The Motorola Scalatron. Herman Pedtke & George Secor. USA, 1974

Scalatron with the

The Scalatron with a Secor Generalised Microtonal Keyboard

The Scalatron was an unusual microtonal electronic instrument developed in the early 1970s by Motorola as a new venture into the instrument market. Promoted as the ‘first instant-performance instrument that plays in the cracks’ the Scalatron was aimed squarely at a more experimental, microtonal market – if such a market existed. The instrument itself was a rather basic synthesiser consisting of 240 square wave oscillators (one for each key) built into a wooden home-organ casing. The isntrument was controlled in early models by a dual manual and later using a multi-coloured ‘Bosanquet generalized keyboard’ designed by the Chicago microtonal composer George Secor.  The Secor keyboard consisted of 240 tuneable oval multicolored keys and allowed the user to create complex tunings

 “Earlier that year (1974) I had attended a demonstration of the Scalatron (digitally retunable electronic organ) prototype, and recognizing that conventional keyboards were not the best way to perform music with more than 12 tones in the octave, I unwittingly proceeded to re-invent the Bosanquet generalized keyboard and subsequently approached the Motorola Scalatron company with the proposal of employing it on their instrument.”… “Around that time several members of the xenharmonic movement had gotten in touch with Scalatron president Richard Harasek and sent him copies of the first two issues of Xenharmonikôn, which he passed on to me and which I promptly read. The second issue included Erv Wilson’s diagrams of a modification of Bosanquet’s keyboard, with hexagonal keys, at which point it became clear that my keyboard proposal was not new… For the remainder of the year I was heavily involved in the generalized (Bosanquet) keyboard Scalatron project and, after that, in using it to explore new tunings. In effect, the keyboard that I had discovered was destined to be overshadowed by the one that I had rediscovered.”

George Secor

Secor Keyboard

Secor Keyboard Diagram

Costing around  $6000-$10,000, the Scalatron was an expensive and unusual instrument. Less than 20 Scalatrons were ever made (including only 2 Secor versions). The Scalatron came with a black and white monitor to adjust each key’s pitch (using Motorola’s TV tuning technology) – a split screen showed horizontal bars representing  true pitch on the left side and the instruments variable pitch on the right side, and, for an additional $1000  a cassette interface was added with a number of tuning ‘programmes’. George Secor toured with the instrument playing works by Harry Partch (who also used the instrument towards the end of his life) and Ben Johnston.  The Scalatron is still much in favour – though very hard to find – by microtonal composers and was used on several albums by Jon Hassell, most notably ‘Vernal Equinox’.

“Finally they invented what I needed–forty years too late.”

Harry Partch via Kenneth Gaburo

A dual manual Scalatron at La Trobe University  Melbourne

A dual manual Scalatron at La Trobe University Melbourne. Each key can be tuned to one of 1024 different pitches

scalatron_02 scalatron_01


Sources:

http://www.warrenburt.com/my-history-with-music-tech2/

http://elgauchoandres.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/what-is-all-this-stuff-about-motorola.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Secor

The Stylophone , Brian Jarvis, UK, 1967

Stylophone

The Dübreq Stylophone

The Stylophone was a small novelty electronic instrument created in the UK by Brian Jarvis’s Dübreq Company (originally a film production and recording studio specialising in dubbing and recording based in Leeds – the umlaut was added to give the impression of Germanic quality) between 1967 and 1975. The Stylophone was designed to be as cheap as possible to produce and manufacture based around a design with a single oscillator controlled by a metal plate 20 note keyboard printed directly on to the PCB board played by a hand-held stylus.

Rolf Harris and the Stylophone

Rolf Harris and the Stylophone

The instrument had a ‘unique’ sound; a simple buzzing square wave with no envelope control which could be modulated with vibrato via sine wave LFO. Despite it’s simplicity, and due to a marketing campaign featuring Rolf Harris enthusiastically endorsing the device, the Stylophone caught on; during the six years of it’s manufacture, over three million Stylophones were sold (The original Stylophone was sold mail-order for £8 18″6d each, the equivalent of around £95.00 in today’s money). Although intended as a toy, the Stylophone was picked up by a number of musicians of the period – most famously David Bowie on ‘Space Oddity’ (who apparently hated the instrument, loaned to him by Mark Bolan) and Kraftwerk. The instrument has more recently acquired a kitsch retro-nostlagic value and is used by groups such as Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, Belle and Sebastian, Orbital, Hexstatic and many others.

stylophone 350s

stylophone 350s

Stylophone 350S

The 350Swas the big brother of the original Stylophone launched in 1971. The 350s had a larger 44 note metal plate keyboard which could be switched up and down one octave and two styluses. The instrument also had eight voices – Woodwind, Brass and Strings -  as opposed to the original version’s one voice. The 350s’ sound  could be altered with a basic decay control switch and a unique ‘photo control’ – a phot0-optic cell that the user covers with the left hand to modulate the amount of vibrato, low pass filter cutoff and volume creating a wah-wah like effect. Fewer than 3000 units of the 350s were produced and sold.

In 2003 Dübreq was re-launched by Ben Jarvis, son of the original designer leveraging on the retro-kitsch value of the original instrument. Several updated versions of the Stylophone have been released.




