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Synthesizers

Edited by Michael Chen


Synthesizers A Musical Revolution


CONTENTS 6 – 13

Chapter 1

Form No Longer Follows Function

Chapter 2

The 60s

14 – 21

Chapter 3

The 70s

22 – 31

Chapter 4

The 80s

32 – 43

Chapter 5

The 90s

44 – 53

Chapter 6

The 2000s

54 – 61

Chapter 7

The 2010s

62 – 73

Chapter 8

Beyond Music

74 – 81


1

Form No Longer Follows Function

With electronic instruments – namely the synthesizer – all that is out the window. –Tom Rhea


1st commercially sold Moog synthesizer prototype in 1964, commissioned by the Alwin Nikolais Dance Theater of NY.


Robert Moog’s hand rests on his synthesizer prototype.


Chapter 1: Form No Longer Follows Function

When we think of synthesizers, it’s tough to set aside our preconceptions. We might think of fuzzy, 8-bit video game soundtracks and impossibly catchy pop songs from the 1980s. We might think of a lush, digital orchestra emanating from a keyboard. We envision knobs and dials and cables strewn all about. We might even think of a software program we control with our computer’s keyboard.

Whatever we imagine, in the nearly 50 years since the debut of the first commercial synthesizer, its impact has probably gone deeper than any of us even realize.

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Chapter 1: Form No Longer Follows Function

The eerie and seemingly infinitely

It’s hard to imagine what rock n’ roll

changeable sound of Moog synthe-

would be today without the electric

sizers played no small role in the

guitar or the somewhat accidental

burgeoning psychedelic sound of the

invention of distortion. Innovation

1960s and the ’70s, finding its way

always drives art and at its very core,

onto releases from artists ranging from

jazz and rock n’ roll have always

The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, The

been synonymous with change.

Beatles, The Doors, and many more.

A pivotal moment in history was the 12-year period from 1971 through to 1983 where synthesizers went from an obscure musical oddity to the defining sound of a decade.

Jazz composer Sun Ra performing live in Venice, Italy 1978. 12


Chapter 1: Form No Longer Follows Function

This period gave rise to a new technology driven music culture, where the barriers created around traditional musical processes were broken, elevating the art of programming to a standpoint equal to the performance and mastering of that of another instrument. In the 90s many electronic acts applied rock sensibilities to their music in a genre which became known as big beat. It fused “old-school party breakbeats” with diverse samples, in a way that was reminiscent of Old school hip hop. Big beat was criticized for dumbing down the electronica wave of the late 1990s. This sound was popularized by British acts such as Fat-

Three of the members of English rock band Radiohead. From Left to Right: Johnny Greenwood, Thom Yorke, Philip Selway.

boy Slim, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers and from the US, Crystal Method, Überzone and Lunatic Calm.

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Chapter 1: Form No Longer Follows Function

Somewhere in the 2000s, the unique voice of the analog synthesizer came back into vogue. In a combination of coincidence along with astute business acumen, new synths, drum machines and sequencers, plus a supporting cast of mixers, amps, multi-track recorders and other peripherals started to emerge from the tech industry, all with the contemporary twist of being a dim in stature and low in cost. Such hardware has arguably made electronic music more accessible than ever, and in turn is inspiring new approaches to music.

Matriarch Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer released 2019

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The goal of portability makes the invention of the pocket synth seem like less of a surprise and more of an inevitability.


2

The 60s

The effect on American Rock was like a sudden switch back from technicolor to black and white.


Edgar Groese (right) and Christopher Franke (left) of German electronic group, Tangerine Dream.


Chapter 2: The 60s

During the 1960s, synthesizers of more

Most synthesizers had piano-like key-

compact design were produced—first the

boards, although other types of performing

Moog, and others soon after, including the

mechanisms have been used. The Moog III,

Buchla and Syn-Ket, the last approximately

developed by the American physicist Robert

the size of an upright piano.

Moog, had two five-octave keyboards that controlled voltage changes (and thus pitch, timbre, attack, decay of tone, and other aspects of sound), allowing the composer or musician an almost infinite variety of tonal control.

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Robert Moog pictured top left and his associates discussing with one another.


Chapter 2: The 60s

Left: Anonymous musicians playing with Moog modules. Right: Wendy Carlos composer of Switched-On Bach.

