Synthisis Sonoris is bursting out as a companion to the seventh installment in our I.T.A.T.I.O.M. series dealing with Inventors Talking About Their Instruments Or Modules. Gathering composers playing synthesizers designed by the legendary EMS which changed the face Electronic music back in the 70s… Mythical and typically associated with the British avant-garde highlights in the 70s from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop/White Noise/Delia Derbyshire to Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Roxy Music/Brian Eno… But also to European composers like Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, Heldon, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, André Stordeur… In a few years the VCS3 + Synthi AKS made their marks within the experimental, electroacoustic groups all over the place and the Synthi proved to be one of the best resource for any live, easy to carry and so immediate. Legendary, unparalleled in sound, it gives a feeling of being alive and untamed. Trying it causes severe addiction !!!
In order to make your listening easier to digest I have chosen to divide « Synthisis Sonoris » into 3 sessions.
Here’s the second one:
01. Scot Solida – Interstellar Overdraft (04:53)
Scot Solida has been making electronic music for over 40 years, much of it under the name of Christus and the Cosmonaughts.
For the past two decades, he has written articles and tutorials in the subject of music technology for Computer Music, Future Music, Electronic Musician, MusicRadar, to name a few. Additionally, his samples and patches have been included in products from Apple, Computer Music magazine, Arturia, LinPlug, PPG, VirSyn, PSP Audioware, Polyend and many more. Now retired, he spends his time in a secluded farmhouse, patching synths, practicing the lute, and drawing whimsical pictures.
I became aware of EMS instruments through the music of Roxy Music, Hawkwind, and Pink Floyd. However, it was hearing the sounds of Heldon, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze that cemented my desire to own a VCS3 of my own.
Though it is without question the instrument I love most, my relationship with the VCS3 is often contentious. Its design quirks sometimes lead to surprising results that can be inspiring. On the other hand, it has been making music for far longer than I myself have and its age is revealed in sometimes frustrating ways.
Nevertheless, it has been a constant companion for many long years and despite the occasional need for servicing my particular unit is fairly stable once calibrated. I have no problem playing it melodically from an attached DK2 keyboard.
Musically, the VCS3 provides a unique texture to any track. The joystick makes it ideal for long, shifting timbres, and the filter has a lovely, almost biological quality. It is the least synthetic sounding synthesizer I’ve ever owned, while remaining undeniably electronic.
02. Ernesto Romeo + Antonio Gutierrez + Sebastián Cirillo – Every Picnic Needs a Synthi (08:53)
Ernesto Romeo : EMS Synthi AKS, Electro Harmonix Memory Man delay
Antonio Gutierrez: EMS Synthi A
Sebastián Cirillo: EMS VCS3
It was a special meeting, on September 2016, at Sonorámica Studio, somewhere in Mina Clavero/Traslasierra (Córdoba, Argentina), which included events along four days: courses on sound synthesis, production with electronic technology and live performances by Ernesto Romeo, Toni Gutiérrez and Sebastián Cirillo.
There were several classic and contemporary synthesizers, modular systems, sequencers and more, so on 10th September, at sunset and under the inspiring landscape of the mountains, the idea came out: since there were two EMS Synthi AKS units and one EMS VCS3 in the setup, the recreation of the magical scene was unavoidable. All of this happened, of course, off schedule. The composition was improvised at that moment with no previous rehearsal and taking as inspiration the magical essence of the environment, the wild and welcoming nature, the energy of the area, well-known for its frequent “sightings”… The EMS brought its organic sound and its futuristic and science fiction spirit and aesthetics to represent that moment perfectly. It was recorded live without any further additions. The sounds and melodies emerged from the top of the mountain, radiating their power to the valley, while the last sunbeams lightened the earth.
Unique and very special experience that was possible thanks to the love and passion of everyone who attended the meeting.
03. Dominique Grimaud – AKS Medley (13:24)
Dominique Grimaud started his musical activities in 1970 with an improvisation and happening group formed by Jacky Dupéty. The group performed under the name Camizole until 1978. In that year, it merged with the group of Gilbert Artman Lard Free. Then Dominique Grimaud created with Monique Alba the duo Video-Aventures, whose first album ranked second in the charts of the magazine New Musical Express. Gilbert Artman, Jac Berrocal, Han Burhs, Guigou Chenevier, Cyril Lefebvre participated in this album.