Images of the Stylophone

_______________________________________________

Sources:

http://andymurkin.wordpress.com/category/modification/stylophones/

http://stylophonica.com/
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/screw-rolf-harris-watch-this-trailer-and-then-the-movie

The ‘Analyzátor a syntezátor zvuku’ or ‘ASYZ’ Bohumil Matoušek, Antonín ka[...] & Pavel Pitrák, Czech Republic, 1971

The ASYZ 2.0 'Analyzátor a syntezátor zvuku' at the Barrandov Film Studio 1971

The ASYZ 2.0 ‘Analyzátor a syntezátor zvuku’ at the Barrandov Film Studio 1971

The ASYZ was built in the late 1960s at the ‘East European Hollywood’ Barrandov Film Studios in Prague to provide sound effects and electronic music for film productions, with the final version, the ASYZ2 completed in 1971. The instrument was designed by electronic engineers, Antonín ka [name incomplete], Bohumil Matoušek and later by the sound engineer and designer Pavel Pitrák who maintained the instrument throughout the seventies and eighties. The ASYZ remained in use until the 1990s and is now housed at the collection of the Cinepost post production company, Praha.

The original design was a keyboard-less modular type device intended to be used for processing external audio signals and for generating sound effects, the modules being connected using colour coded patch cables. The instrument was controlled by manually switching a rotary dial to select different timbres and pitches or by programming a 16 step three track sequencer, a six octave keyboard was added in the 1990s. The modules of the ASYZ included a Voltage Controlled Oscillator, white noise generator, low and high pass filters, a parametric equaliser, ring modulator, phaser, signal mixer, VCA, ADSR envelope shaper, LFO, random signal generators, envelope followers and auxiliary circuits. The output of the instrument was controlled by a small six-channel mixing console and monitored using a built-in oscilloscope.


Sources:

Milan Guštar. ‘Elektrofony II’

http://czechkeys.blog.cz/

EMS Synthesisers, Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Cary, David Cockerell United Kingdom, 1969

EMS (Electronic Music Studios) was founded in 1965 by Peter Zinovieff, the son of an aristocrat Russian émigré with a passion for electronic music who set up the studio in the back garden of his home in Putney, London. The EMS studio was the hub of activity for electronic music in the UK during the late sixties and seventies with composers such as Harrison Birtwistle, Tristram Cary, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Werner Henze as well as the commercial electronic production group ‘Unit Delta Plus  (Zinovieff, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson).

Front panel of the DEC PDP8i

Front panel of the DEC PDP8i

Zinovieff , with David Cockerell and Peter Grogono developed a software program called MUSYS (which evolved into the current MOUSE audio synthesis programming language) to run on two DEC PDP8 mini-computers allowing the voltage control of multiple analogue synthesis parameters via a digital punch-paper control.  In the mid 1960′s access outside the academic or military establishment to, not one but two, 12-bit computers with 1K memory and a video monitor for purely musical use was completely unheard of:

” I was lucky in those days to have a rich wife and so we sold her tiarra and we swapped it for a computer. And this was the first computer in the world in a private house.” – Peter Zinovieff

The specific focus of EMS was to work with digital audio analysis and manipulation or as Zinovieff puts it “ To be able to analyse a sound; put it into sensible musical form on a computer; to be able to manipulate that form and re-create it in a musical way” (Zinovieff 2007). Digital signal processing was way beyond the capabilities of the DEC PDP8′s; instead they were used to control a bank of 64 oscillators (actually resonant filters that could be used as sine wave generators) modified for digital control. MUSYS was therefore a hybrid digital-analogue performance controller similar to Max Mathew’s GROOVE System (1970) and  Gabura & Ciamaga’s PIPER system (1965).

Peter Zinovieff at the controls of the PDP8 Computer, EMS studio London

Peter Zinovieff at the controls of the PDP8 Computer, EMS studio London

ems_studio_diagram

EMS studio diagram (from Mark Vail’s ‘ Vintage Synthesizers’)

Even for the wealthy Peter Zinovieff, running EMS privately was phenomenally expensive and he soon found himself running into financial difficulties. The VCS range of synthesisers was launched In 1969 after Zinovieff received little interest when he offered to donate the Studio to the nation (in a letter to ‘The Times’ newspaper). It was decided that the only way EMS could be saved was to create a commercial, miniaturised version of the studio as a modular, affordable synthesiser for the education market. The first version of the synthesiser designed by David Cockerell, was an early prototype called the  Voltage Controlled Studio 1; a two oscillator instrument built into a wooden rack unit – built for the Australian composer Don Banks for £50 after a lengthy pub conversation:

“We made one little box for the Australian composer Don Banks, which we called the VCS1…and we made two of those…it was a thing the size of a shoebox with lots of knobs, oscillators, filter, not voltage controlled. Maybe a ring modulator, and envelope modulator” David Cockerell 2002

vcs-3_0001 The VCS1 was soon followed by a more commercially viable design; The Voltage Controlled Studio 3 (VCS3), with circuitry by David Cockerell, case design by Tistram Cary and with input from Zimovieff . This device was designed as a small, modular, portable but powerful and versatile electronic music studio – rather than electronic instrument – and as such initially came without a standard keyboard attached. The price of the instrument was kept as low as possible – about £330 (1971) – by using cheap army surplus electronic components:

