CBS Horror Channel branding

Back in January I completed the sound design for a series of 10 second branding idents, directed by Chris Turner, for the Horror Channel. I'm excited to say that they have now launched, so tune in to see/hear them. Sound wise they are a mix of electronic sound design and foley (thanks to Sue Harding for the fire advice) and I had a lot of fun conjuring up suitably dark sounds on the Buchla Electric Music Box and Oberheim OB-6, of which the latter features heavily in this production. 

“When Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson were writing the screenplay for ‘The Shining’ they kept referring to Sigmund Freud’s book ‘The Uncanny’; a book which explores the way an image or scene where something is not quite right can make the skin crawl and quicken the pulse in a much more visceral way than mere shock and gore. We took the same approach. Each of our idents provides the thrill Horror fans love without ever making the source of that emotion explicit.”
— Richard Holman - Holman + Hunt Agency

My favorite soundtracks - Assault on Precinct 13 (1978)

The first in a regular look at some of my favorite soundtracks. With so many to choose from its a tricky task, but here goes.

First up is John Carpenter's stark electronic score for his first feature film Assault on Precinct 13. The film itself is a pretty straight forward 'police under siege' story and is a great example of how a soundtrack can lift an otherwise unspectacular movie. Simple DIY electronics created using borrowed equipment, provide wavering synthesizer tones and repetitive primary drum machine rhythms, more noise than definable as actual drums, which lift the film and give it the cult status it rightly deserves. Its a powerfully evocative score that hints at later work to come in Escape From New York.

Recently re-issued by Death Waltz Records in a stunning package.

Lullaby for Hamza

I've been doing some sound design for a multi platform interactive game, and this week it went 'live' at a 3 day conference in Brighton. The theme of the game itself is science fiction with technology at the forefront (particularly the early home computing period of the '80s). Part of my brief for this event was to produce a cover of the Robert Wyatt song, Lullaby for Hamza (actually the cover was closer to the Unthanks version). The song formed the climax of a performance/puzzle element, representing the unlocking of a message from a lost team.

I put my Prophet 600 poly synth to good use on the wash of pads, running various layers of it through Eventide Space, Roland RE-201 Space Echo and for added disorientation, the ZVEX Instant Lo-fi Junky. The synth solo was a mix of Moog Voyager via ZVEX Fuzz Factory, and the fantastic Aalto plugin running through voice resynthesis plugin Bit Speek. I spent a lot of time treating the vocals (Becky Randall of black channels - more on that later) to give the feeling that we were hearing a transmission from far way with all the interference and drop outs you would expect. Multiple takes were run through Space Echo, Buchla 200e and bit reduction plugins. Drones and effects were supplied by the Buchla 200e's 'Twisted Waveform Generator'.

Keep ears peeled for a full black channels cover.......

Toy Drum synthesizer programming

I've been doing a bit of synthesizer programming for Pablo Clements and James Griffith at Toy Drum/Underscore. With a studio full of highly desirable synths, I'm like a kid in a toy shop every time I visit. In the pics below you'll see an EMS Synthi K, Oberheim 4 voice (serial number 001 - rumored to have belonged to Stevie Wonder) , and just in the background a Yamaha CS80 and Macbeth M5N! - good company for my Buchla 200e which I took along for the second session.

Out of shot is Pablo's impressive Eurorack system which got a lot of use during my first session. I sold my Eurorack setup shortly after getting my Buchla 200e as I wanted a nice Polysynth (Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 with latest update), but I always love to have a go on the Make Noise and Intellijel modules.

The sessions were to add some electronic elements to a new project coming soon from Toy Drum.

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

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