From 1970 to 1974, with Camizole, I had experimented bass guitar, double bass, flute, violin. I had even built an adaptation of the zither, kind of piano frame which I scraped, hit and rubbed. Then I bought the mini-Korg 700, the very first model of the brand. It was a very pale imitation of the Mini-Moog, but extended by a Wem Watkins Copicat tape echo chamber, it opened possibles.
I acquired my Synthi AKS in 1975, a second-hand purchase (trained keyboardists could not get used to the digital keyboard). Not having any conventional instrumental technique, I had finally found the instrument that suited my experimental and empirical approach. In the inputs I connected the little Korg (a bit like an extra oscillator), as well as an alto saxophone and a guitar in order to distort and pervert the sounds in our wild improvisations in public.
From 1979, with Video-Adventures, it became my preferred instrument and most of our recordings originated on the Synthi AKS. By running it through a warm MXR effect, I was able to achieve broader and warmer sound colors. Loops, pulses, rustles… I always approached this instrument in a completely intuitive way and with unlimited happiness. However, even if I used it on stage, I think that it is above all a studio and laboratory instrument. That’s why, afterwards, I preferred a Moog Source, which I used in sample and hold mode + coupled with the first affordable samplers. In 2012, I had it completely overhauled by Robin Wood (an EMS veteran) who offered to include new features for me to chose. Today, I still use it by connecting it to Moogerfooger and Eventide stompboxes.
04. Mathew Watson – Day Breaks (04:16)
Mat Watson is a Naarm (Melbourne) based artist focussed on the exploration of electronic sound and the drum set in many forms and under many guises. He has an extensive and diverse list of past and ongoing artist collaborations, and has performed at arts festivals, music festivals, galleries and theatres across Australia, Japan and the USA.
He has released solo and collaborative albums exploring a vast spectrum of sound, style and form, moonlighted with Bronx legends E.S.G, and collaborated on several large scale Boredoms BoaDrum performances in Australia and Japan.
He wrote, arranged and conducted Magnitudes – a work for 40 synthesisers performed by the MESS Synthesiser Orchestra at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne and most recently, curated and produced HEAVY SPECTRA, an individual audio visual work, and event for experimental artists working with sonic densities at Max Watts in Melbourne, Australia.
I purchased my Synthi in early 2007 and Day Breaks was one of the first complete pieces I recorded with it after an initial period of experimentation. I love the relationship between the envelope shaper and Trapezoid in the Synthi. It inspires a different approach compared to other modular systems. That one section of the Synthi can influence and be influenced within a patch to create interesting pulses and shapes. It is often the secret to opening a patch up for me. I recall using a DK1 at the time with the Synthi and would find myself switching between the Ks and the DK1 depending on the types of sound/control I wanted to explore. A self cycling envelope generator with a voltage amount tied to that shape which can also be triggeredinterupted by an external source was a revelation at the time. This piece has always resonated with me due to its simple approach and now, in hindsight, as a moment which reflects a pure period of creativity and change within my own practice.
05. James Gardner – Petite ébauche 1 (01;14)
06. James Gardner – Petite ébauche 2 (00:59)
James Gardner is an English born New Zealand musician and composer who spent much of the 1980s in London playing and programming keyboards and synthesizers for a variety of artists. He moved to New Zealand in 1994. which he directed until 2010 and his compositions have been played and broadcast throughout the world. Gardner has also broadcast on music on the radio station Radio New Zealand Concert. He has taught music at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, Unitec and the University of Auckland. For some years he has been researching the history of the synthesiser company EMS with a view to publishing an authoritative book on the subject.
I just made the « little ébauches » as a contrast to the longer, drone-based tracks.
They are deliberately rhythmic and pulsed, but I couldn’t find a way forward with either of them. At least not without adding new sounds that were not made with the Synthi A. I was a little less purist about these tracks in that the Synthi A samples are played rhythmically from Logic’s EXS24 sampler with MIDI controlling them. In the longer tracks, Logic is just used as a “tape machine”, not as a sequencer. But all the sounds on these ébauches are still made by a Synthi A.
07. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 07 (02:23)
08. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 02 (02:12)
09. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 05 (02:39)
Vincent Epplay is a French sound artist.
Since the beginning of the 90s, he has been developing an unclassifiable artistic work exploring the interaction between the sound process and visual forms. He began to develop a particular and forward-looking approach to electronic music, centred on intuitive composition, learnings from musique concrète and a poetic/humorous re-appropriation of vintage sound/film materials.
I first got exposed to the Synthi A through two major records of the 60s and 70s:
« White Noise, An Electric Storm » by David Vorhaus with the participation of Delia Derbyshire – which brought me to know the productions of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
« Video-Adventures Music for boys and girls » by Dominique Grimaud & Monique Alba – an impossible to classify record released on the famous English label Recommended Records.
Following these discographic discoveries, a friend with whom I started my first experimentations and sound scrambling lent me a VCS3… A first initiation with this evil and fantastic machine gave me the virus.
A few years later, my meeting with the composer Bernard Parmegiani who invited me one afternoon in his studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and gave me for a symbolic sum a whole set of “sound machines” as they called them, among which a Synthi AKS with its EMS sequencer keyboard – opened again to me “the doors of unheard sounds”!
This synthesizer remains my favorite machine, a most untamable instrument, with surprising possibilities and sounds.
10. André Stordeur: Office Baroque II (07:49)
In 1973 André Stordeur founded his « Studio Synthèse » in Brussels where he was teaching and experimenting, mostly on a Synthi AKS.
First acquisition of the Studio Synthèse, the Synthi AKS was for several years André’s reference synth until the purchase of his Oberheim Sem and Serge Modular prototypes.
His AKS was sold to another Ircam student at the time, Didier Debril, in 1981, when he was preparing to join Morton Subotnick in the United States to continue his research.
Proud to feature an alternate version of the soundtrack of Cherica Convent and Roger Steylaert’s cult film “Office Baroque”, about the performance of the American artist Gordon Matta Clark in Antwerp, during the summer of 1977. André was invited to illustrate various sequences of the film. In order to provide the best recording conditions, Cherica Convent moved a quasi-professional video studio to the Studio Synthèses so that André could compose in real time on the images on a Nagra recorder and then on his Otari. The result is a dark, oppressive and gripping music that gave a very special touch to the film.
This version was unreleased until recently, because the U.S. producers and the widow of GMC considered this soundtrack to be far too avant-garde for the time and it was replaced by a jazzy soundtrack. The original version of the film is now available for consultation via the ARGOS foundation.
The complete original work should be released in 2022 on the label of André’s son.
11. Cray (Ross Healy) – EMS Improv56 recorded 31 days ago (09:36)
Ross Healy records primarily under the Cray artist name but also records as Ryou Oonishi as well as past releases as Oscar T Oram, Roland Oberheim, This Digital Ocean, Amnesia, Siko Spunji, Horaku and more than likely a few more names since starting releasing records around the globe in the early 90s. He currently has 31 albums released around the globe. The majority of them as Cray. Ross lives and breathes electronic music with over 70 full CDs of unreleased synth goodness which may see the light of day over time.
Ross also is the founding member of VICMOD and VICMOD Records
EMS Synthi and VCS3 plus room acoustics and pencils. I have owned 4 EMS synths over the years. I sold one indirectly (VCS3) to Merzbow. There really isnt anything close to the EMS VCS3 / Synthi. It sounds like pure electricity.
12. Jonas Broberg – Synthi 100 sketch (02:14)
Jonas Broberg has been composing electroacoustic music since the late 80s. He works with synthesizers and sound processors to obtain material ranging from chaotic to meditative.
My interest in EMS synths started in the early eighties when I heard Tangerine dream records such as Atem and Rubycon. In 1987 I was lucky to get an AKS and I started exploring it and using it at several live concerts. I love the flexibility of the pin matrix.
« Synthi 100 sketch » was recorded during a residency at the KSYME studio in Athens, 2017. It used to be Ianni Xenakis’ studio with lovely Synthi 100 I was thrilled to work with !
