This playlist is full of wonderful ARP music – some might surprise you

As we remember Alan R. Pearlman and the impact his instruments had on music, here’s a survey of the many places ARP sounds appeared in music culture. It’s a reminder of just how profound electronic music tools can be in their influence – and of the unique age in which we live.

Perhaps now is the perfect time for an ARP revival. With modular synthesis reaching ever-wider audiences, the ARP creations – the 2500, 2600, and Odyssey featured here – represent something special. Listen across these tracks, and you’re struck by the unique colors of those ARP creations across a range of genres. It’s also significant that each of these designs in their own way struck a balance between modularity and accessibility, sound design and playability. That includes making instruments that had modular patching capability but also produced useful sounds at each patch point by default – that is, you don’t have to wire things up just to make something happen. That in turn also reduces cable spaghetti, because the patch connections you make represent the particular decisions you made deviating from the defaults. On the 2500, this involves a matrix (think Battleship games, kids), which is also a compelling design in the age of digital instruments and software.

And lest we get lost in sound design, it’s also worth noting how much these things get played. In the era of Eurorack, it’s easy to think music is just about tweaking … but sometimes it’s just as useful to have a simple, fresh sound and then just wail on it. (Hello, Herbie Hancock.)

It’s easy to forget just how fast musical sound has moved in a couple of generations. An instrument like the piano or violin evolved over centuries. Alan R. Pearlman literally worked on some of the first amplifiers to head into space – the Mercury and Gemini programs that first sent Americans into space and orbit, prior to Apollo’s journey to the moon. And then he joined the unique club of engineers who have remade music – a group that now includes a lot of you. (All of you, in fact, once you pick up these instruments.)

So I say go for it. Play a preset in a software emulation. Try KORG’s remake of the Odyssey. Turn a knob or re-patch something. Make your own sound design – and don’t worry about whether it’s ingenious or ground-breaking, but see what happens when you play it. (Many of my, uh, friends and colleagues are in the business of creating paid presets, but I have the luxury of making some for my own nefarious music production purposes that no one else has to use, so I’m with you!)

David Abravanel puts together this playlist for CDM:

Some notes on this music:

You know, we keep talking about Close Encounters, but the actual sound of the ARP 2500 is very limited. The clip I embedded Monday left out the ARP sound, as did the soundtrack release of John Williams’ score. The appearance is maybe more notable for the appearance of ARP co-founder David Friend at the instrument – about as much Hollywood screen time as any synth manufacturer has ever gotten. Oh, and … don’t we all want that console in our studio? But yes, following this bit, Williams takes over with some instrumental orchestration – gorgeous, but sans-ARP.

So maybe a better example of a major Hollywood composer is Jerry Goldsmith. The irony here is, I think you could probably get away with releasing this now. Freaky. Family Guy reused it (at the end). We’ll never defeat The Corporation; it’s true.

It’s also about time to acknowledge that Stevie Wonder combined Moog and ARP instruments, not just Moog. As our industry looks at greater accessibility, it’s also worth noting that Wonder was able to do so without sight.

What about U2? Well, that’s The Edge’s guitar routed through the ARP 2600 for filter distortion and spring reverb. That’s a trick you can steal, of course – especially easily now that Arturia has an emulation of the 2600.

Expect our collective reader knowledge exceeds anything we can contribute so – let us know what other artists using ARP inspired you, and if you have any notes on these selections.

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Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died

One of the great names in synthesis, founder of a brand that helped define what electronic sound is today, was lost over the weekend. ARP Instruments founder Alan R. Pearlman died Sunday the 6th, and synthesists worldwide remember the legacy he leaves.

Pearlman started ARP and was a principle engineer, specifically of the ground-breaking 2500 and 2600 modular synthesizers.

It may be hard to conceive now, but there was a time when ARP and Moog were major rivals. And it’s worth noting that Pearlman was uniquely advanced in his vision. Even as an engineering student in 1948, he looked forward to a time not so far off “when the electronic instrument may take its place … as a versatile, powerful, and expressive instrument” – provided those engineers paid attention “to the needs of the musician.”

And so in 1977, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind imagined an instrument that was far enough advanced to communicate with aliens, they chose the ARP 2500 that was Pearlman’s first commercial instrument. And Close Encounters were far from alone, as even the Martian voices were ARP 2500 produced in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Other notable 2500 instrumentalists: David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, The Who… and Eliane Radigue:

The 2600 was itself legendary enough to be fairly dubbed a holy grail.

And speaking of space aliens, the one Doctor Who variant that matches Delia Derbyshire’s haunting whoo-whoo sounds with some sparkles and badass bass is also made on an ARP (the Odyssey), by Peter Howell:

And while the Rhodes Chroma originated at ARP was hardly a huge success, it is in many ways a template for the computer-integrated workstation-style instruments to follow.

Remembering Alan:

Richard Boulanger notes the unique musicality of this engineer’s vision and the impact it had – and that leading right up to his illness, he kept dreaming up new instrumental ideas:

.Yes, even at 90 and beyond, Alan R Pearlman was still dreaming of new circuits, modules, and controllers!) Undeniably, Alan R Pearlman was an engineering genius. Everyone recognizes that his synthesizers were beyond brilliant. But I truly believe that the heart and soul in his machines drew their spirit and life from Alan’s musical virtuosity on the piano, his truly deep musical knowledge, his passion and enthusiasm for “all” music, and his nurturing and generous support for young composers and performers, regardless of whether they were into classical, avantgarde, film, fusion, rock or pop. He wanted to make something that we could play with, that we could play on, and maybe even learn about music as we played (check out his “Learning Music Through Synthesizers” book and his MSL boxes). Alan R Pearlman created truly playable electronic musical “instruments”. He made aesthetically and ergonomically beautiful instruments, and beautiful sounding instruments. His synthesizers opened our eyes and ears to new sonic worlds

NAMM has an oral history interview

He recalls first seeing the Buchla, and the impact of Moog’s controller approach. The company was named with his nickname (and initials ) – ARP. And arguably ARP’s approach to matrix switching (ARP 2500) and hard-wired control even with patch cord access (ARP 2600) is still valuable today.

Just how modern can the ARP designs be? That was proven when KORG revived the Odyssey recently, with some input from Pearlman, along with a collaboration with ARP co-founder David Friend.

And while we think of Moog and Buchla, ARP also significantly contributed to a lot of the technological innovations of the modern synth, as evidenced by this list of ARP patents (thanks to Synthtopia for spotting that):

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/patents.html

Various ARP owners have been posting tributes:

And have long sung the magic of these instruments – here’s Marc Doty, giving the instrument extrahuman autonomy:

Surviving daughter Dina Pearlman shared the news yesterday:

ARP employee Rick Parent shares his remembrances, along with ARP’s David A. Frederick:

David Mash remembers:

The post Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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