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3 Electronic Maestros Interviewed

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the thomas-dolby-soundtrack-in-background dept.

Music 133

thesixthreplicant writes "New Scientist interviews 3 pioneers of electronic music: Bob Moog, the inventor of the first commercial synthesiser, the Moog; Australian Peter Vogel, creator of the first electronic sampler, the Fairlight (16 bit sampling in 1979!); and Dave Smith, the father of MIDI."

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Pioneers? (0, Offtopic)

sanityspeech (823537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123318)

Was I the only one expecting the article to be about the genre which Kraftwerk is hailed as a pioneer of?

Re:Pioneers? (-1, Offtopic)

sanityspeech (823537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123411)

Dear moderators,

The genre I was referring to is electronica. Seeing that the story is ABOUT electronic music, how is it that my post [] is offtopic?

Re:Pioneers? (5, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123525)

Was I the only one expecting the article to be about the genre which Kraftwerk is hailed as a pioneer of?

Karftwerk are great, and indeed defined the style of the electronic music genre. Indeed, Kraftwerk's sound is still heard in modern electronic music, over 30 years later. Wendy (Walter) Carlos was also a key contributor to composing electronic music - but she relied on Robert Moog's technology to make her music. All decent electronic artists acknowledge the work of the engineers and scientists who built the equipment that bands like Kraftwerk used. After all, without these tools, research and instruments, how would the artists be able to make the music? Also, for a more modern example think of Robin Whittle - who modified synthesizers for tons of modern electronic artists - yet is not a musician or composer hmself.

I have owned several Moog synthesizers, and IMO, Moog is one of the people most responsible for bringing us the way we use electronic instruments in practice. The Moog is still an awesome synthesizer to use.

Re:Pioneers? (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124176)

damn right.
the thing about the Moog was that it was the first "modular" synth.. the first time people could easily really honestly create their own sounds from scratch with a minimum amount of fuss. this fact alone spawned endless creativity in the artists that used them. thank you Mr. Moog, for giving us such wonderful ideas. :)

Re:Pioneers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124658)

While Moog was a pioneer, the modular nature of his synth was not his invention. Most synths that existed before had a patchbay of some sort to connect all the modules together (modules you most likely had to solder together yourself :)

Moog's great achievement was in sound quality. His oscillators were thick and almost alive, while his filter design went unmatched for at least a decade. Even then it was only matched by people stealing his design.

Re:Pioneers? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123607)

I was expecting my cokc to be suckieng

Re:Pioneers? (1, Informative)

mankey wanker (673345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124423)

Kraftwerk are great, but they were not the first in any category I can think of offhand. When you stop to consider the fact that there were many "pop" artists working all at the same time - mainly the middle 70s - middle 80s, it becomes harder still to find anything that you can pin Kraftwerk as having been solely responsible for. And there are many precursors to what we think of as electronic musics earliest days. Basically, you were right to call it a genre - personally, I'd call electronic music a movement. Many artists working within the genre were doing similar things.

Amongst the artists in the category doing interesting things I would include: Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire, Human League/Heaven 17, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Die Form, Duran Duran, etc. Synth-pop is surely part of the genre, for good or ill. And we most likely have to include stuff like Michael Oldfield, etc. It just goes all over the place - I think Eno was working with synthsizers, tape loops, and delays even in early Roxy Music. Tape loops are like early sampling.

Don't believe the hype: Kraftwerk, while great, probably invented very little.

Re:Pioneers? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124614)

There were others using electronic instruments well before kraftwerk, but I'd be hard pressed to name one who so deeply absorbed the technology. Kraftwerk was interesting because of how purely electronic they were. Even their vocals were heavily vocoded robot sounding, as if the entire album was being played by computers.

The other artists you list were certainly also breaking new ground (with the exception of Duran Duran), but I really wouldn't credit any of them with pushing electronic sounds so far. Eno probably came closest, but even he still had "regular" instruments heavily featured.

Simple put, Kraftwerk showed you could make music using just computers. To this day when I hear most modern techno I hear hints of Kraftwerk.