13. Julien Palomo – HRD BRXT (03:59)
Julien Palomo lives in Paris and likes to be discreet even if he has been active in our Experimental scenes for quite some time now… Founder of the label Improvising Beings devoted to improvisation, provoking encounters and, at the same time, paying homage to an underestimated part of the radical musics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially Free Jazz but not only. Julien plays a Synthi E and is fluently speaking the language of EMS…
14. Thomas Fang – Conjuring (03:29)
Portland-based sound and video artist Thomas Fang uses modular synthesizers and esoteric antiques to weave reverberating textural drones with fractured granular alien glitches. After exploring the uses of vintage laboratory test equipment, handmade devices, field recordings, radio transmissions, and circuit-bent electronics, working for synth manufacturers since 2008 has led him to embrace the newest hardware while still allowing chaotic and aleatoric forces to guide creative processes. In 2001 he co-founded the Artificial Music Machine record label and began recording and releasing experimental electronic music and noise. Since then, he has performed under his own name and as Static Storm System, and as a member of the Bradley Telcom Ensemble and Inversion Effect.
Fang was also conductor of the Furby Youth Choir, a small army of modified toys which terrorized audiences at festivals around the US. He has worked forsynthcompanies including 4ms, LZX, Darkplace, and Bleep Labs, and has also been a curator for Church of the Friendly Ghost, staff member of the nonprofit organizations S1 and Austin Museum of Digital Art, and has taught synthesisand circuit bending workshops for the Modern Aural Sculpture Symposium South, New Media Art and Sound Summit, Future Music Summit, and Synth Library Portland.
Conjuring was created using material from my recording sessions with a Synthi 100 (in Vancouver, Canada) in September 2012, and a VCS3 (in Austin, Texas) in November of the same year. This brief composition explores the emotional tension created by instability, when processes outside of our control refuse to be tamed.
I first became aware of EMS after seeing Rick Reed perform with a Synthi, probably around 2002, and soon discovered Delia Derbyshire, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and other famous EMS users. At that time EMS itself was dormant, but after I learned that Robin Wood was beginning new production, I joined the waiting list for a new Synthi A and received it in 2018. By then I was also able to find an older Synthi (without its original KS, which I am still seeking!), and I am planning to take delivery of a new VCS3 soon as well. These instruments can be incredibly humbling and frustrating, but also reveal unexpected wonders. I don’t try to impose musical ideas on them; I let their particular quirks and personalities guide the compositional journey.
15. Headboggle – Nineteen Synthis (01:52)
San Francisco’s Derek Gedalecia has boasted over 100 releases in his twenty plus years composing and releasing music that spans from dense layered noise, synthesizer based works, avant neo-classical, to giddy electronics to ragtime piano… He is inviting to explore alien territories whether playing a Buchla Music Easel, a Synthi AKS and every instrument or production technique at his disposal.
After spending many years studying classical and ragtime piano, and then rock guitar in college bands, I was able to acquire an EMS Synthi A about 15 years ago.
This was the same year I acquired my first Eurorack (Doepfer) setup. The layout and sounds from the Synthi were so mind-expanding and enticing that my Doepfer system collected dust for a few years. I learned signal flow and modular synthesis first on the Synthi and then went on to refine that knowledge with other modular systems.
I have released many recordings and they almost always feature the Synthi A somewhere. Cheers to EMS for their designs and especially the Synthi which has and will bring me years of discovery and enjoyment
16. Georgios Karamanolakis – ForEmsSynthiE + D.I.Y. Breakout Box (03:18)
Georgios Karamanolakis (Γεώργιος Καραμανωλάκης) is an experimental artist and composer-improviser who lives in Athens Greece. He creates sounds that originate from monolithic drones mixed with elements of free jazz, noise and musique concrete, using a chimera of analogue and digital synthesizers, field recordings and tapes, metallic objects and various electroacoustic techniques. He is influenced by the culture of mysticism, experimental films and the aesthetics of cyberpunk.
He leads the Athenian post-apocalyptic synth-punk band ΟΔΟΣ 55 and is a member of the underground urban intervention team Omio. He also runs the black metal noise band Yorgas Helmet. He has cooperated and composed albums with a wide range of experimental artists such as Japanese noise legend Hiroshi Hasegawa (Astro) and musique concrete master Jean-Marc Foussat (their last work being the LP Substunce Sans Scrupule on 12’’ vynil), amongst others. He is the producer of the Athens Inner City Broadcast program at London’s Resonance Extra experimental radio station.