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Chapter 2: The 60s

While proving popular with pop artists of the time, the synthesizer as an instrument was still a bit of a footnote prior to the release of Wendy Carlos’ now famous Grammy Award winning album, Switched-On Bach. Carlos, a musical prodigy, performed classic Bach pieces entirely on a custom-built Moog synthesizer. The album truly showcased what synthesizers are capable of, and helped bring the Moog name to the lips of musicians around the world.

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Chapter 2: The 60s

The Clavioline was a specialized monophonic organ with vacuum tube oscillators and frequency modifiers designed primarily for novelty effects. While several individual jazz artists of the early 1960s–including Roland Kirk, Bob James, and Gil Melle–began to combine their jazz music with taped electronic sounds, Sun Ra was pushing the envelope in the live performance of electronically-enhanced jazz. Sun Ra had been experimenting with free jazz since the late 1950s and by the early Sixties had augmented his sound with a variety of electronic keyboards including the electric piano, electric Celeste, Hammond organ, and the Clavioline. R. A. Moog and Co. introduced the Minimoog in early 1970 after two years of product design and prototyping. This would become the first synthesizer that many jazz and rock players adopted for their live performances. But it took some months before sales of the Minimoog took off, peaking by the middle of 1971.

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One of the first musicians to adopt the Minimoog happened to be jazz great Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, 1914-93)


3

The 70s

There’s a psychedelic scene where everybody’s stoned, and that’s where they used the moog.


Kraftwerk is a German band formed in DĂźsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf HĂźtter and Florian Schneider.


Chapter 3: The 70s

You really couldn’t get stoned back then without having some synthesizer music playing. Back in the stormy ‘70s, when Brian Eno was inventing ambient music in England and Tangerine Dream was mixing Moogs with Krautrock, a crew of electronic individualists in France was busy crafting some singular synthesizer tapestries of their own. Sometimes they were influenced by the aforementioned trailblazers and their ilk, but often they were finding their own idiosyncratic way into previously unexplored electronic thickets, without stopping to worry about what the end result might be or what anybody would think about it.

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28

Chapter 2: The 60s


Chapter 3: The 70s

With the notable exceptions of Jean-Michel Jarre, who found fame with his 1976 classic Oxygène, and Moog pop pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey, these artists were working well under the radar, largely unnoticed in their own country remained all but invisible on the international level.

Jean-Michel Jarre in the studio for his album, Oxygene, 1976. 29


Chapter 3: The 70s

Beloved by synthesizer collectors, and not just because of its alarmingly high secondhand price tag, the Yamaha CS-80 was Japan’s first truly outstanding contribution to the synthesizer marketplace. Fathoms deep, alarmingly unusual and jam-packed with sounds that simply didn’t emanate from other, similar instruments, the CS-80 was a delightfully luxurious instrument. Even so, the high price tag and overwhelming weight of the CS-80 (it was a back-breaking 220lbs) made it a hard sell, and like many synths of the era, it was also notoriously difficult to keep in tune.

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Chapter 3: The 70s

The CS-80 was released in 1976, and retains many of the GX-1 features, with just a single keyboard.

Chapter 2: The 60s

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Chapter 3: The 70s

The first fully realized glimpse of the future of electronic music wouldn’t exist until 1974, when a German experimental band, Kraftwerk, burst onto the world stage. The band had been around since 1970 exploring a largely experimental approach to rock music with a number of different line-ups similar to their German Krautrock contemporaries such as Can. However it wasn’t until 1974 with the release of their album Autobahn that they really came into their own as a revolutionary musical force.

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Chapter 3: The 70s

Members of Kraftwerk Left to Right: Ralf Hutter, Fritz hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Grieffenhagen

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4

The 80s

Analog synthesizers, whilst possessing superior and more organic sounds, became relics of a forgotten time


Paul McCartnery recording McCartney II


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English new wave band Duran Duran formed in Birmingham in 1978


Chapter 4: The 80s

The invention of the MIDI keyboard in the early

Synth-pop’s first really huge mainstream crash-

80s simplified the creation of electronic effects,

ing moments came in 1981, thanks to a reshuf-

signaling a dominating force that would come to

fled Human League. After Ware and Marsh left

define much of pop music throughout the ‘80s.

the group in 1980—reportedly in part because

New wave became the norm, and with it, a mul-

Numan’s success eclipsed them, as well as be-

titude of groups like Duran Duran, The Human

cause of personality conflicts —Oakey recruit-

League, and Tears for Fears would come to thrive

ed vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann

in the changing climate.

