Friday, 29 January 2010

Synth Hero!

Jean Ga just alerted me to this marvelous website, which i can recommend also.....

.....mostly because it contains the amazing video:

Synths in Poland

Heres the website of the people who serviced my Fender Rhodes last year. Maciej came over and did it during his rounds in the UK. Nice bloke! That second picture reminds me, I need to get my Roland tape echo serviced

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

E&MM Beach Babe

Finally here's a picture of a very English beach-babe playing a Roland MC202, quite a common sight in the early eighties

E&MM Emerson

Next is an extract from the feature on Keithy-boy. Its not an interview, he sort of just wrote the whole article about himself which is pretty cool

The First Live Moog 
I couIdn't wait to see one of these instruments and found that Mike Vickers, who used to be with Manfred Mann, had one of the first Moog modular systems in his flat in London

I went round to see it and asked him if I could use it for one of my performances with the orchestra. He told me that it wasn't really meant to be moved around, that it was really for studio rather than live performance. Anyway, he was willing to have a go, so what happened was that he hid behind the instrument while I played it live, jumping up occasionally to make the necessary patch changes. It amazed everybody because of all the new sounds that were coming out. They said "What the hell is that?" I can't remember the name of the actual Moog system I first used, but it had no sequencer on it, although there were some oscillators, envelope generators and a lot of other stuff. I tried changing the patches but the whole thing looked to me like a telephone switchboard. I finally sorted it out but it took a long time

So I became the first person to use a synthesiser on stage and obviously wanted to get hold of a Moog instrument for myself. I wrote to Bob Moog asking for all the specs. He told me there was no 'live' model, but he had produced a new version which had a preset box, which might make live performance easier. All this stuff arrived over from America and I had it in my flat and didn't even know how to start to get the thing working! (There was no instruction manual.) In desperation I called up Mike Vickers who had it at his place for three days and finally got it going

The preset cards gave me a fair variety of sounds to work with. You couldn't alter the oscillators except with the jacks. There were very few things that were actually able to be preset. Presetting was mainly for the 3 oscillators that I first had, so that you could get 5ths or any other interval you wanted. Also the filter. Any changes like from sine to square you still had to do by changing the jack around. It was quite small really, just with 3 oscillators, a filter bank, a set of envelope generators, a set of attenuators and that was about it really. The first problem was getting it to the hall and keeping it in tune. There was absolutely no way of tuning it except by ear. Consequently you had to do this all evening

Later, I designed a system where you could switch off the audio out and put in a frequency counter, so that I'd be playing the organ with my right hand, I'd have the audio switch out, I'd play an A, and if I got a read-up of 440, I'd know I'd be in tune. But it was all a very risky business. Most of the time I had a limited patching arrangement where I just needed to make a few alterations. The preset box did help a lot. This instrument that Bob Moog sent me was not generally available it was just that he was very interested to see how I got on with it. I did meet Bob when I went to America and he stood there in the wings and was absolutely blown away - he couldn't believe the way the instrument was being used. He was very keen from then on to work closely together and often came up with suggestions for improving this or that function

The Moog system was expanded considerably and I had a sequencer and another row of oscillators - it got so big, I couldn't even reach up to it and tune the damn thing any longer I think Bob now has the full system that I used sitting in his factory as a piece of history - I haven't seen it for the last three years. If I looked at it now I'd probably be back to square one again in using it

I used to use the sequencer basically just for the gimmick value it offered on 'Brain Salad Surgery'. I'd written this music about computerisation with very heavy lyrics, and the idea was that the instrument sort of took over in the end - it worked well on stage. The sequencer would be programmed to go through this change of notes and speed up until it blew up. It was very good visually - dry ice and all that

Talking about the move from Moog to Korg, it was really to do with Bob leaving the organisation. I felt I'd lost that contact which had been so important between Bob and myself. I thought that Norlin music tended to ignore the professional musician and catered more for the general keyboard buying public who wanted cheap gimmicky instruments. But the MiniMoog has been one of the most successful mass produced instruments

The move to Korg
So my relationship with Moog dwindled off when Bob left and while working on an album in Nassau in the Bahamas, my engineers (who often showed me new gear) brought in a piece of Korg equipment, the PS 3100 polyphonic synth. It seemed to offer the programming facilities that I wanted, but when I recorded with it, it turned out to be very thin in quality. Anyway, they gave it to me so I had it stuck on the side and I tinkled around with it, but if I wanted a big fat sound, I'd still go back to the Moog stuff far more reliable from a tuning aspect than thase early Moogs I used. I've got the 3300 and the 3100 polyphonics. I also use the Sigma, Lambda, and the Vocoder - I get an amazing harmonica sound that's very bluesy on this one. I just use the built-in keyboard and my voice. In fact with this new instrument that Korg are building far me now,I wanted the vocoder built into. it. They looked at me in amazement and said "Are you serious". I think they sort of lost interest in the vocoder, and maybe they're not all that proud of it, but I think it's unique as a saoloing instrument. I've got the Mono/Poly, the Poly 6, the 3200, and the BX-3 organ. I've just received the digital delay and they've given me a sequencer as well but I haven't tried these out yet. I think the sequencer's an old analogue one that they've stopped producing