I have been an explorer almost all my life, since young I liked to explore ww2 bunkers and abandoned train cemeteries around my home town and collect various weird objects and books. During my youth I came across a record in a flea market called Greek Electronic Music 1 featuring greek avant-garde composers of the 60’s. On the cover of the record there is an EMS VCS3 and all recorded material on this lp where done with this machine. I instantly new that this was the synthesiser for me and it became a quest to find one slightly just before their prices exploded, it took me 10 years but in 2009 I finally got the opportunity to get a super modified ems synth aks. The last 10 years all of my music projects involve the synth aks and the synth E and they are my main instruments. I have other synths as well but I am an ems user and I compose only on these machines. EMS for me is freedom in a suitcase. Style and function hand by hand, science and magic combined to form this chimera, this ‘’silver crystal dream machine’’.
17. Angst – Ulme i århundreder (08:14)
18. Angst_- Övervakaren(EaselSynthi) (07:36)
ANGST who make Dunkel Kosmische Musik out of the dark forests of Sweden have released 4 records under his own project ANGST Sessions and is also part of the duo Den Sorte Død.
My inspiration is the experimental early 1970’s and mix Modulars with old string synths, minimoog, tape echoes and so on. The Synthi MK1 I got from a gentleman in the UK and it sounds utterly fantastic… inspiring and never ending in exploring new possibilities. Perfect for just losing some hours and taking a stroll on the feedback left hand path…
These songs were recorded in long takes and just multi tracked. The Easel and Synthi I played together and then I took the Synthi track and recorded it through my Otario tape recorder and then played it again in half speed which creates this eerie feeling. It’s perfect for the Synthi which has such beautiful timbres that can shift in a very musical way. I like that the Synthi is so immediate and everything is perfectly laid out and easy to grasp – hard to master. The matrix offers tons of happy accidents and I have learnt that you have to let it settle like Eliane Radique did with her Arp 2500…
19. Jóhann Eiriksson – Portabella (06:17)
Jóhann Eiriksson has been active in the Icelandic music scene for decades. He is a founding member of electronic / post industrial groups, Reptilicus and Gjöll released by labels including, Artoffact, Ant-Zen, Staalplaat, and World Serpent among others. He has also released solo projects under his own name (or variants thereof).
In late November 2011, Reptilicus (Jóhann Eiriksson , Guðmundur Ingi Markússon, and Rúnar Magnússon as a third member) and Senking (Raster-Noton), did a recording session at Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton, Ontario. The legendary studio was founded by the Lanois brothers and the site of numerous classic recordings, among them many of Brian Eno’s and Daniel Lanois’ ambient series in the 1980s.
At the time, production for modular-synthesizer documentary I Dream of Wires was under way. Reptilicus and Senking were among the first wave of artists featured for the project. Praveer Baijal of Yatra-Arts introduced the bands to William Blakeney, executive producer of the film.
A collection of vintage modular synthesizers was made available for sonic exploration, including the EMS Synthi A.
The bands were privileged to have Bob Doidge (Crash Test Dummies, Cowboy Junkies), at the mixing desk, and enjoyed the assistance and deep expertise of Dean Batute when operating the vintage gear. Director Rob Fantinatto filmed the Saturday session which featured in I Dream of Wires: Hardcore edition.
