Self Generating Exploration

I use a modular synthesiser called the Buchla 200e Electric Music Box. It crops up in nearly every project I work on and is an endless source of inspiration. Its inventor Don Buchla, whilst a synthesiser pioneer just like the better known Bob Moog, chose a more experimental approach to his designs, preferring to discard traditional interfaces like the common white and black keyboard, and instead creating touch sensitive input panels with layouts that better suited the human anatomy. 

This recording uses the 266e Source of Uncertainty module to drive a self generating composition. Pulses and modulation are randomly generated and control the rhythm, pitch and timbre of a single oscillator with the results being very musical. I could just leave this patch alone and it would play endlessly, but I'm making subtle changes to various settings to interact with the machine music. The original idea for this particular patch came from Todd Barton, Buchla expert and inspiration source for many synthesiser explorers. 

There is one last element to this recording, the Ciat-Lombarde Cocoquantus - which is a cosmic looping machine from another dimension. More about that another time!

Inside the Moog factory 1977

Some fantastic photos of the Moog synthesizer factory taken by William Beith in 1977.

The original R. A. Moog factory was in Trumansburg New York. It was at this location the modulars were built and the Minimoog invented. In 1971, this enterprise was purchased by a venture capitalist, Bill Waytena who had formed the electronics company Musonics. Waytena moved the Moog factory from Trumansburg to Williamsville, near Buffalo New York. In 1973 Moog Music was taken over by the musical instrument giant Norlin, which also owned (among other brands) Pearl drums, Gibson guitars, and Armstrong flutes. (Details sourced from Analog Days, Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, Harvard University Press, 2002)

At the time of this visit, I worked for Gibson guitars and when traveling to the east coast, a tour of the Moog factory was arranged for me. There were no restrictions placed on my ability to photograph, which resulted in pictures that include the R&D process.

The Polymoog was in production. R&D efforts were underway for what would eventually become the Memorymoog. The blackboard was in an R&D room that contained circuit boards patched together. Some of the circuits looked to be Polymoog in origin, and some appeared to be parts of a Moog modular. My sense was they were developing an instrument that carried the essence of the Minimoog expressed in a polyphonic form that expanded the capabilities of the Polymoog. The pictures of drawings are concept drawings of the Memorymoog.

-William Beith

Click the image for more

Korg Little Bits Synth Kit

A lovely little package from Korg (who seem to completely get the current synthesizer craze right now, with their classic filter featuring Monotrons and recent re-issue of the classic MS-20 monosynth) and electronic gadget company Little Bits. From the little information available it seems to be a snap together kit for building your own modular synth. I know what I'll be doing this Christmas if Santa reads my letter. I'm rubbish at soldering and this fact has put me off attempting to build my own electronic music circuits - but this kit appears to be solder free. Perfect.

More info here


UPDATE - Peter Kirn over at Create Digital Music has a hands on review with some interesting sound examples sounding very much like Raymond Scott. More here.



Charles Cohen at the Buchla Music Easel

A film by Alex Tyson of Charles Cohen playing his vintage Buchla Music Easel. Launched in 1975, only 14 of these performance synthesizers were ever built.  In 2013 Buchla are re-issuing the Easel.


Produced + Directed by Alex Tyson. Viewing with headphones or a stereo is highly recommended.

A film featuring sound artist Charles Cohen improvising on a 1970's Buchla Music Easel. This extremely rare instrument is one of Don Buchla's 200 series. Buchla (a pioneer of audio synthesis) only manufactured 14 of these units. The film was edited from over an hour of free improvisation, with audio taken directly from Charles' mixing board.


Trios - A rare live performance

Last year I helped Ian Helliwell record the EMS VCS3 (we actually used an EMS AKS) Synthesiser parts for Tristram Cary's 'chance' composition Trios. The piece, which involves 3 performers - one on synthesiser, the other 2 using dice to determine which tracks to play from 2 prerecorded vinyl records,  was performed at the Hackney Picture House in March 2013. The dice in this performance were donated to Ian by Tristram Cary himself, and it is Cary's voice you hear at the start of the recording introducing Trios.

We chose to pre-record the synthesizer parts to reel to reel tape and substituted CD's for the original vinyl. Ian provided the projections and directed the video.