handful of tools that has survived multiple decades of technological change. (From the same generation: Logic, Cubase.)

It may be a mistake to focus on the high end here, though. Cakewalk’s entry-level products were a generally overlooked cash cow. As the entry-level market has refocused on mobile, it’s unclear whether a desktop tool aligned with higher-end products makes sense in the same way. To their credit, Apple has managed to position their GarageBand product across iOS and desktop – but, then, Apple gives away that product and they make iOS.

The announcement comes on the heels of Momentum, a tool for capturing ideas on mobile and then translating them to a DAW. But then, discontinuing the Cakewalk products means Momentum doesn’t have a DAW vendor to migrate to – only a plug-in. And it loses the Cakewalk name.

Momentum already was a questionable investment: for anything better than MP3-quality audio, you pay a hundred bucks a year, which is a steep price to pay given the fact that tools like GarageBand are free or a few bucks on iOS, and $100 a year easily buys you massive amounts of storage for hwatever you want.

Now, Momentum’s future is called into question, which I think makes investing in the subscription downright insane.

At the risk of being blunt and making some enemies, though, I think musicians might well be suspicious of corporate acquisitions and whether they really further innovation. There’s reason for users to be hurt and angry. And telling users of a professional music creation product line with a 30-year history that some branded speakers are the new direction adds to the sting.

There’s some business risk for Gibson, too. Consumer sound electronics are commodity markets – and big players can set themselves up for big failures.

For pro music creation, of course, terrific alternatives abound on Windows, including software developed by independent companies, from Reaper to Renoise, FL Studio to Ableton Live. And it seems independence and longevity go hand in hand.

But I have to be personally nostalgic. Cakewalk for DOS was the first sequencer I ever used, the first music software I ever owned. (My parents actually bought me the box.) Greg, the developer, had his name right on the screen.

To this day, I still like knowing the engineers behind the tools we use by their first names. I wish everyone at Cakewalk the best – and I’m certainly happy to keep getting to know individuals who work on stuff, and not just faceless brands.

And thanks, Greg – because without your work, I probably wouldn’t be writing this now.

PS – hey, by the way, Gibson, my second DAW wound up being Opcode Vision, so this is what I’ve got to say to you:

The post Gibson just killed Cakewalk, because Philips?! appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.