“A lot of the design was dictated by really silly things like what surplus stuff I could buy in Lisle Street [Army-surplus junk shops in Lisle Street, Soho,London]…For instance, those slow motion dials for the oscillator, that was bought on Lisle street, in fact nearly all the components were bought on Lisle street…being an impoverished amateur, I was always conscious of making things cheap. I saw the way Moog did it [referring to Moog's ladder filter] but I adapted that and changed that…he had a ladder based on ground-base transistors and I changed it to using simple diodes…to make it cheaper. transistors were twenty pence and diodes were tuppence!” David Cockerell from ‘Analog Days’

Despite this low budget approach, the success of the VCS3 was due to it’s portability and flexibility. This was the first affordable modular synthesiser that could easily be carried around and used live as a performance instrument. As well as an electronic instrument in it’s own right, the VCS3 could also be used as an effects generator and a signal processor, allowing musicians to manipulate external sounds such as guitars and voice.

VCS3 with DK1 keyboard

VCS3 with DK1 keyboard

The VCS3 was equipped with two audio oscillators of varying frequency, producing sine and sawtooth and square waveforms which could be coloured and shaped by filters, a ring modulator, a low frequency oscillator, a noise generator,  a spring reverb and envelope generators. The device could be controlled by two unique components whose design was dictated by what could be found in Lisle street junk shops; a large two dimensional joystick (from a remote control aircraft kit) and a 16 by 16 pin board allowing the user to patch all the modules without the clutter of patch cables.

The iconic 16 X 16 pin-patch panel of the VCS3

The iconic 16 X 16 pin-patch panel of the VCS3. The 2700 ohm resistors soldered inside the pin vary in tolerance 5% variance and later 1%; the pins have different colours: the ‘red’ pins have 1% tolerance and the ‘white’ have 5% while the ‘green’ pins are attenuating pins having a resistance of 68,000 ohms giving differing results when constructing a patch.

The original design intended as a music box for electronic music composition – in the same vein as Buchla’s Electronic Music Box – was quickly modified with the addition of a standard keyboard that allowed tempered pitch control over the monophonic VCS3. This brought the VCS3 to the attention of rock and pop musicians who either couldn’t afford the huge modular Moog systems (the VCS3 appeared a year before the Minimoog was launched in the USA) or couldn’t find Moog, ARP or Buchla instruments on the British market. Despite it’s reputation as being hopeless as a melodic instrument due to it’s oscillators inherent instability the VCS3 was enthusiastically championed by many british rock acts of the era; Pink Floyd, Brian Eno (who made the external audio processing ability of the instruments part of his signature sound in the early 70′s), Robert Fripp, Hawkwind (the eponymous ‘Silver Machine‘), The Who, Gong and Jean Michel Jarre amongst many others. The VCS3 was used as the basis for a number of other instrument designs by EMS including an ultra-portable A/AK/AKS (1972) ; a VCS3 housed in a plastic carrying case with a built-in analogue sequencer, the Synthi HiFli guitar synthesiser (1973), EMS Spectron Video Synthesiser, Synthi E (a cut-down VCS3 for educational purposes) and AMS Polysynthi as well as several sequencer and vocoder units and the large modular EMS Synthi 100 (1971).

Despite initial success – at one point Robert Moog offered a struggling Moog Music to EMS for $100,000 – The EMS company succumbed to competition from large established international instrument manufacturers who brought out cheaper, more commercial, stable and simpler electronic instruments; the trend in synthesisers has moved away from modular user-patched instruments to simpler, preset performance keyboards. EMS finally closed in 1979 after a long period of decline. The EMS name was sold to Datanomics in Dorset UK and more recently a previous employee Robin Wood, acquired the rights to the EMS name in 1997 and restarted small scale production of the EMS range to the original specifications.

Peter Zinovieff.  Currently working as a librettist and composer of electronic music in Scotland.

David Cockerell, chief designer of the VCS and Synthi range of instruments left EMS in 1972 to join Electro-Harmonix and designed most of their effect pedals. He went to IRCAM, Paris in 1976 for six months, and then returned to Electro-Harmonix . Cockerell  designed the entire Akai sampler range to date, some in collaboration with Chris Huggett (the Wasp & OSCar designer) and Tim Orr.

Tristram Cary , Director of EMS until 1973. Left to become Professor of Electronic Music at the Royal College of Music and later Professor of Music at the University of Adelade. Now retired.

Peter Grogono Main software designer of MUSYS. Left EMS in 1973 but continued working on the MUSYS programming language and further developed it into the Mouse language. Currently Professor at the Department of Computer Science, Concordia University, Canada.

The Synthi 100 at IPEM Studios Netherlands.

The Synthi 100 at IPEM Studios Netherlands.

The EMS Synthi 100

The EMS Synthi 100 was a large and very expensive (£6,500 in 1971)  modular system, fewer than forty units were built and sold. The Synthi 100 was essentially  3 VCS3′s combined; delivering a total of 12 oscillators, two duophonic keyboards giving four note ‘polyphony’ plus a 3 track 256 step digital sequencer. The instrument also came with optional modules including a Vocoder 500 and an interface to connect to a visual interface via a PDP8 computer known as the ‘Computer Synthi’.  

