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Posts Tagged ‘synthesizers

Analog//Digital

                                                                         synths

Here I have both Musictech’s write up from this past year (2013) of the top ten best hardware synths and also Musicradar’s own list from 2009 of their greatest hardware synths of all time. Each are interesting reads; Musictech’s lineup of synthesizers can give you an idea of synths still on the market if you are a soon to be buyer, Musicradar’s review of all time great synths can show you some synths of the past that you probably can’t find anymore but could find samples of on youtube to hear them. Both articles give you a little bit of information of each synth which is sweet and to the point. Always you could look…

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Found through the Feminatronic blog: some articles, videos etc. on  Louis and Bebe Barron, two American electronic music composers  who made the score for the classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet in the 1950’s:

The Barrons didn’t get the credits as music composers of the score of this classic movie, however. This article on the NPR Music website from 2005 explains why and how they became “forgotten pioneers” of electronic music. But all was not lost: Louis and Bebe Barron continued to compose electronic music up until the turn of the century and thus were not completely forgotten. They now even have their own Wikipedia article, which saves their work for future generations…

More information:

 

The crackle box designed by Michel Waisvisz in the seventies was probably the first commercially available portable ‘non-keyboard’ analog audio synthesizer with an inbuilt loudspeaker. Crackle boxes are still sold by STEIM and are regarded nowadays to be the archetype of ‘glitch music’ or ‘circuit bending’.

Original cracklebox

Since the new cracklebox has been released by STEIM in 2004, various performers are playing this instrument like Mouse on Mars and Coil. Old crackleboxes have become collectors items. I happen to own a limited edition “2nd release” cracklebox from 2003. Being a “second” and not a first release I don’t know if this also classifies as a collectors item, but that’s beside the point: it still makes an awful lot of noise!

Old and new cracklebox

With the renewed interest in analog electronic music the humble crackle box has generated quite a lot of offspring. A world-wide cottage industry has emerged thanks to the web and e-commerce of small “noise box” manufacturers. Sites like Analogue Haven and NoiseGuide are the trading places and outlets for these builders. Brand names are Audible Disease, Bug Brand, Electro-Faustus, King Capital Punishment etc. Links to the sites of some of these manufacturers are listed in the Links list of this blog.
Usually these builders combine pure analog noise boxes of synthesizers with boutique guitar effect pedals in their product catalog. Being a guitar and synth player and not too fond of playing keyboards, I am always interested in their new product offers.

I own Audible Disease Dementia DM-1 “ultra noise synth” for instance, which although controlled by knobs instead of a touch surface is a direct descendant of the cracklebox to me in terms of sound (noise).

Moody Sound’s BabyBox noise generator is both a noise box and a guitar effect pedal, enabling me to manipulate the noise with my guitar:

A class of their own are the electronic instruments made by Arius Blaze and Ben Houston, a.k.a. Folktek. These devices are genuine sound artworks, also accompanied by the hefty price tags usually associated with art pieces…
But in their “Symbiotic” series of touch based instruments Michel Waisvisz’ crackle box concept and look and feel is still reminiscent IMO, albeit in a far more elaborate design.

So if you are interested in generating spontaneous analogue noises, you now have a wide range of devices to choose from, starting with a simple STEIM cracklebox to a unique and expensive Folktek sound art piece, all depending on your requirements and budget.

Found a funny video on the Synthopia web site today: the development of electronic music from John Cage to Aphex Twin in 3 minutes.

Although the selection of artists is questionable and not at all complete (where is Kraut rock apart from Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and ambient music, industrial bands of the ’80/’90s?) and a lot of emphasis is put on HipHop and Dance music as the drivers of electronic music, it is still funny to watch 50 years of electronic music compressed into this short video sequence of 3 minutes:

The video was posted on the YouTube channel of R41N570RM.

Another original take on the timelines of electronic music is Ishkur’s Guide To Electronic Music. This Flash app uses contemporay Dance styles (House, Techno, Trance etc.) as entries to map the development of styles and substyles from the seventies onwards, providing sound fragments of each substyle in the map. A very useful tool to get acquainted with the numerous sub-genres available in todays electronic music scene.

If you are interested in the history of electronic and experimental music, including recordings and instruments, you should definitively check out this book: Electronic and Experimental Music – Technology, Music and Culture by Thom Holmes.

The first edition of this textbook appeared already 20 years ago. The current 13th edition begins with the early history of electronic music (Cahill, Varese, theremin, ondes martenot) and ends with Afrika Bambaata, hiphop and turntablism. It provides a global view of electronic music culture and therefore is not restricted to “contemporary” composition, but also includes jazz, rock and hiphop artists. The book focuses on what the author calls the history of the “marriage of technology and music”, fueled by the idea that many techniques and concepts dating from the earliest developments of electronic music still govern contemporary electronic music.

lectronic and Experimental Music- Thom Holmes

Aimed at instructors and students, it is accompanied by a (free) web site, which contains summaries of all chapters in Powerpoint format and a very useful list of online resources. A must read for lovers of (electronic) noises!

I acquired the Clavia Nord MicroModular synth recently through eBay. The Nord MicroModular is a stripped down version of the mighty Nord Modular system and can be considered to be “the mother of modular software synths”. A PC software application is used to virtually patch, tweak, edit and design the MicroModulars synth patches in a modular fashion. Produced in 1999, this is still a standalone PC application and not a VSTi to be integrated in a DAW, however.

Nord MicroModular

Besides software the MicroModular consists of a small four-knobbed MicroModular interface/controller unit which houses the DSP power and audio and midi in/outs. After you’ve created a patch using the software you can load it into one of 99 memories within the controller. It can then be used live or in a MIDI studio as a synth module. The MicoModular controller has a volume knob and 3 other knobs that can be assigned editable parameters.

Nord Modular Editor

Limited as this might appear, you still get one of the biggest and most powerful modular synthesizer emulator software programs in the world: it contains loads of sound and filtering and effects modules, is fully modular in setup and has a simple and user friendly user interface. A nifty feature is that it can be used both as a modular synthesizer and a audio filterbank, by using the audio L/R inputs for filtering and modifying sounds of other synthesizers or samplers.

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