Sulley. The first LP with this new lineup, 1981’s Dare, was a sugary smash that lightened up the group’s turgid electronic textures. Dare’s true genius, however, was how it never skimped on thematic substance: “Don’t You Want Me” has a well-crafted, he-said/she-said storyline, while “Seconds” addresses JFK’s assassination.

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Album cover for Joy Divion’s, Unknown Pleasures, 1979.


Chapter 4: The 80s

After the death of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis in 1980, the remaining members formed New Order. New Order implemented synthesizers seamlessly with post-punk, a sound they hinted at on Joy Division’s final album Closer. While their 1981 debut Movement was light on synths, New Order’s 1983 single “Blue Monday” would prove to be a monumental moment in the development of synthpop. At seven minutes, the song features a driving beat from an Oberheim DMX drum machine that develops into moody melodies, atmospheric synthesizers, and a strong bass line from Peter Hook. “Blue Monday” would become an anthem in the club scene, going on to be the highest-selling 12” single of all-time.

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Chapter 4: The 80s

What separated synth-pop from, say pop mu-

As dance-pop was making a craze due to

sic with synths—or categories such as new

the likes of Madonna and Michael Jack-

wave—remained (and remains) a point of

son, Duran Duran was focusing more on

contention. For example, Ultravox’s Ure and

the synthesizer aspects. Their album Rio

Billy Currie had a hand in Visage’s 1981 hit

was a smash hit, and they would con-

“Fade To Grey”—a song not far from early

tinue to have success throughout the 80s.

Human League’s gray scale electro, but one

Groups like Erasure and Pet Shop Boys

widely labeled as a New Romantic staple

made waves in the UK. Depeche Mode

instead. And the London group Japan–whose

and Tears for Fears found success world-

meticulous music put a modern spin on

wide, with Tears for Fears’ Songs from the

debonair glam-pop–shared the synth-pop

Big Chair reaching number one on the

scene’s sense of adventure, but was also

charts in many countries, no doubt due to

lumped in with the New Romantics. Even

the massive influence that exposure from

in its infancy, the U.K. synth-pop scene was

MTV had at the time.

diverse and hard to pin down.

Joy Division was formed 1976 and the group consisted of Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris.

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Chapter 2: The 60s

41


Chapter 4: The 80s

Thanks to MTV and the parallel burgeoning

By the middle of the decade, synth-pop

music video movement, this new techno-

became even more normalized. No longer

logy also ushered in a whole different brand

were keyboards something foreign-sounding;

of pop star. One for which what we consider

in the technology-obsessed ’80s, they were

striking imagery to go hand-in-hand with

the sound of a future that had finally arrived.

striking music. Lennox became known for

The genre itself also started to sound brasher

her androgynous look, and was masterful at

and more confident, aided by the rapidly

leveraging video to make subtle feminist state-

improving synthesizer technology, as well as

ments. Wales-raised musician Howard Jones,

the knowledge that synth-pop was no longer

who hit a nerve with the twee “New Song”

a mainstream pariah.

and the mysterious, chin-stroking “What Is Love?,” used a mime, colorful jumpsuits, and an impressively feathered ’do to augment his concert array of keyboard and synth gear.

If anything, synth-pop’s legacy is defined not only by its seismic musical impact, but by the thoughtful way it went about addressing cultural change.

British singer and songwriter, Howard Jones, who is best known for his early hits during the eighties.

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Chapter 4: The 80s

In an industry that typically viewed a successful synthesizer as selling in the tens of thousands, the Korg M1 surpassed all expectations when it notched up sales of over a quarter of a million units. It sounded like the early ’90s, pretty much, and that’s because you heard it on everything from adverts to TV shows to mainstream chart hits. The M1 came with a preset bank of 100 multi sounds and 44 drum and percussion samples, and each sound was rinsed by producers across the globe. They were wonderfully, endearingly wonky, ranging from pan flutes and kalimbas to the widely overused acoustic piano and woozy strings, and each one managed to sound simultaneously realistic and synthetic all at once.

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Chapter 4: The 80s

Still the most popular synthesizer of all time, the Korg M1 was absolutely unavoidable in late ‘80s and early ‘90s pop, rock, and of course, stock music.