Images of EMS Synthesisers


Documents:

VCS3 Manual (pdf)


Sources:

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/ ‘Analog Days’. T. J PINCH, Frank Trocco. Harvard University Press, 2004

‘Vintage Synthesizers’: Pioneering Designers, Groundbreaking Instruments, Collecting Tips, Mutants of Technology. Mark Vail. March 15th 2000. Backbeat Books

http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/lectures/dr-peter-zinovieff-the-original-tectonic-sounds?template=RBMA_Lecture%2Ftranscript

http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~grogono

http://www.emssynthesisers.co.uk/

https://jasperpye.wordpress.com/category/synths

Peter Forrest, The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers Part One A-M, Oct 1998.

‘ARP’ Synthesisers. Alan Robert Pearlman, USA, 1970

Front panel of the ARP 2500

Front main panel of the ARP 2500

ARP Synthesisers was started by the engineer and musical enthusiast Alan Robert Pearlman – hence ‘ARP’ – in 1970 in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. Previous to ARP, Pearlman had worked as an engineer at NASA and ran his own company Nexus Research laboratory Inc., a manufacturer of op-amps (precision circuits used in amplifiers and test equipment) which he sold in 1967 to fund the launch of the ARP company in 1969. The inspiration for ARP came after he played with both Moog and Buchla synthesisers and being unimpressed by the tuning instability of the oscillators and lack of commercial focus – especially the keyboard-less Buchla Box – and became determined to produce a stable, friendly, commercial electronic instrument.

“If you would like to spend your time creatively, actively producing new music and sound, rather than fighting your way through a nest of cords, a maze of distracting apparatus, you’ll find the ARP uniquely efficient . . . matrix switch interconnection for patching without patch cords…P.S. The oscillators stay in tune.”
ARP Advert 1970

Slider matrix of the 2500

Slider matrix of the 2500

The first product was the ARP 2500, a large monophonic modular voltage-controlled synthesiser designed along similar lines to the Moog Modular series 100. The 2500 had a main cabinet holding up to 12 modules and two wing-extension adding another six modules each. The interface was designed to be as clear as possible to non-synthesists with a logically laid out front panel and, unlike the Buchla and Moog Modular, dispensed with patch cables in favour of a series of  10X10 slider matrices, leaving the front panel clear of cable clutter. The 2500 also came with a 10-step analogue sequencer far in advance of any other modular system of the day

Despite the fact that the 2500 proved to be an advanced, reliable and user-friendly machine with much more stable and superior oscillators to the Moog, it was not commercially successful, selling only approximately 100 units.

ARP 2500 Modules

ARP 2500 Modules

Modules of the ARP 2500

Module # Type of Module Description
1002 power supply
1003 dual envelope generator This module contains two ADSR envelope generators (actually labeled “Attack”, “Initial Decay”, “Sustain”, and “Final Decay”), each switchable between single or multiple triggering. There is a manual gate button as well as a front panel input for gate/trigger and a back panel input for a sustain pedal.
1003a dual envelope generator (same as 1003, except re-positioned trigger switches and gate buttons)
1004 VCO A Voltage Controlled Oscillator with a range from 0.03Hz to 16kHz, this module can function as a VCO or an LFO. It features separate outputs for each of its five waveforms (sine, triangle, square, sawtooth, and pulse) and 6 CV (control voltage) inputs, as well as a CV input for Pulse Width Modulation.
1004p VCO This module is the same as the 1004, except each waveform has its own attenuation knob for mixing all the waveforms together. There is a separate output to for the mixed waveforms.
1004r VCO This module is the same as the 1004, except each waveform has its own rocker switch to route any or all of the waveforms to an extra mix output.
1004t VCO This module is the same as the 1004r, except it uses toggle switches.
1005 VCA andRing Modulator This module is half Voltage Controlled Amplifier and half Balanced (Ring) Modulator. It is switchable between linear or exponential voltage control, and features 11 inputs, 3 outputs, and illuminated push-buttons.
1006 VCF and VCA The Voltage Controlled Filter (24dB/octave, low-pass, with resonance) and Voltage Controlled Amplifier (switchable between linear and exponential) in one module
1012 Convenience Module This module routes two jack inputs to any of the upper ten lines of the lower matrix. (Remember, most of the patching for this instrument is done from these matrix sliders).
1016 dual noise generators This module features two random voltage generators outputting white or pink noise and two slow sample-and-hold circuits, four outputs in all.
1023 dual VCO Both oscillators feature the same waveforms as 1004 with a switch for high and low frequency ranges. There are a total of 10 control inputs and 2 audio outputs.
1026 Preset Voltage module This module contains eight manually or sequencer-driven gated control-voltages, each with two knobs sending control voltages to separate outputs. It can be connected, via the rear panel, to module 1027 Sequencer or module 1050 Mix-Sequencer.
1027 Sequencer This is a 10X3 sequencer with 14 outputs (including 10 separate position/step gates), 6 inputs, buttons for step and reset, and a knobs for pulse repetition/width, which controls the silence between the steps.
1033 Dual Delayed-Trigger Envelope Generator This module is the same as the 1003 ADSR module except it has two more knobs to control gate delay.
1036 Sample-and-Hold / random voltage
1045 Voice Module This all-in-one module contains a VCO, VCF, VCA, and two ADSR envelope generators, as well as 16 inputs, and four outputs. (Note: Most modules feature a spelling mistake “Resanance” instead of “Resonance”.)
1046 quad envelope generator This module is basically a 1003 and a 1033 combined into one module.
1047 Multimode Filter / Resonator This module features 15 inputs, 4 outputs and an overload warning light.
1050 Mix-Sequencer This module features two 4X1 mixers with illuminated on/off buttons.
3001 Keyboard This keyboard features a 5-octave, 61-note (C-C) keyboard with the bottom two octaves (C-B) reverse colored to show the keyboard split. The top half of the keyboard is duophonic. There are separate CV (1v/octave), gate, and trigger outputs for each side of the split, as well as separate panels on either side of the keyboard with controls for portamento, tuning, and pitch interval.
? Dual-Manual Keyboard Two 3001s, one on top of the other, with the bottom octave (C-B) or two octaves (C-B) of the top keyboard reverse colored to show the split.

