Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Buchla Compilation Release!

One of the great things about being an electronic musician is the constantly evolving community on-line. There are forums, mailing lists, blogs, and sites which offer information and support on even the most obscure instrument, software, operating system, or vintage relic.  
Another benefit of this is it is easier to find other like-minded individuals and create and share music and ideas. Those of us older types remember the days of "tape trading" when the only method of having a friend in another state or country hear your music was to put it on a cassette and put in in a mailbox. Like, with postage and such kids. Gasp!
Some great music came out of those days. I personally participated in a Devo, AC/DC, and two looping, and numerous "Electronic Music" compilation tapes and CDs.  Perhaps in a more nostalgic post I'll muse on the joys and fun of those days but for today, the end of 2011, I'll take the leap forward and present you with an end-of-year present:  SIGNS: A COMPILATION OF WIGGLERS’ GRAPHICAL NOTATIONS FOR THE BUCHLA SYNTHESIZER. 
I'll let the curator of this fine release, Giorgio Sancristoforo, describe his efforts and the final CD as he does it best:
"Some months ago I’ve asked to the fellow Buchla musicians of the MuffWigglers website to participate to a collective experiment on music notation for the Buchla synthesizer. In the world of modular synthesizers music we often see free improvisations, sketches, etudes, but very rarely “composed” music with notation.

This experiment was an attempt to involve nowadays modular musicians in the field of composition by means of graphical notation.

The result is finally here. Signs is not only an amazing collection of mind blowing music, it is also the proof that notation in electronic music is alive and kicking and indeed deserve further explorations.  I want to thank with all my heart all the contributors of this amazing work. I hope you will all enjoy it."
The download "CD" release includes a beautiful 22 page  full color booklet with essays, bios, and descriptions of each of the pieces and artists. It is in high quality 320 KPS MP3 format and FREE!!!
You can download SIGNS as well as other fantastic cutting edge electronic music from the Gleetchplug Website here:  

I'm proud to have a track on this great compilation. It was both challenging and fun. For full details download the release and check out the booklet! 
Here is the full TRACKLIST:

1)Olga Kokcharova & Gianluca Ruggeri : Eidetic Landscape
2)Todd Barton : Altair II
3)Niklas Winde aka 7th DanSound : Men för helvete Älskling!
4)Cyril Baud aka Ernest Saint Laurent : Incursions 3
5)Didier Debril : Sequences
6)Giorgio Sancristoforo : Andante Molto Vago
7)David Talento : That Which Was Then Becoming
8)Lyonel Bauchet : Kinesthézic
9)Schleusolz : Waltzing at the shipyard 

I hope you enjoy listening to release. Happy New year and keep bleeping into 2012!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Old School Slider Synth ... the Yamaha SK30

This Blog is called the Synth and I and was started in part to explore both the topic of synthesis and the various keyboards, modulars, and other tools that exist. This month I was perusing the local classifieds and ran across an add for a most unusual classic keyboard that caught my eye. I've always kept at least one keyboard in the living room of my house plugged directly into an amp. this is so I have at least one simple instrument ready for just playing without any setup, concern for recording, or other complications. I suppose you could say it's my equivalent of the old piano-in-the-foyer that folks would gather around in the old days.

The keyboard that has occupied this spot in my home has rotated over the years. Originally it was a Wurlitzer 200A piano. Then I put a Roland RS09 organ/strings unit on top of that. Most recently it was my trusty Ensoniq KS32 which served as both piano, organ, and synthesiszer. But this month I decided to go back to basics. I wanted an old school, classic synthesizer with sliders for each parameter, multiple sounds, and most of all, something simple and fun to play. Enter the Yamaha SK30.

The Yamaha SK30 is made up of four distinct parts which can be output in any combination thanks to an onboard audio mixer. There are other instruments from the 70s and 80s that offered a similar type of setup. the Moog Opus3 offered a String, Brass, and Organ combo platter. The Arp Quadra had a Bass synth, Poly synth, Lead synth, and String synth and special phaser effect in an all-in-one-package. And, as mentioned above Roland offered a few variations of an Organ/Strings dual synth in the Roland RS09.

Yamaha seems to concentrate on the combo-synth for a few years making a few different varieties, each with their own features and sounds.  The SK30 lies towards the top of this evolutionary scale with four distinct sections featured in similar forms in the SK20 and SK50.  It also adds some other bells and whistles I have never seen on a combo synth and even though it was made in the late 1970s when I researched it i found it had a surprisingly robust design which explains why the one I found this month was in such good shape and fully working after all these decades.

On initial glance the SK30 looks to be a complicated beast. Sliders and buttons fill out the massive front panel and the effects and various split points often fight with each other for dominance on the full 61 note keyboard. But if you've ever seen a combi-synth or classic analog with sliders once you get to know it the design turns out to be remarkably user friendly.