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5

The 90s

Two men in robot suits and helmets stood at the forefront of the electronic dance music scene


Daft Punk posing for the cover of their 1996 album, Moog Cookbook


Chapter 5: The 90s

Synth-pop’s popularity waned greatly throughout the ‘90s. It may have been over saturation, as synthesizers had been dominating nearly every facet of radio music throughout the previous decade. Grunge was making its way into the mainstream, with MTV and the general public turning their heads to bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Many rock musicians were lashing out at synth-based music, claiming that it lacked soul, focusing too much on robotic effects to remove the human element from music. Yet, the high-voltage electric culture we have today couldn’t exist without Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, known together as Daft Punk. The duo revamped music with drum machines and vocoders in the ’90s, creating hits like “Da Funk” in 1995. But even more significantly, Daft Punk popularized EDM by turning its shows into a highly kinetic audio-visual experience.

Daft Punk achieved popularity in the late 1990s as part of the French house movement 48


Chapter 2: The 60s

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Chapter 5: The 90s

It’s hard to believe Daft Punk itself first emerged during the ’90s, a decade when live performances of EDM ultimately boiled down to sweaty DJs launching pre-generated samples from tiny booths onstage. It started with the masks. De Homem-Christo and Bangalter lived their image: You’d be hard-pressed to catch them sans-spacesuit. On the surface, Daft Punk more closely resembles the machinery used in creating its music than living, breathing human musicians. The duo took its cyborg-inspired image to the next level at Coachella 2006 with a show that set the standard for today’s live EDM show. There, Daft Punk brought out a giant glowing 3D pyramid to accompany its already otherworldly suits and songs. The spectacle was unexpected, unprecedented and unfaltering in the message it sent to other electronic artists. It wasn’t enough to just press play anymore – to be an EDM performer, you have to put on a show.

We’re not performers, we’re not models – it would not be enjoyable for humanity to see our features… but the robots are exciting to people.

They have worn ornate helmets and gloves to assume robot personas in most public appearances since 1999

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Moog DFAM semi-modular analog percussion synthesizer


Chapter 5: The 90s

In the late 90s, in terms of synthesizers,

At this point in the development of synthesiz-

Korg followed up with successful install-

ers, the endearing limitation of early analogue

ments after the boom of their M1s. The Korg

instruments had been snuffed out in favor of

Triton offered another glossy catch all solu-

feature-heavy virtual computers that could

tion for studios looking to achieve a pop

do everything you needed (and more), and

sound without paying pop money. The Triton

in doing so they typically lacked a specific

offered more polyphony than its predeces-

sound or character. Of course, the masses of

sor and an improved sampler, but on its

samples and soundbanks that made up the

release was criticized for its cheap sound-

Triton’s sound library certainly had a particu-

ing samples and low-functioning sequencer.

lar ring to them, and you can’t listen to early

This didn’t stop its domination though, and

‘00s rap and R&B without hearing one or two

the Triton became just as much of a studio

of the Triton’s unusually dry percussive rattles

staple as its predecessors.

or pseudo-live instrumental snaps.

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Chapter 5: The 90s

“ I can do pretty much any vocal recording – album-quality vocal recording – guitar, bass if I want to. I love synth stuff and sample stuff, so I’ve got a ton of that here.” - Mike Shinoda

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Chapter 5: The 90s

Mike Shinoda is the producer and one of the lead members of the experimental rock band, Linkin Park. Their love of the Korg Triton has revolutionized the rock scene. Their fanbase was widespread as a result of their cross-genre style. Known primarily as a combination of electronic, rock and hip-hop music. According to Shinoda, the sounds on Linkin Park’’s heavily textured and sonically complex album, A Thousand Suns (Warner Bros.), could come from virtually anywhere. In addition to playing various instruments, programming, and rapping on the album, Shinoda also co-produced it with Rick Rubin.

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6

The 2000s

By the late 90s, hardware seemed to disappear entirely


Hip-Hop producer J-Dilla working in his home studio


Chapter 6: The 2000s

If it hadn’t been such a crucial part of ‘90s rap music, the ASR-10 may have been an obvious choice for the defining keyboard of the 2000s. Timbaland and The Neptunes used the ASR10 to create R&B and hip hop beats that crossed over to the mainstream in a big way. But the Korg Triton, more than embodying the sound of the early 2000s, embodies an important style. Sensing the need for an all-in-one production studio, Korg created an instrument that was a synthesizer, a rhythm machine, a sampler and a mixing studio with pristine audio quality, all in one box.