from ‘The A-Z of Analogue Synthesizers’, by Peter Forrest, published by Susurreal Publishing, Devon, England, copyright 1994 Peter Forrest


ARP 2600

ARP 2600

The ARP 2600 (1971)

Stevie Wonder endorses the ARP 2600

Stevie Wonder endorses the ARP 2600

The 2600 similar to the EMS’s VCS3 was a portable, semi-modular analog subtractive synthesiser with built in modules and, again similar to the VCS3 was designed to target the educational market; schools, universities and so-on. The inbuilt modules could be patched using a combination of patch cables or by using sliders to control internally hard wired connections:

“ARP 2600 The ultimate professional-quality portable synthesizer Equally at home in the electronic music studio or on stage, the ARP 2600 provides the incredible new sounds in today’s leading rock bands The 2600 is also owned by many of the most prestigious universities and music schools in the world Powerful. dependable, and easy to play. the 2600 can be played without patchcords or modified with patch cords. This arrangement provides maximum speed and convenience for live performance applications, as well as total programming flexibility for teaching, research composition and recording. An pre-wired patch connection(s) can be overridden by simply inserting a patchcord into the appropriate jack on the front panel.

The ARP 2600 is easily expanded and can be used with the ARP 2500 series.Renowned for its electronic superiority, the oscillators and filters in the 2600 are the most stable and accurate available anywhere Accompanied by the comprehensive, fully illustrated owner s manual, the ARP 2600 is recognized as the finest, most complete portable synthesizer made today

FUNCTIONS: 3 Voltage Controlled Oscillators 03 Hz to 20 KHz in two ranges Five waveforms include: variable-width pulse. triangle. sine, square, and sawtooth 1 Voltage Controlled Lowpass filter Variable resonance, DC coupled. Doubles as a low distortion sine oscillator. 1 Voltage Controlled Amplifier Exponential and linear control response characteristics 1 Ring Modulator. AC or DC coupled 2 Envelope Generators. 1 Envelope Follower. 1 Random Noise Generator. Output continuously variable from flat to -6db/octave 1 Electronic Switch, bidirectional 1 Sample & Hold with internal clock. 1 General purpose Mixer and Panpot. 1 Voltage Processor with variable lag. 2 Voltage Processors with inverters 1 Reverberation unit. Twin uncorrelated stereo outputs 2 Built-in monitoring amplifiers and speakers, with standard stereo 8-ohm headphone jack. 1 Microphone Preamp with adjustable gain 1 Four-octave keyboard with variable tuning. variable portamento, variable tone interval, and precision memory circuit. DIMENSIONS: Console 32″ x 18″ x 9x Keyboard 35″ x 10″ x 6″ WEIGHT: 58 Ibs”
ARP 2600 Promotional material 1971

ARP 2800 ‘Odyssey’ 1972

By the mid-1970s ARP had become the dominant synthesiser manufacturer, with a 40 percent share of the $25 million market. This was due to Pearlman’s gift for publicity – the ARP2500 famously starred in the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) as well as product endorsements by famous rock starts; Stevie Wonder, Pete Townsend, Herbie Hanckock and so-on – and the advent of reliable, simpler, commercial instrument designs such as the ARP 2800 ‘Odyssey’ in 1972.

ARP 2800 Odyssey

ARP 2800 Odyssey

The ARP 2800 ‘Odyssey’ 1972-1981

The Odyssey was ARP’s response to Moog’s ‘Minimoog’; a portable, user-friendly, affordable performance synthesiser; essentially a scaled down version of the 2600 with built in keyboard – a form that was to dominate the synthesiser market for the next twenty years or so.

The Odyssey was equipped with two oscillators and was one of the first synthesisers to have duo-phonic capabilities. Unlike the 2600 there were no patch ports, instead all of the modules were hard wired and routable and controllable via sliders and button son the front panel. ‘Modules’ consisted of  two Voltage Controlled Oscillators (switchable between  sawtooth, square, and pulse waveforms)  a resonant low-pass filter, a non-resonant high-pass filter, Ring Modulator, noise generator (pink/white) ADSR and AR envelopes, a triangle and square wave LFO, and a sample-and-hold function. The later Version III model had a variable expression keyboard allowing flattening or sharpening of the pitch and the addition of vibrato depending on key pressure and position.