Each section is broken down with it's own controls featuring a few presets and a manual section which allows you to create that part from scratch using the various sliders and buttons assigned to it.

There is the Organ section with multiple flute drawbars  and three adjustable percussion sliders similar to a Hammond organ:

There is the Polyphonic Synth section with a full analog Filter, Envelope, octave switch, and modulation settings.

The string section has three preset buttons with no editing. Each offers a similar sound but in a different octave range: 

And finally there is the Solo Synth section which offers a unqiue monosynth with Filter, Envelopes, flexible Portamento Modulation, and Waveform settings, two key ranges (including a manual bass setting) and even three assignable keyboard aftertouch effects .

On the back of the unit is more. Multiple and mix outputs for the individual voices, connections for CV/gate, various pedals (including volume, brilliance, portamento and sustain), a Leslie cabinet multi-pin jack and connector for an external full size floor pedal unit. All-in-All it's kind of a touch control synthesist's dream.

All this would be for naught if the sound of the unit didn't measure up but I am happy to say it does. In spades. The organ offers  a very  satisfying classic hammondesque sound, the strings add presence and the Poly synth is very flexible offering plenty of Prog, 80s/90s industrial, and classic synthesque sweeps, pads, and with some creative programming,  effects. And the solo monosynth is quite unique.  I read a review where the author claimed it was "almost exactly like a Roland SH101" and another that said it had a classic "Moog" quality. I'd have to say it is absolutely nothing like a SH101 and sounds, to my ears, much more raspy and raw than a Moog. It's similar to the other lesser known analog synth manufacturers of the time like Multivox, Siel, or - Surprise! - Yamaha.  Perhaps in a future post I'll delve into the SK30 monosynth on it's own  -  it certainly deserves the attention.  For now, I'll simply end with a virtual tip of my hat to a company that put everything but the kitchen sink in a heavy wooden framed analog and slider filled synth over three decades ago. One that is STILL playing 100% and both simple to use, inspiring, and a lot of fun. 

Tweak on!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Do you DO with All this Stuff Anyway???

The title of this post is a very valid and frequent question I get when someone sees my studio filled with synths and wires and steps over piles of power supplies, drum machines, stomp boxes and more. The answer is a big more complex but could be simplified into the short answer, "I make music with it". You can blame my Jr High School music teacher, Charles Terry, for introducing me to the very first synthesizer I saw in real life (an Arp Odysessy) and defining music as "Any Meaningfully Organized Pattern of Sound". Seriously, he was THAT cool and it just goes to show some things from your school days do stick with you.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the annual Musicology conference which was held in Philadelphia (my hometown) this year. One of the speakers played a clip of an interview she did with one of the pioneers of Detroit techno where he stated rather than worry or think about genres or types of music (House, Acid, Techno, etc) he just "made music" and put it out adding, "I leave the labeling to others".
My musical background both in appreciation and in training is diverse. I suppose that combined with seeing artists from all media who have always made their own path influenced me to never really do the same thing twice and to not pay much attention to where it would "fit". A short list of such artists would include Charles Ives, Chuck Close, Brian Eno, Controlled Bleeding, Hal Hartley, Joe Jackson, Louis Armstrong, and Reed Ghazala.

I founded in the early 90s as a vehicle to put out cassettes and do shows of my then new interest in electronic music. I released tapes, CDs, and eventually downloads and played hundreds of shows of everything from Ambient, Industrial, Power Electronics, Dark Synth, Techno, Handheld and 8bit, Indie Rock, and about a dozen other genres all of which really don't convey what the music is. Some is played with guitar and bass, other has DIY soldered noise boxes, analog or digital synths, drum machines, and theremins. All of it, as diverse as it is, comes from the same place. I have music on other labels and compilation CDs as well as various online sites and have collaborated with other artists, festivals, and frequently play as a band member in a few friend's projects doing everything from keyboards and bass to vocals and Omnichord. All the piles'o'gear come in handy but when it comes down to it I grab a few pieces and just go with them either solo or with others and make music.

As you may have noticed this post is liberally sprinkled with links to streaming and downloadable files. This year I decided to come into the 21st century and create a page with much of the back catalog. Not everything is up but more will be added. For now there are
XOXBOX live sets, Modular synth sets (including This One of my large ModcanA system which has been written about on this blog),
Guitar Synth and ACID music
albums, and more.

The official page which will be updated occasionally is at:

All tracks are free to stream and most are a name-your-own-price system. It's not the full picture and as you can tell by this blog hardly the end of all this. But to answer those that wonder "what do you DO with all that gear?" it will do for now.

Listen On!