However Hip-Hop in the 2000s could be summed up to one particular artist and his custom synth.

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Chapter 6: The 2000s

Minimoog Voyager monophic analog synthesizer released in 2002

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One of the last moog synths personally built by Robert Moog


Chapter 6: The 2000s

Known for using various MPC samplers, with a range of synths, drum machines and acoustic instruments, Dilla revolutionized the music’s direction. With his custom Mini Moog Voyager (built by Robert Moog himself) and samples to create gritty, off-beat hi-hats and bass sounds, jazz-infused samples and soulful synth backing. Inspiring countless artists to progress with his direction of Hip-Hop, and among those that know he is revered to this day. Dilla was a driving force behind the Soulquarians group, who worked together to product some of the most acclaimed and soulful Hip-Hop projects of all time. He was a deep inspiration for artists like The Roots, 9th Wonder and Hi-Tek and he worked closely with legendary artists like MadLib, Slum Village, The Pharcyde and even Busta Rhymes. The scope of Dilla’s influence in Hip-Hop is enormous.

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Chapter 6: The 2000s

Around 2010, major industry players and small start-ups alike seem to have had the simultaneous brainwave that the popularity of VST apps might mean that people would be interested in buying micro-scale hardware, tools that retained the ultraportability and ease-of-use of app-based instruments, but achieved their sound via the tactile, real-life, real-time analog means. By the nineties, there was a sense of rebound from the all-in-the-box, plug-in paradigm and most hardware synths were too complicated,” says Tatsuya Takahashi, then Chief Engineer at Korg.

“ So I felt a need for people to have real hardware that had simple functions and sounded great.” - Tatsuya Takahashi

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Chapter 6: The 2000s

Takahashi went on to develop the Monotron, one of many instruments to subsequently explore synth miniaturisation. Whilst they differ in approaches, all are unified in that they are capable of creating, modifying and combining tones out of the box, either via true or digitally recreated virtual analog synthesis, just like their full-size relatives.

The Monotron, released in 2010, is Korg’s first foray into the world of analog synthesis in nearly thirty years

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7

The 2010s

A resurgence of analog synths became the tool of younger musicians.


Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker surrounded with his necessities


Chapter 7: The 2010s

Scots electro-pop trio Chvrches used the success of their debut album to buy more synthesizers... Old analogue synths are being used to create

Emerging in 2012 from Glasgow’s post-

contemporary sounds. Critically-acclaimed

rock indie landscape, synth-based trio

electronic musician Floating Points, for exam-

Chvrches were a very different musical

ple, uses his Buchla synthesizer to make dance

proposition from the shoegazey scene

music with a classical edge. Then there’s the

which spawned them. The propulsive yet

new ‘pocket synths’, a core part of synthwave

smart electronic pop of Lauren Mayberry,

– a sub genre of synthpop that emerged in the

Martin Doherty and Iain Cook quickly

mid-2000s. Acts like Electric Youth and Mitch

proved to be highly successful, with their

Murder have been putting a contemporary,

2013 debut album The Bones Of What

synth heavy spin on ‘80s pop culture – particu-

You Believe becoming a Top 10 hit within

larly creating soundtracks for movies, television

the UK and reaching number 12 in the

and video games

United States.

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Synth-pop trio Chvrches is well known for being obsessed with old analog synthesizer models

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Kevin Parker writes, records, performs and produces all the songs for the group

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Tame Impala is a psychedelic band from Australia, their sound has mostly consisted of guitar-heavy 60s/70s-style rock, washed out with delay and phasers. However their most recent album, Currents, features heavy use of synthesizers and electronic elements, continuing the electronic experimentation found on Lonerism. Although there is a huge variety of interesting sounds on Currents, by far the most common are the lush chorused sounds of the Roland Juno-106. The 106 was released in 1984 and has a classic 80s sound, with an easy to program interface.

Described as both psychedelic music and 1960’s throwback, swirly vocals, and swooshy synths evoke a mÊlange of soothing sounds and hip rhythms.