Re:Pioneers? (0)

mankey wanker (673345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124751)

Hmmm, I guess you must not respect early industrial music much. I think of it as being even more interesting than what Kraftwerk was doing. I don't see any reason to give out for points for less interesting music that just happens to sound more computer generated. And that's the point there - Schneider and Hutter were actually singing, despite the effects layered on top of it. I don't see how that's much different than what British synth-pop group Visage was doing. Some of their stuff sounds purely synthesizer generated too. Big whoop.

Plus it's hard to ignore how Kraftwerk later stagnated almost to the point of atrophy. I like their latest CD very much, but it could just as easily have been produced the year after they released "Tour De France" the first time. By contrast, groups like Throbbing Gristle - a deeply troubled 4some - just this last year produced some of the most amazing music of their career with "TGNow" - "Splitting Sky" is an amazing song.

To me, vast oceans separate really interesting music from more mundane stuff. And while Kraftwerk was interesting, they hit a stage very early on from which they never progressed. Most of it is just a cool marketing ploy - "Oh look, we're robots, mannequins, etc." Nothing Bowie couldn't nail in an album or two and then move on...

Re:Pioneers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12125103)

On the contrary, I have huge respect for early industrial. Throbbing Gristle is probably one of the most innovative bands in the early periods of electronic music, but I think what they were doing was far different than Kraftwerk. TG also came along over a year after Kraftwerk's Autobahn album, which was a huge hit. Visage came about in the late 70's, so it could be argued they borrowed from Kraftwerk's sound.

Basically I'm just saying that Kraftwerk made it so people realized that electronic sounds weren't just a fad, or for experimental projects. They made it mainstream and accessible. While TG is an amazing act (2nd Annual Report is probably in my top 5 of greatest albums ever) they were never really accessible. Would TG have still existed without Kraftwerk? Probably. But would modern synth-pop sound the same? TG and Kraftwerk just had different styles, with TG's being more dark, human, and industrial (duh) sounding, while Kraftwerk's was mechanical, inhuman, more purely electronic, and still extremely catchy.

I agree that Kraftwerk peaked early on, and has only recently started to shine again, but that takes nothing away from the early ground they broke.

The Fairlight wasn't 16-bit until 1985 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123327)

The Fairlight wasn't 16-bit until 1985, when the Fairlight Series III came out. The Synclaviar was 16-bit before then (I think 1984 or so) and AMS had a 16-bit digital delay that could work as a primitive 16-bit sampler (Used in "Joanna" among other songs) around 1983 or 1984.

Re:The Fairlight wasn't 16-bit until 1985 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123553)

Didn't fairlight do well on the warez scene as well?

0 day samples.

Early Fairlights were the true classics. (3, Informative)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123807)

Hmm. E-mu Systems released their first 8-bit sampler around 1980, as I recall - within months of the first crude Fairlight.

The classic Fairlight sound came from the Fairlight Series II (1982) and Series IIx (1983, with faster processor and factory-MIDI) defined the classsic "Fairlight" sound, not the Series III - so 16-bit is meaningless here. The Series II used variable speed playback, rather than skipping samples in a wavetable to speed up/slow down the sound. When combined with some fantastic analog filters, the sound was something special, with a great low-end. The other part of the magic was "Page R" -- the realtime 8-track (single note) sequencer that allowed you to work with the Series II's lightpen in a pseudo-graphical environment (ASCII characters in a music sequencing grid).

By the time the Series III came out, E-mu had released several samplers including the Emulator I and II (both 8 bit, although the II used companding A/D-D/A converters to give a higer signal to noise). The Series III lost the coloured magic of the Series II sound by using increasingly perfect 16-bit recording, and it wasn't long before companies like Akai started making $5000 16-bit samplers that put Fairlight out of business.

The Synthesizer (0)

Rightcoast (807751) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123328)

Wow! Moog is the man, he also invented the synthesizer. Ever heard of a spellchecker Tim?

Re:The Synthesizer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123347)

Now now, don't make fun of Timothy's lithp.