Reptilicus and Senking released the album Unison in 2018, based on the raw material from those recordings. I used the original Synthi A recordings from Grant Avenue as a core element for the track “Portabella” both for the drone and percussion, two things the Synthi really excels at…
20. Richard Scott – A rather (less) pathetic little Synthesiser (05:07)
Richard Scott is a composer of electronic music residing in Berlin and who has been one of the most active synthesist. He chose to divide his time between solo electronic composition and performing, normally improvising in groups with mostly acoustic instrumentalists -including Axel Dörner, Jon Rose, Audrey Chen, Clive Bell, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Michael Vorfeld, Shelley Hirsch, Frank Gratkowski and the Lightning Ensemble… For the last few years he has been heavily focussed on the limitless possibilities of analogue modular synthesis – and now also running a Master’s degree in Berlin. It is very important for him to document his work and he operates his own Sound Anatomy web-label imprint
The two pieces I include in this series of compilation are quite friendly and modest creatures. Like most of us they are just looking for a place to shelter without fear and that is what I have tried to give them in these compositions. I have taken a somewhat anthropomorphic approach to synthesisers; choosing to regard them as organic life forms with creature-like personalities; bodies and organs drawn from the elements and blood made of flowing electricity. Electronic sounds are not totally abstract, but are surely natural objects and organic algorithmic processes just as much as they are synthetic products of a rational and orderly mathematical thought. This anthropomorphism definitely prejudices me more to the noise, the distortion, the non-linearities and mathematical failures of the analogue domain and in particular towards the modular instruments of Serge, Hordijk and EMS, which seem to me to personify this tendency, which of course is not to say that all of them are not capable of some very clean and precise sounds too. The sounds I tend to be drawn to the most generally seem to have some kind of tangibility – which I understand as a corporeal sense of plausibility or feasibility. However abstract the sounds might seem, for me there is always an embodied material spectromorphology binding them to the earth. Maybe such sounds sometimes gaze into the sky and space above and wonder what it would be like, maybe they even try to travel there for a while, but they remain beholden to gravity, and thus keep some mud and twigs beneath their feet. The synthesisers made by EMS in the 1970s come from a different and now quite distant era of music and technology, but for me they are not nostalgic objects, rather they are unprecedented and very current tools which connect us to the possibility an optimistic musical futurism of the kind that perhaps few of us feel any more in many other areas of life. So while I don’t think these pieces try to look back to a mythical golden age of synthesisers or electronic music, they do keep an important link with the past, particularly in its more futuristic and utopian aspects. They also remind us that even now, in a digital era, an entirely analogue music can, as the genius Edgard Varese argued so vehemently, still engage the ear in new ways and can take us and our ideas towards a new kind of beauty and towards new possibilities of musical organisation. It has to be said that these pieces would probably not exist at all without the efforts of Peter Zinovieff (who is also the source of its title) Tristram Cary, David Cockerell, Robin Wood and Thomas Lehn, and I thus dedicate them to all these fine gentlemen.
21. Sion Orgon – Blind Mammoth AKS (04:16)
Sion Orgon is an experimental musician, composer, singer, songwriter and avant garde artist from Cardiff, Wales. He has been active for years in the field of experimental electroacoustic music, sound design and production.
A long time collaborator with Thighpaulsandra (Coil and Julian Cope) and full time member of Rocketgoldstar, appearing on eight Thighpaulsandra releases, five Rocketgoldstar releases and touring extensively throughout the UK and Internationally.
Sion has written and produced five solo studio albums and has collaborated with many artists, including William D Drake, Splintered, Peter Christopherson, COIL, Mike Edwards (Jesus Jones), Andrew Liles, Damo Suzuki (Can), Stylus, The Waterboys, Faust and Geraint Jarman.
In addition to his contribution to various albums, since 2008 he has been creating and producing the sound design for BBC Television, contemporary dance and physical theatre, site specific productions, dance films, fixed media and installations for many leading Wales based companies and artists. He’s currently a visual artist for Thighpaulsandra, URUK and other artists.
22. A.N.S. – Elegy For A Lost Spring (04:59)
The work of Brussels based A.N.S. (Air Near Silence) focusses mainly on contemporary experimental music. The spiritual dimension of the compositions gives the music a meditative character and urge the auditors to think about how to listen in these modern times. The tracks are composed with electronic analog gear treated with tape machines and are often mixed with field recordings.
‘Elegy For A Lost Spring’ is made on a ‘Synthi +’, as called by it’s designer. It’s a Synthi A clone made for a Paris based artists a few years ago and acquired by me in March 2020, during the first days of the pandemic struck in Western-Europe. It offers several mods : S&H, Trapezoid polarity control, Inverter pins, VC controlled shape on each osc, hi/lo range switchable oscillators, osc sync, customized matrix lay-out, and sounds fantastic + is very sturdy. The instrument is housed in a vintage ‘80’s hardshell Delsey briefcase, exactly the same my father used to go to work.