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Chapter 6: The 2000s

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

There must be something in the air, because a number of musicians have recently taken the impulse even further, recording entire albums using only a single piece of gear. The average electronic-music studio was a mountain of hardware: Rack upon rack of synthesizers, drum machines, sequencers, effects and all manner of inscrutable-to-outsiders black boxes – a warren of tangled cables and blinking lights. Things have gotten more streamlined in the digital era, but the packrat behavior prevails; virtual studios like Ableton and Logic, with their endless arrays of synths and plug-ins, encourage it even more. Lately, many electronic musicians have been adopting a less-is-more approach, the better to highlight the strengths – and quirks – of their favorite pieces of gear.

Knobs are the most important analog tool you can find on any synthesizer

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Though they also availed themselves of instruments like drums and electric bass, Mount Kimbie made their last album, Love What Survives, principally using just two synthesizers, the vintage Korg MS-20 and Korg Delta. Nathan Fake says “like 99.9 percent” of the synth parts on his last album, Providence, came from the Korg Prophecy, an “awkward” mid-’90s relic with an unlovely plastic shell but a thick, gorgeous sound. The Italian artist Modula has a new album for Edinburgh’s Firecracker label that was made almost entirely on the Yamaha PSS 780; only the drums were recorded using other machines.

Members of English electronic duo Mount Kimbie, Dominic Maker (left) and Kai Compos (right)

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Korg Minilogue, polyphonic analog synthesizer designed by Tatsuya Takahashi

Aphex Twin recently made news with a track recorded principally with a late-model monophonic analog synth; the result, “korg funk 5,” has racked up more than a quarter-million views in a little over three months, quickly distinguishing itself as what surely must be the world’s most popular hardware demo.

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Chapter 7: The 2010s

Due to the ever-increasing trend amongst the synthesizer sector to fall back on analog technology, the Eurorack format specified by Doepfer Musikelektronik in 1996 has developed into a real long-standing modular synthesizer format for hardware and a dominant one since 2018. The Eurorack format currently offers more than 5,000 available modules and DIY kits from more than 270 manufacturers, ranging from boutique designers to established, renowned synthesizer manufacturers known for their comprehensive range of hardware. In addition to analog modules, today there are also numerous digital modules that immensely expand the application spectrum of the modular synthesizer in Eurorack format.

Modular systems can be constructed with a variety of modules to choose from

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8

Beyond Music

The use of synths, and the instrumental continues to be vital for film and television scores today.


Keyboardist Keith Emerson of English band, the Nice, playing his enormous Moog modular synthesizer


Chapter 8: Beyond Music

“ One hundred oscillators! No synthesizer has one hundred oscillators.” - Roji Ikeda

Synths still continue to be used in great and groundbreaking ways. Last year Japanese sound artist Ryoji Ikeda built a synth orchestra out of one hundred cars, transforming an open air car park into an automobile symphony. Ikeda used the frequency emitted by each car (and unique to each vehicle), played through tone generators, creating something totally new. “It’s very complicated. We call it the ‘largest synthesizer’,” Ikeda said at that time.

The Moog Mother-32 is the first tabletop semi-modular synthesizer from Moog

78 78


Chapter 8: Beyond Music

100 cards lined up in LA for Roji Ikeda’s public show sponsored by Red Bull

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Chapter 8: Beyond Music

We have synths to thank for the sound of TV and film.

From the 1940s, Daphne Oram - co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – used tape recorders and electronic oscillators to find new sounds beyond conventional methods, airing her findings on television and radio. A true visionary, Oram once said she wanted computer-like machines to be “an extension of the arm of the composer.”

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Delia Ann Derbyshire carried out pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s

Later, Delia Derbyshire, a mathematician and musician, continued what Oram had started at BBC, famously composing the Doctor Who theme that continues to be adapted and reworked today.

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Chapter 8: Beyond Music

These days though, computers can be seen as picking up the gauntlet from the synth, using algorithms and AI to further explore possibilities in electronic music. A recently done experiment, backed by Google, combined music with artificial intelligence, with AI Duet acting as a virtual pianist that can respond to notes played by users and accompany them in a duet. Rather than being built around sets of pre-programmed musical rules, the groundbreaking experiment uses a neural network ‘trained’ by machine learning – using its own knowledge of musical examples built up over time.

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Chapter 8: Beyond Music

Google’s NSynth Super is a touchscreen synthesizer with AI to create new sounds

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Synthesizers are widely considered synonymous with 80s pop. Their impact however is more widespread than one may imagine. With each decade of synthesizers, it brought forth new discoveries and sounds with the flexibility of expressing themes from personal emotions to social and cultural events and movements.

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