MP3 of the track Face to Face from Nighthawks by Keith Emerson:

E&MM Fairlight

Ive been reading that E&MM magazine from May 1983 and it's so damn enjoyable I decided to put some of it up here. First up is a letter from Kim Ryrie, co-inventor of the Fairlight CMI. Bear in mind The CMI had only just been released

Dear Sirs,
I read with interest the March issue of your magazine and in particular, an article by Francis Monkman and his comments on the 'Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument' (C.M.I.) and Synclavier II

We are grateful for this comment that the "Fairlight is far more pleasing as a whole package", but he did make some other points on which I would like to comment for your readers' interest

Conceptually, 'The Fairlight' is a "Computer Musical Instrument" (C.M.I.) as distinct from solely a Digital Synthesiser like the Synclavier II. This implies fundamental differences in the systems design philosophy and hardware requirements

FM based digital synthesisers must do very high speed calculations in real-time to achieve complex synthetic sounds and do not require large amounts of memory to store sounds. The C. M.I. on the other hand manipulates very large amounts of previously computed (or sampled) digitally stored sound waveform. This is then blended and manipulated in real~ time with less computational overhead than is necessary for digital synths. This concept allows ANY sound to be produced in real-time because any waveform, regardless of complexity can be stored in the (large) Random Access Waveform memory. Here, waveforms can be further manipulated, blended with other sounds, re-drawn, re-computed and so on. On playback, groups of wavefo'rms can be manipulated and blended in real-time, giving a very high degree of real-time sound control

From a practical point of view "Natural" (psyco-acoustically organic-like) voices cannot easily be synthesised in real-time even using 16 bit mini-computers and this is apparent when one listens to the sum total of sounds available on these type of machines

Where the goal is to produce complex Synthetic type sounds, the Digital SynthesiS technique is efficient and allows effective real-time control. Variations of this technique are used in Synclavier I and II, Synergy, Yamaha GS-1, Crumar Development System and Prism. These systems are (to varying degrees) capable of producing dozens of 'Natural-like', sounds including a variety of classical and popular instrument sounds. From a practical viewpoint, these "Natural" sounds are not simple to design, and are normally supplied in the sound library from the manufacturer

Systems using Waveform manipulation for polyphonic production of sampled sounds are the Fairlight, P.P.G. Waveterm (although I am not sure if this is functional yet) and the Emulator. Synclavier II has optional hardware which digitises sounds onto a winchester disc drive in real-time. This can be played back monophonically under speed control (pitch) from the keyboard. However, this does not distract from the fact that Synclavier II is primarily an FM synthesiser; control functions are for the most part inoperative when using sample to disc, because the latter is in effect behaving as a high quality digital tape recorder with pitch control

On the technical side, 'The Fairlight C.M.I.' contains four microprocessors and two of them are configured to operate on opposite clockphases into common memory which, in this context, provides ample processing power for manipulating waveforms

Regarding Mr Monkman's query about synthesising something like an analogue filter sweep on the 'Fairlight', I must admit that our promotional I iterature doesn't mention capabilities of this type, though you can be assured it is a trivial matter. It is done using fourier waveform computing techniques and allows upto 32 'harmonics" to be individually 'controlled by separately "drawn" complex envelopes. The "sweep" Can be manually controlled in real-time by using one of the live controllers to selectively move through the wavetable

I hope this information maybe of i nierest to your readers, and we continue to enjoy the unique technically oriented musical format of your magazine

Kim Ryrie Managing Director Fairlight Instruments Pty. Ltd.

I Want

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Electronics and Music Maker 1983

Here is the full cover of the EMM magazine in the last post. It features Emerson's home set up - in the barn that I believe later on saw some kind of 'tractor incident' where a lot of his equipment, including a Yamaha GX1, got trashed. Anyway, here you can see a nice Korg set up, with a Monopoly, Poly 61 and the unusual MS50 mini-modular monosynth. The mixer is the Soundcraft series two 16-4-2. What I find interesting is that there is also some kind of chicken on a perch behind him. I wonder if it has MIDI? More likely a cereal-port

Interestingly, look at the text there at the bottom left. It says 'INTRODUCING THE MIDI' and in the article itself it keeps referring to it as the MIDI which although sort of correct [as in 'the musical instrument digital interface'] it never got used like that, it became a noun