Re:The Synthesizer (4, Insightful)

Aneurysm (680045) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123530)

Actually, there's nothing wrong with it [] . My guess is that the version omitting the z is the English version and the one with the z is the American, as in Britain we tend to use the s rather than the z in words similar to this, ie desensitise, moralise, formalise.

Re:The Synthesizer (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124760)

Then what do you use the z for?

Re:The Synthesizer (1)

Bayleaf (809062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124852)


In the UK it's Z too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12125073)

Synthesizer is how it's spelt here in the UK too, although both are valid.

another dumb american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123532)

Synthesiser is actually correct if you are talking in English, the only country to spell it wrong is dum dum dum USA !

get an education hick, it might do you some good

Re:another dumb american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123704)

Get a sense of humor and go see a dentist, you useless Limey prick.

Re:another dumb american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123986)

dum dum dum
I assume you meant dumb, which should have been spelled that way and prefaced by "the", regardless of the dialect spoken. You also should have put a "." after English, and started a new sentence.

The inventor of the machine calls it a synthesizer, that makes it a synthesizer. []

BTW, a quick check of the parents homepage tells me he lives in next to New York City, in an affluent community called "Fairfield County". The average salary there for a single male (this is Slashdot after all) is $66,038.
US Census []

Odds are there aren't many hicks there...

I, on the other hand, am a hick. Hopefully we bomb your shitty little mini-country next.

Re:another dumb american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124069)

Right on, brother.

Re:another dumb american (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12125505)

Don't you mean yet another right
wing, SUV driving, Big Mac eating, fat,
dirty, loud, obnoxious, illiterate,
polluting, pretentious, arrogant American?

Who thinks its his God given right to
police the world and to bring about
the "Americanway of fucked up life"
to the rest of the world.


It's S you ignorant prick. Z (which,
by the way, is pronounced e-Zed) is
used by the dumb population of your
country that can't spell right.

(Anyone see how badly Americans
usually spell? Almost all the
Americans I know, especially Blacks,
have horrible spelling.)

Just in case... (4, Informative)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123341)

From Wikipedia [] :
One of the most mispronounced names in popular culture, the surname "Moog" is of Dutch origin, and is properly pronounced "moague", to rhyme with "vogue" and "rogue".

Re:Just in case... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123630)

Or, for the slashdot crowd, it is easier to remember that is rhymes with "House of Mogh"

'gue' ? more like *horrible choking sound* (3, Informative)

Animaether (411575) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123742)

The 'gue' in 'Vogue' and 'Rogue' is quite different from a 'g' in the dutch 'Loog', 'Toog', etc.

That 'g' is more like a horrible choking sound - I'd sound it out and put it on my site (I'm Dutch), but no thanks :)

Re:'gue' ? more like *horrible choking sound* (1)

fcw (17221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124402)

Hence why Moog [] make products called Moogerfoogers [] .

Re:Just in case... (1)

iamthemoog (410374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125474)

The man himself pronounces it "moague" - we interviewed him at NAMM a while ago:

Dr. Bob chats to our Nick []

Luddites! (0)

The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123357)

No mention of mc chris [] ?

Re:Luddites! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123429)

No mention of mc. chris.

Could it be because he's an utter twat?

Re:Luddites! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123592)

I read his livejournal more than I listen to his music. He seems like a nice enough fellow.

Re:Luddites! (3, Insightful)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123617)

This is not about Electronic Music, the genre. This is about music in electronic form. This has nothing to do with the genre.

Re:Luddites! (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124161)

funny how you say THE genre, as if it is one genre. why make such a big deal when people go on a little bit of a tangent? i mean if people are talking about electronic instruments, you can't really expect them to not talk about electronic music. give me a break.

and this in a forum where every story no matter how diverse ends up being a discussion on the evils of microsoft.

A little help please.... (-1, Offtopic)

tloh (451585) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123367)

The timing of this couldn't be better for me. I have a question for the more knowledgable electronic music /.ers among us. Does anyone know the instruments Jan Hammer is playing in the music video of the "miami vice" theme given below?

Jan.Hammer.-.Miami.Vice.(Theme).mpg [ed2k]

Re:A little help please.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123373)

That would be a kazoo.

