Here’s a fun (if basic) overview of electronic music production as it was seen in 1983, just before digital synthesis took over in the form of the Yamaha DX-7, and MIDI became standardized. This short film features many fine pieces of hardware, from the time-tested Moog 3P modular system to the then-new Fairlight CMI series II. Noted synthesist and composer Douglas Leedy (r.i.p.) is one of the featured performers, which is a special treat. Does anyone have any further information regarding the (Bell Labs?) computer synthesizer also within?
Here’s a newly-uploaded demonstration video of the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, a important instrument. Secondly, please also enjoy the magnificent performance video by one of our favorite electronic music composers Laurie Spiegel, on that same instrument. Thank you!
Here we have a well-made (& thorough!) introductory lesson on the nature of synthesized sound, in two parts. Hosted by noted synthesis expert and author Steve DiFuria and produced by Syntharts in 1985, this video features many wonderful “peak-period” synthesizer tools, and the lessons are supplemented by some cool, easy-to-absorb graphic representations. We highly recommended this as a gateway into the wild world of synthesizer sound creation & understanding. Enjoy!
Here, we are treated to a few moments in studio with popular jazz guitarist Pat Matheny, as he demonstrates several uses of his Synclavier II in 1986. Mr. Matheny was instrumental in helping New England Digital to develop the digital guitar interface for this magnificent workstation. Does anyone out there know from what program this clip comes? Or who the interviewer might be? Enjoy this video!
Here is wonderful documentary piece from the short-lived U.S. television program Omni: The New Frontier. In this episode, we explore the world of early 1980’s chip-based sound design for pinball machines w/ the one and only Suzanne Ciani! Inside her NY studio, she is working hard on the sound for XENON pinball. We are treated to glimpses of some wonderful period instruments & processors in action, including Synclavier II, Buchla 200, Bode Vocoder, Eventide 949, Roland MC-8, Polyfusion FF-1 Frequency Follower & more.
It’s a special treat to see Suzanne working to develop different voices for the machine (what was to become the very first “speaking” pinball machine), and also to see how she presented her unique input to game designers Greg Kmiec & Paul Faris. “Try a Tube Shot!” For more information on Suzanne’s involvement w/ Xenon project and/or to download sound sets, you can visit her webpage on the subject. Does anyone out there remember XENON?
A very nice logo from Columbian programadora PROMEC TELEVISION! Maybe what makes this logo so special is its unique form? As the graphic builds, the audio track abruptly transitions from synthesized SFX to synthesized music (funky music). The music “hangs” after the graphic completes & there is a spoken announcement while the music lowers & livens, before closing quickly at full volume. See for yourself above – very progressive! Do you connect with this logo? Why?
I am pleased to have just yesterday come across this very nice 2006 video interview w/ French composer Elaine Radigue. It was taken in her home studio (in France somewhere?). What can I say? Before yesterday, I had no idea who Elaine was! Immediately I came to appreciate the spirited delivery of her many unique perspectives on music & sound. Most importantly (perhaps), she has remained true to the ARP 2500 & used it as her primary composition tool for over 30 years!! Thanks Elaine, please call me! 😉
This clip is what I might describe as a “excellent video tour” of the legend Isao Tomita’s synthesizer studio, taken sometime in the late 1970s. This video is entirely in Japanese, and features some magnificent period machines like the then-new ROLAND MC-8, the MOOG SYSTEM 55, and what appears to be an early version of the OTARI MTR-90 16 track recorder – among many, many other fine machines! It seems so crammed up in there! There is also a portion of this video that is most touching. At approx 5:33, you are transported to a classroom where there’s a Junior High synthesizer ensemble rehearsing Dvorák’s “New World Symphony” (4th movement) (thx Josh!) on their Yamaha CS machines . Anybody have any translated insight or information to share regarding this video? View another btw Tomita post here!
Here is a remarkable full-length film portrait of Ryuichi Sakamoto from 1984, called Tokyo Melody a film about Ryuichi Sakamoto. In the documentary, we’re taken into Ryuichi’s daily life routine surrounding the production of 音楽図鑑, his 6th(?) solo album, the 1st since the dissolve of YMO. We are treated to extensive in-studio footage (w/ copious Fairlight CMI IIx “action” scenes), as well as fascinating period footage of Tokyo street life at that time. A “must-see” music movie – even if you do not care necessarily for the music of Sakamoto-San.
A all-time Between Two Worlds synthesized logo favorite! It’s that original logo from Connecticut USA’s own VESTRON VIDEO! A second (lesser?) logo was released later on, to some acclaim. Do you have a favorite synthesized tv logo? Do you remember Vestron?
Here is a partial clip of Suzanne Ciani introducing her “The Eight Wave” video on VH1’s NEW VISIONS program in 1986. “The Eighth Wave” is the opening track of her magnificent The Velocity of Love album, initially released that same year. Does anyone out there remember NEW VISIONS? Or perhaps even this very episode? I believe she may have even been the guest host for the entire episode!
It’s probably one of the most controversial Christmas songs ever, but love it or hate it you have to admit it’s a classic. Quick and clever chord changes, the catchiest of melodies – but most importantly – what makes this tune is that synth sound with the lovely delay.
Most online accounts (wiki / synthtopia) have said it’s a SCI Prophet 5 or CS-80, but without citations of any kind. To really figure out what’s making the sound we need to do a little detective work!
Submitted as Evidence A: this super cool photo of Wings-era Paul in the studio with his synths (click for larger). How can we be sure he’s working on Wonderful Christmas Time though? While we can’t make certain, there are a few tip-offs: (1) the glass of holiday spirit resting on the Pro-Soloist, (2) his late-fall attire and shagging hair (just one trim a way from his look in the video above), and most telling of all (3) Sir Paul’s Movember stache.
But which synth did he use for that memorable line? First of all, the Prophet 5 is nowhere in sight and probably gets credited for this song because it appears in the video. It’s likely the P5 was used more commonly as a road synth for Wings and made a handier prop for the shoot.
And what’s that Roland in the background? Turns out there is another polysynth in this studio pic! That’s a Roland Jupiter 4, make no mistake (compare with this photo of it’s back side, ignoring those 4 aftermarket knobs on the top). Certainly Paul must have used one of Roland’s first poly’s for that chord… why, it even seems like you can trace the patch cable straight from the JP-4 to the Roland RE-201 Space Echo on that amp in the back! Furthermore, since it was released in 1978 the JP4 would have been in Paul’s studio right around the time he was recording ‘Christmas Time. Could all the sources have been wrong?
Probably not. What really settles the score on the matter, and submitted as Evidence B, is this bit of sonic proof provided by youtube user BuggySawtooth. There’s pretty much no denying that the CS-80 is indeed the source of the magic sound:
One last question though. What is that device on the top left corner of Paul’s CS-80?
We hope you have a Wonderful Christmas Time and Happy Holidays from your friends at btw.
Happy Holidays to all our friendly readers out there! Please take the time to enjoy this wonderful Christmas album created by Stephen Alcorn in 1976 (released publicly for the first time this month), using solely a ARP Odyssey synthesizer. This album was recorded onto a Teac 3340S 1/4 track machine, making use of the tape “bouncing” technique when more than 4 tracks were necessary for the arrangement. For more information, or to purchase the album digitally, visit here. Truly a memorable collection of newly resurrected switched-on holiday music!