As soon as I was accustomed to the Synthi interface, I started composing on it and using it in my daily musical workflow. Often I only use a fraction of an instruments capacity to get a very simple, rather minimalistic, meditative result. In the ‘Elegy….’-track I tried to explore the many different function & possibilities of the Synthi +. As most of the time it started with a few ideas that were later totally abandoned and I ended up with something completely different than wat I had initially in mind. Most inspiration comes from sounds I stumble upon and from where I start to improvise and the piece takes form from there.
23. Köhn – It gets awful quiet sometimes (14:38)
KÖHN is Jürgen De Blonde who is not using Modular Synthesis per se although his music has always relied on synthesis…
Jürgen has released on KRAAK, Western Vinyl, Deep Distance, Sonic Meditations and brings an original approach to sound experimenting with soundscapes, electronica, and collaborations with musicians from different backgrounds. He is at the forefront of the experimental scene in Belgium and was among the lucky few to be allowed to work on the mythical EMS Synthi 100 Synthesizer @ I.P.E.M. (Institute for Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music) and Modulisme has been lucky to offer those works on our Session 037 and this song.
24. Lawrence Casserley – Solos, Commentaries and Integrations (06:57)
VCS1 who’s circuit board was hand built by David Cockerell.
The patching was in phono (RCA) plugs along the bottom. Devices L to R: Mic Amp, Envelope Generator, Ring Mod/VCA, BP (Resonating) Filter, HF Oscillator, LF Oscillator, Reverb (a very small spring).
S, C & I was premiered at the inaugural RCM Electronic Music Concert in October, 1969.
This performance features Howard Davidson, clarinet – James Strebing, percussion – Lawrence Casserley, live electronics.
In September, 1967, I was one of a small group of students who gathered in a room off the stage of the Concert Hall at the Royal College of Music for the first session of a new course in Electronic Music. The teacher was Tristram Cary, one of Britain’s earliest pioneers in the field. At that stage the studio, which was being built by BBC engineers, consisted of a tantalising array of boxes and partially connected wires. It was not until well into 1968 that the studio was fully working, so the first couple of terms consisted of lectures by Tristram and visits to his studio in Fressingfield, Suffolk, Peter Zinoviev’s pioneering computer music studio in Putney, south London, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. During 1968 the studio came on stream gradually. New pieces of equipment would appear one by one, and we would all pounce on these new opportunities and explore them to the full. By autumn 1968 we had a fully working studio
Later in 1969 I was able to purchase a VCS1 synthesiser (also known as the Don Banks Music Box), one of the first products of the nascent EMS Ltd. The VCS1 was subsequently donated to the collection of electronic instruments, founded by Hugh Davies, at the Gemeinte Museum in The Hague. I was already forming ideas about a live performance instrument. I built myself a mixer (in those days the only real option) and also built amplifiers and speakers from kits of parts supplied by the company Heathkit. Finally I purchased a second-hand Revox tape recorder from my friend Adam Skeaping. This basic kit provided the performance environment for my first live electronic piece, “Solos, Commentaries and Integrations”, and it was the germ of my idea of an electronic instrument.
During one of my visits to Peter Zinoviev’s studio I had created on the computer some sounds that I really liked. Creating these sounds was an interesting adventure in itself; I was accompanied by my fellow student Malcolm Fox, and together we battled to understand the complexities of Peter’s system. Computers were not very user friendly in those days, and one had to do exactly what they required – and we were novices. However, we quickly began to create some really nice sounds that would be difficult to create in any other way. These became the basis of the tape part in “Solos, Commentaries and Integrations”.
I had also been exploring clarinet multiphonics with Howard Davidson (composer, clarinettist and fellow member of the Electronic Music class), based on the book New Sounds for Woodwind by Bruno Bartolozzi. I conceived the idea of a piece where the clarinet would be a protagonist, the computer-generated sounds (played on tape after further processing in the RCM studio), would be an antagonist, and a percussionist would act as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the action. Part of the idea of the piece is that the clarinet takes on an electronic “armour” in order to “defeat” the tape; at the end the clarinet music tries to return to the serenity of the opening, but can’t completely cast off the electronic armour; s/he has been changed irrevocably by the experience. This idea of electronic transformation representing some kind of journey became a constantly recurring theme in my music.
There are nine sections of the piece which overlap extensively: three Solos for clarinet with increasing use of electronic processing; three Commentaries for drums, woodblocks and metal percussion, respectively (the woodblock and metal Commentaries overlap for a short time); and three tape sections. Each of the “characters” takes its own parallel journey through the three sections.