Re:A little help please.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123405)

I don't use P2P software, but the synth in the video is, as I recall, a Fairlight []

Other common synths seen in 1980s music videos:

Re:A little help please.... (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123933)

And I don't care who you are and where you're from, but if roland had never made the 303, electronic music would never have been the same.

Re:A little help please.... (1)

nyquist (700) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124080)

same for a lot of the x0x series. The 606, 808, and 909.

Re:A little help please.... (0)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124159)

Well, of course. However, the industry would have found another drum machine (probably not as good, because it's roland). However, the 303 basically turned things upside down for a lot of artists.

Re:A little help please.... (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124627)

Even to this day, drum machines have these odd and silly interfaces. How come nobody dedicates any time to thinking about how to throw together a quick drum track? Pages, and clunky tweakings with little feedback are so lacking, it makes these devices hard to use. Even my RM1X is a silly nightmare.

Re:A little help please.... (1)

antispam_ben (591349) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124903)

Your link doesn't work for me, but I've got several of his solo LP's (and a Hammer/Schon LP I never liked) from around the Miami Vice time and earlier. He used a fancy strap-on keyboard (sometimes generically called a 'keytar', a keyboard you wear on a strap like a guitar). I don't remember the brand name (ISTR the model was discussed in an issue of Polyphony, a magazine which later became Electronic Musician), but several manufacturers made them, such as the Korg RK-1.
These were all basically MIDI (Thanks, Dave Smith) controllers (which output commands to synthesizers telling them which note to play, but not generating sound themselves), and the only uniqueness the keyboard brought to the sound was from Jan's deft use of the pitch-bend wheel, simulating the string bending of a lead guitarist.
Hammer is shown playing this device in the photograph midway down this page: []

Playing the Bones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123377)

"...and Dave Smith, the father of MIDI."

Wow! Created MIDI and a comic book []

Re:Playing the Bones. (0, Offtopic)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123398)

"...and Dave Smith, the father of MIDI."

Wow! Created MIDI and a comic book
Forget the Midi - I'd rather hear from the person who created the Mini - like in mini skirt. Truly a benefactor to all mankind.

Correction : original Fairlight CMI was 8 bit (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123378)

The Fairlight CMI III with 16 bit sampling didn't come out until 1985.

The story []

More info here []

stylophone (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123382)

What? no rolf harris for the stylophone?

Oh Nooooooo!!! (1)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124117)

Now I'm going to have "Tie me kangaroo down" going through my head all evening along with a digeridoo and a wobble board.

The guy's gotta be 100 by now.

I loved the "Standards Body" (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123386)

"The three of us were in jeans and t-shirts, and the guy from Roland was in a suite." I guess they wouldn't be welcome today... Could be why we have empty pop now.

I have to admire this (1, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123400)

Its one of the few occasions when computing and math truly do come together

Re:I have to admire this (1)

Heretik (93983) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123442)

.... you're joking right?

Try looking up "computing" in the dictionary some time.

Giorgio Moroder (3, Funny)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123456)

Giorgio Moroder [] reigns Lord and inventor of electronic music. His pop-flavor made some think the man is Satan himself, but it was groundbreaking nonetheless.

Re:Giorgio Moroder (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123511)

If you are trying to say Giorgio was not the great blessed Satan I will hunt you down and kill you.

Re:Giorgio Moroder (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123651)

On the site:
Click here to contact Giorgio Moroder.
Please Note: Due to the sheer volume, Giorgio cannot answer every e-mail.


Hmm, if they say so, but email about Nigeria P-pills doesn't count.

more electronic heroes here (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124980)

At musicthing [] . Godfried is more than a little odd. []

I'd rather pay Dave (2, Interesting)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123489)

"and Dave Smith, the father of MIDI." "

I'd rather pay Dave when I installed ringtones on my cell phone than pay the cell company.

mod parent UP! (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124586)

Mod parent UP!

Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (5, Interesting)

Col. Bloodnok (825749) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123499) []

Delia Derbyshire.