ARP 2800 Odyssey Mki

ARP 2800 Odyssey MkI

ARP Production model timeline 1969-1981:

  • 1969 – ARP 2002 Almost identical to the ARP 2500, except that the upper switch matrix had 10 buses instead of 20.
  • 1970 – ARP 2500
  • 1970 – ARP Soloist (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesizer)
  • 1971 – ARP 2600
  • 1972 – ARP Odyssey
  • 1972 – ARP Pro Soloist (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesizer – updated version of Soloist)
  • 1974 – ARP String Ensemble (polyphonic string voice keyboard manufactured by Solina)
  • 1974 – ARP Explorer (small, portable, monophonic preset, programmable sounds)
  • 1975 – ARP Little Brother (monophonic expander module)
  • 1975 – ARP Omni (polyphonic string synthesiser )
  • 1975 – ARP Axxe (pre-patched single oscillator analog synthesiser)
  • 1975 – ARP String Synthesiser (a combination of the String Ensemble and the Explorer)
  • 1977 – ARP Pro/DGX (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesiser – updated version of Pro Soloist)
  • 1977 – ARP Omni-2 (polyphonic string synthesiser with rudimentary polyphonic synthesiser functions – updated version of Omni)
  • 1977 – ARP Avatar (an Odyssey module fitted with a guitar pitch controller)
  • 1978 – ARP Quadra (4 microprocessor-controlled analog synthesisers in one)
  • 1979 – ARP Sequencer (analog music sequencer)
  • 1979 – ARP Quartet (polyphonic orchestral synthesiser not manufacted by ARP – just bought in from Siel and rebadged )
  • 1980 – ARP Solus (pre-patched analog monophonic synthesiser)
  • 1981 – ARP Chroma (microprocessor controlled analog polyphonic synthesiser – sold to CBS/Rhodes when ARP closed)

The demise of ARP Instruments was brought about by disorganised management and the decision to invest heavily in a guitar style synthesiser, the SRP Avatar. Although this was an innovative and groundbreaking instrument it failed to sell and ARP were never able to recoup the development costs. ARP filed for bankruptcy in 1981.

ARP Image Gallery





Sources:

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/

‘Analog Days’. T. J PINCH, Frank Trocco. Harvard University Press, 2004

‘Vintage Synthesizers’: Pioneering Designers, Groundbreaking Instruments, Collecting Tips, Mutants of Technology. Mark Vail. March 15th 2000. Backbeat Books

The rise and fall of ARP instruments‘ By Craig R. Waters with Jim Aikin

http://www.arpodyssey.com/

http://www.synthmuseum.com/arp/arpodyssey01.html

The ‘Coupigny Synthesiser’ François Coupigny, France, 1966

Coupigny Synthesisier

Coupigny Synthesisier

During the late 1960′s an intense intellectual animosity developed between the GRM and WDR studios ; The French GRM, lead by Pierre Schaeffer championed a Gallic free ‘Musique Concrete’ approach based on manipulated recordings of everyday sounds contrasting with the Teutonic German WDR’s ‘Electronische Musik’ approach of strict mathematical formalism and tonality (probably a simplistic analysis; read Howard Slater’s much ore insightful essay on the schism). This divergence in theory meant that the studios developed in diverging ways; the Parisian GRM based on manipulation of tape recording and ‘real sound’ and the WDR studio on purely electronically synthesised sound.

 

Part of the Coupigny Synthesiser and EMI mixing desk

Part of the Coupigny Synthesiser and EMI mixing desk

After this rivalry had subsided in the early 1970′s Groupe de Recherches decided to finally integrate electronic synthesis into the studio equipment. The result of this was the  ‘Coupigny synthesiser’ designed and built by engineer François Coupigny around 1966 and was integrated into the 24 track mixing console of Studio 54 at the GRM. Despite this, the synthesiser was designed with ‘Musique Concrete’ principles in mind:

“…a synthesiser with parametrical control was something Pierre Schaeffer was against, since it favoured the preconception of music and therefore deviated from Schaeffer’s principal of ‘making through listening’ . Because of Schaeffer’s concerns, the Coupigny synthesiser was conceived as a sound-event generator with parameters controlled globally, without a means to define values as precisely as some other synthesisers of the day”
(Daniel Teruggi 2007, 219–20).

Pierre Schafer by the console of Studi 54 with the Coupigny Synthesisier

Pierre Schaeffer by the console of Studio 54 adjusting  Moog, the Coupigny Synthesiser is built into the panel directly below.

The Coupigny Synthesiser was a modular system allowing patching of it’s five oscillators using a pin matrix  system (probably the first instrument to use this patching technique, seen later in the EMS designs) to various filters, LFOs (three of them) and a ring modulator. Later versions were expanded using a collection of VCA controlled Moog oscillators and filter modules. The instrument was completely integrated into the studio system allowing it to control remote tape recorders and interface with external equipment. Unlike many other electronic instruments and perhaps due to Schaeffer’s concerns over ‘parametrical control’, the Coupigny Synthesiser had no keyboard – instead it was controlled by a complex envelope generator to modulate the sound. This made the synthesiser less effective at creating precisely defined notes and sequences but better suited to generating continuous tones to be later edited manually on tape. The Coupigny Synthesiser continues to be used at the GRM studio to this day.