25. Paul Pignon – Neznam (11:13)
Paul Pignon was born and grew up in the UK. Began playing jazz at 15. Studied physics at Oxford. While there in 1961 he made his first forays into non-idiomatic improvisation, abandoned Ph.D research at Oxford in favour of music.
He moved to Yugoslavia and co-founded the Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio: 14 years working with the Synthi 100 which was originally custom built for the Studio.
Active as composer of chamber, vocal electronic and improvised music there, leading the group Interaction.
After helping to found the Electronic Studio at Radio Belgrade I worked there for some 14 years teaching, making my own music, assisting other composers and making incidental music and sound effects for various radio programmes, on the Synthi 100. I also wrote a comprehensive manual for the Synthi 100.
In about 1984 I produced a composition called Mechanical Cartoons and then one called Play Me where I began to develop what I now call Zoetic Engines. On « Neznam » my zoetic engines are getting lively at dokumenta 14 in Athens 2018. They respond to sounds picked up by a microphone, from people visiting the venue, and/or to me playing to them.
26. Biome – Strange Propogation and Decay of Resonant Particles (07:21)
Allen Strange, Frank McCarty, Pat Strange, Boots McCarty, Steve Ruppenthal, and Steve Whealton.
Anyone interested in Modular Synthesis should be familiar with Allen Strange, who was one of the leading authorities on analogue electronic music whose « Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls » (published in1972) is now a classic text. He also wrote Programming and Meta-Programming the Electro-Organism (1974), the operations manual for the Buchla Music Easel and has documented the 200 Series synthesizers made by Buchla.
His music had graced our Buchlaïsms compilations, documenting the use of Buchla Synthesizers, releasing 2 classics from The Electric Weasel Ensemble.
Prior to that period, from 1967 to 1972 he had co-founded Biome in order to make use of the EMS Synthi.
27. Dennis Kelley – Synthi Study #4 (04:30)
Dennis Kelley bought his first synthesizer, a used Synthi-A Mk.II, in late 1975. In 1976 he got an apprenticeship at EMSA, the US distributor for EMS, during which time the company introduced the first EMS Vocoder.
In early 1978, Dennis and Dave Goessling formed WKGB, a guitar-and-synthesizer duo that recorded a single for Fetish Records (U.K.), “Non-Stop”/”Ultramarine”. Dennis played Synthi on the first single by The Bongos (“Telephoto Lens”/”Glow In The Dark”, also on Fetish), and programmed that huge EMS Vocoder for Todd Rundgren on Utopia’s “Oops! Wrong Planet!” LP.
Shortly after WKGB opened for DEVO in Central Park for a sellout crowd in July 1980, EMS staff alumnus and Rundgren associate John Holbrook produced three songs by the band at Bearsville Studio. The tracks were unreleased at the time, but are now slated to be issued (along with a remix of the band’s Fetish 45) by Shaddock Records (France) sometime in 2022.
In 1981-83, Dennis and Bruce Grant did many home recordings under the name DeeKay Jones, one of which (“New York, NY”) somehow became a club hit after being released on an obscure compilation LP. In 1997 Dennis co-produced “Easy Listening For Armageddon” (Scratchie Records), the debut LP by the celebrated poet/DJ Mike Ladd.
This is an early Synthi-A four-track composition I did in the first several months I had the instrument, which was my first synthesizer (s/n 4522, a Mark II). I was shortly to receive my K keyboard, and the KS was still several months away, so all of the pitch changes are being done by hand or oscillator voltage control. I didn’t have a mixer – the four TEAC 3340 outputs were blended into 2 discreet stereo channels by a pair of “Y cable” connectors, and sent to a cassette deck for the master. No outboard gear was used either – just the good ol’ Synthi reverb.
The attached photo was taken when I worked at EMSA (the sole American EMS distributor) in Northampton, Massachusetts about a year and a half later, in 1977. It was “analog heaven”, basically – a studio filled with Moog, ARP, EMS, and assorted other gear – an invaluable experience. I still play my Synthi-AKS often (along with my MultiMoog, etc., etc., and of course my drums) – it’s always within reach. I’ll never let it go.