Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The first synthesizer I ever saw was in Jr high school in the late 1970s. It was an Arp Odyssey in music class and the teacher was Charles Terry. To say, in retrospect, he was ahead of his time doesn't do service to the man, I will forever be grateful to him for thinking it was a good idea to show a bunch of fidgeting pre-teenagers what an analog oscillator was and what sample and hold did.
He also played us some "Moog" records including one that was an all instrumental version of The Beatles. I was so damn sheltered and green I actually thought that WAS the Beatles at the time and remember him kindly telling me, no, the Beatles were something else quite entirely. I didn't care, I wanted to hear more of the "Moog" album.
(I'm going to guess and say it was probably this Dick Hyman recording but honestly I have no idea:)
After school band students could use the sound proof practice rooms to rehearse in. I played clarinet so I used my guile to make sure I was around when the synth was out. Eventually I just asked if I could play it and, God bless his soul, he set it up and let me go to town. I didn't have the first clue what those sliders and switches did and at times there was NO sound and other times there was an INSANE NOISE but, again, it didn't matter. I was mesmerized. Never in my short life had I heard - let alone seen - anything like that before. If I knew what it meant back then I would say I was intoxicated by that magical machine.
Why am I reminiscing this week about the good old innocent days of sliders and filter sweeps? Well Korg (a Japanese company) has announced they are reissuing the original Arp Odysessy this year and even pulled in David Friend. Friend, along with Alan R. Pearlman (the A.R.P. in ARP), was one of the founders of the company and worked on the Odyssey design. As far as I know this is the first time a foreign modern company is reissuing a classic American synthesizer. It just sounds insane but this is the same Korg that brought back their own more obscure MS20 last year. It's kind of a dream come true for synthnerds.
The Press release is here: http://www.korg.com/us/news/2014/0217/
I've written about analog reissues and new synths in this blog before. Hell, I bought a Novation BassStation2 last year and even used it live over some of my trusty vintage pieces due to it's memory, midi sync, and internal arpeggiator. The past month music forums and mailing lists have been flooded with Uber Hype by Roland about their new not-analog-but-the-next-thing synths that are supposedly based on the classic TR808, TR909, and TB303 line up from the 80s. For an intriguing write up of the old "Analog Vs: Digital" question readers may be interested in checking out this post by Geeky Disco which I found somewhat refreshing: http://geekydisco.tumblr.com/post/76988292224/analog-vs-digital-hardware-vs-software-revisited.
But these debates, discussions, and diatribes all pale in comparison to what the reality is here: In a few months the first electronic instrument that started a life long sound obsession will be seen again in the wild. I don't know if Mr. Terry knew what he started and in this day an age of taking music classes out of schools it might not seem like such a big deal but, well, you're reading these words because over 35 years ago a creative teacher showed a child something new. Something different.
Enough of us remember such moments and the sounds that came with them to convince an industrial giant decades later to bring it back so new generations can experience that magic all over again.
Bleep on kids.
Really... Bleep ON.