The console of Studio 45 at the GRM

The console of Studio 45 at the GRM


Sources:

http://manoafreeuniversity.org/projects/soundings/kompendium/pdfs/slater_heterozygotic.pdf

Gareth Loy ‘Musimathics: The Mathematical Foundations of Music, Volume 2′

‘From magnetic tape to mouse’ by Daniel Teruggi

 

The ‘Beauchamp Synthesiser’ or ‘Harmonic Tone Generator’ James Beauchamp, USA, 1964

Beauchamp Synthesiser or Harmonic Tone Generator at the Experimental Music Studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. USA

Beauchamp Synthesiser or Harmonic Tone Generator at the Experimental Music Studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. USA

James Beauchamp invented the Harmonic Tone Generator in 1964, one of the first additive electronic voltage-controlled synthesisers, under the direction of Lejaren Hiller at the Experimental Music Studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The instrument synthesised six exact harmonics with variable fundamental frequency from 0 to 2000 Hz. The amplitudes of the six harmonics, the fundamental frequency, and the phase of the second harmonic were programmed by voltage control. The fundamental frequency (pitch) was controlled by an external keyboard or generators to provide vibrato and other effects. Control of amplitude was provided by special envelope generators or external generators or even by microphone or prerecorded sounds.

The harmonics were derived by generating pairs of ultrasonic frequencies which were nonlinearly mixed to produce audio difference frequencies. That is to say, one set of frequencies, 50 KHz, 100 KHz, …, 300 KHz, was fixed. Another set, 50-52 KHz, 100-104 KHz, …, 300-312 KHz, was variable. When 50 and 50-52 KHz, etc., was mixed, the sine tones 0-2 KHz, … was derived. Harmonics were generated by full-wave rectification (even harmonics) and square wave chopping (odd harmonics), followed by band pass filtering to separate the harmonics.

The envelope generators consisted of variable delays and attack/decay circuits. In response to a trigger signal from the keyboard, after a programmed delay, the envelope generator would either rise and then go into an immediate decay while the key is depressed or it would rise and decay after the key is depressed. Having the upper harmonics delayed with respect to the lower ones gave an interesting effect.

Because the amplitude controls were “bipolar” (i.e., either positive or negative controls were effective), the instrument could serve as a multi-frequency “ring modulator”, which was especially useful when the controls were derived from a voice or musical instrument. The frequency control was also bipolar and was capable of producing rich sound spectra when the control was taken from a sine generator operating at frequencies ranging from 20 Hz through several hundred Hz. This FM effect was very popular for producing sounds useful in electronic music compositions.”

James Beauchamp. http://ems.music.uiuc.edu/beaucham/htg.html

James Beauchamp working on the  Harmo

James Beauchamp working on the Harmonic Tone Generator c1964

Several electronic music compositions utilised the Harmonic Tone Generator as their main source of electronic sounds. Among them are:

Herbert Brun, “Futility, 1964″

Lejaren Hiller, “Machine Music” and “A Triptych for Hieronymus”

Salvatore Martirano, “Underworld”

Kenneth Gaburo, “Antiphonics III”, “Lemon Drops”, “Hydrogen Jukebox”, and “For Harry”


Sources:

http://ems.music.illinois.edu/ems/articles/battisti.html

Hiller, Lejaren, and James Beauchamps, .Research in Music with Electronics., Science, New Series, Vol. 150, No. 3693 (Oct. 8, 1965): 161-169.

http://ems.music.uiuc.edu/beaucham/index.html

http://ems.music.uiuc.edu/news/spring97/article-bohn.html

 

The ‘PIPER’ System James Gabura & Gustav Ciamaga, Canada, 1965

Charles Hamm, Lejaren Hiller, Salvatore Martirano, Herbert Braid, Kenneth  Gaburo at the EMS, Toronto, 1965

Charles Hamm, Lejaren Hiller, Salvatore Martirano, Herbert Braid, James Gaburo at the EMS, Toronto, 1965

PIPER was one of the earliest hybrid performance system allowing composers and musicians to write and edit music in real time using computers and analogue synthesisers. The system was developed by  James Gabura & Gustav Ciamaga Who also collaborated with Hugh Le Caine on the ‘Sonde’) at the University of Toronto (UTEMS) in 1965. With computing technology in 1965 being to weak to synthesise and control sounds in real-time a work-around was to leave the scoring and parameter control to the computer and the audio generation to an external analogue synthesiser. The PIPER system consisted two Moog oscillators and a custom built amplitude regulator to generate the sound and an IBM 6120 to store parameter input and to score the music. The computer would read and store the musicians input; keyboard notes, filter changes, note duration and so-on and allow the user to play this back and edit in real-time.

By the 1980′s such large hybrid analogue-digital performance systems like PIPER and Max Mathew’s GROOVE were obsolete due to the advent of affordable, microcomputers and analogue/digital sequencer technology.

 


Sources

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/gustav-ciamaga-emc/

http://ems.music.illinois.edu/ems/articles/battisti.html

‘GROOVE Systems’, Max Mathews & Richard Moore, USA 1970

Max Mathews with the GROOVE system

Max Mathews with the GROOVE system

In 1967 the composer and musician Richard Moore began a collaboration with Max Mathews at Bell Labs exploring performance and  expression in computer music in a ‘musician-friendly’ environment. The result of this was a digital-analogue hybrid system called GROOVE  (Generated Realtime Operations On Voltage-controlled Equipment) in which a musician played an external analogue synthesiser and a computer monitored and stored the performer’s manipulations of the interface; playing notes, turning knobs and so-on. The objective being to build a real-time musical performance tool by concentrating the computers limited power, using it to store musical parameters of an external device rather than generating the sound itself :

“Computer performance of music was born in 1957 when an IBM 704 in NYC played a 17 second composition on the Music I program which I wrote. The timbres and notes were not inspiring, but the technical breakthrough is still reverberating. Music I led me to Music II through V. A host of others wroteMusic 10, Music 360, Music 15, Csound and Cmix. Many exciting pieces are now performed digitally. TheIBM 704 and its siblings were strictly studio machines–they were far too slow to synthesize music in real-time. Chowning’s FM algorithms and the advent of fast, inexpensive, digital chips made real-time possible, and equally important, made it affordable.”
Max Mathews. “Horizons in Computer Music,” March 8-9, 1997, Indiana University

Richard Moore with the Groove System

Richard Moore with the Groove System

The system, written in assembler, only ran on the Honeywell DDP224 computer that Bell had acquired specifically for sound research. The addition of a disk storage device meant that it was also possible to create libraries of programming routines so that users could create their own customised logic patterns for automation or composition. GROOVE allowed users to continually adjust and ‘mix’ different actions in real time, review sections or an entire piece and then re-run the composition from stored data. Music by Bach and Bartok were performed with the GROOVE at the first demonstration at a conference on Music and Technology in Stockholm organized by UNESCO  in 1970. Among the participants also several leading figures in electronic music such as Pierre Schaffer and Jean-Claude Risset.

“Starting with the Groove program in 1970, my interests have focused on live performance and what a computer can do to aid a performer. I made a controller, the radio-baton, plus a program, the conductor program, to provide new ways for interpreting and performing traditional scores. In addition to contemporary composers, these proved attractive to soloists as a way of playing orchestral accompaniments. Singers often prefer to play their own accompaniments. Recently I have added improvisational options which make it easy to write compositional algorithms. These can involve precomposed sequences, random functions, and live performance gestures. The algorithms are written in the C language. We have taught a course in this area to Stanford undergraduates for two years. To our happy surprise, the students liked learning and using C. Primarily I believe it gives them a feeling of complete power to command the computer to do anything it is capable of doing.”
Max Mathews. “Horizons in Computer Music,” March 8-9, 1997, Indiana University

The GROOVE System at the Bell Laboratories circa 1970

The GROOVE System at the Bell Laboratories circa 1970

The GROOVE system consisted of:

  • 14 DAC control lines scanned every 100th/second ( twelve 8-bit and two 12-bit)
  • An ADC coupled to a multiplexer for the conversion of seven voltage signal: four generated by the same knobs and three generated by 3-dimensional movement of a joystick controller;
  • Two speakers for audio sound output;
  • A special keyboard to interface with the knobs to generate On/Off signals
  • A teletype keyboard for data input
  • A CDC-9432 disk storage;
  • A tape recorder for data backup



Antecedents to the GROOVE included similar projects such as PIPER, developed by James Gabura and Gustav Ciamaga at the University of Toronto, and a system proposed but never completed by Lejaren Hiller and James Beauchamp at the University of Illinois . GROOVE was however, the first widely used computer music system that allowed composers and performers the ability to work in real-time. The GROOVE project ended in 1980 due to both the high cost of the system – some $20,000, and also  to advances in affordable computing power that allowed synthesisers and performance systems to work together flawlessly .


Sources

Joel Chadabe, Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music, Prentice Hall, 1997.

F. Richard Moore, Elements of Computer Music, PTR Prentice Hall, 1990.

http://www.vintchip.com/mainframe/DDP-24/DDP24.html

‘IPEM’; Institute for Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music Ghent, Hubert Vuylsteke & Walter Landrieu, Belgium, 1963

Walter Landrieu at the IPEM studio

Walter Landrieu at the IPEM studio

IPEM electronic music studio founded in 1963 as a joint venture between the Belgian Radio and Television broadcasting company and the University of Ghent with the objective of operating as both a creative studio, and a research institution – IPEM continues to this day to research into audio and psychoacoustics. One of the first instruments developed was a sine wave generator by Hubert Vuylsteke. His assistant, an engineer called Walter Landrieu, invented a vacuum tube based instrument called the ‘Melowriter’ in 1976 that allowed the musician to create sounds through an 8bit code typewriter style interface.

Melowriter designed by Walter Liandreu

‘Melowriter’ designed by Walter Landrieu

 

Metaphon Landrieu

Inside the melowriter

Landrieu's electronic organ (based on a design by Hubert Vuylsteke).

Landrieu’s electronic organ (based on a design by Hubert Vuylsteke).

470 compositions were realised at IPEM between 1963–1987. It is still operational, housed in the University building Technicum, in the same place it was founded.


Sources

http://www.ipem.ugent.be/

IPEM: Institute For Psychoacoustics And Electronic Music: 50 years of Electronic And Electroacoustic Music At The Ghent University is published by Metaphon, and comes with 2CDs of music made at the studio between 1963 and 1999. More details on the book here.