Hugely overlooked, very interesting music.

She created the Dr. Who theme and was a huge influence on the BBC radiophonic workshop. BBC Radio 4 did a very interesting afternoon play about her recently.

Re:Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (1, Redundant)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123642)

Again, this is not about Electronic Music, the genre, but about music in elctronic form, which has nothing to do with the genre.

Re:Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (1)

negative3 (836451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123955)

How is writing a theme song on par with creating the MOOG or MIDI?

To quote Jules Winfield from Pulp Fiction, writing an electronica theme song and creating the synthesizer that the composer uses "ain't the same ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same fuckin' sport".

I'm not saying the Dr. Who theme song didn't have an influence, but....I think I've expressed myself properly in the last paragraph.

Re:Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (4, Insightful)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124136)

it's not a competition.. he's just mentioning another very influencial name here.

Derbyshire did a lot of really interesting (and yes, pioneering) studio work, involving manipulating taped sine waves and all sorts of weird stuff. Chill out. Almost everyone who was working on electronic music in those days was part of inventing the tools to do so. It's not like she sat down for 5 minutes with Reason.

Re:Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124670)

Yes, he should listen to Reason.

Re:Delia Derbyshire - Dr. Who. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124311)

I feel like throwing in Walter/Wendy Carlos. So here [] it is.

Moog ? Moogs ? (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123505)

Bubble Boy: "Moors!!"
George: "Moops!!"

I guess the answer is 'Moogs' after all :) test

Re:Moog ? Moogs ? (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123542)

Hmrp, anyone could tell me how I could link an word as a url, as
would do in html ?

Guess I should have previewed it so I could at least link to the appropriate site for any info on the clueless. let/showid-112/epid-2287/ []

Re:Moog ? Moogs ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123644)

<a href="URL">DESCRIPTION</a>

<a href="">Search the Web!</a>
<a href="">News for idiots.</a>
<a href="">Linux kernel source.</a>
<a href="">test</a>

Re:Moog ? Moogs ? (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123795)

I would have sworn I have tried that the other day, before frustratingly giving up. Guess I fudged up.

Re:Moog ? Moogs ? (1)

recursiv (324497) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123724)

Hmmm.. that's actually not HTML. Here is the HTML 4.0.1 reference [] . No url tag.

Re:Moog ? Moogs ? (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123779)

Agh, at 5am getting html and forum-board scripting all messed up :)
Thanks for pointing that out anyways.

Remember those .mod files? (3, Insightful)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123527)

Back in the day when bandwidth was an issue, there was a format that was half midi half sound samples. The sound was convincing (ie it didn't sound like a cheap keyboard) considering the size and it was a good compromise between a file containing essentially sheet music and a straight-up 50 meg wave file. Whoever came up with that, high five.

Re:Remember those .mod files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123711)

it wasn't really any different to midi, except mod files included the sound bank to use in the file itself.

Re:Remember those .mod files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124328)

Actually, for a lot of boring reasons that no one will care about, the format was quite lacking compared to midi.

Re:Remember those .mod files? (2, Informative)

don.g (6394) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123881)

MOD files were used with Amiga computers -- it's no accident that the format (four voices, 8-bit samples) maps directly to what the Amiga's sound hardware was capable of doing.

Later similar file formats like S3M utilised more advanced sound hardware available for the PC, like the Gravis Ultrasound (or the alternative for those of us with less money, a lot of CPU time). Not being stuck with the limitations of the Amiga's sound hardware, these were capable of producing higher quality sound.

Re:Remember those .mod files? (0)

radish (98371) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124110)

To be fair they were used on Atari STs as well, which had similar sound hardware (until the STE which had multichannel 16bit though a DSP). MODs were cool :)

Atari ST sound capabilities (1)

SenorCitizen (750632) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125420)

To be fair they were used on Atari STs as well, which had similar sound hardware (until the STE which had multichannel 16bit though a DSP).

No it didn't. The ST's had a 3-channel Yamaha YM2149 FM sound chip that didn't do native sample playback, which in itself was a hack. Sounded really bad too.

The STE's had 8-bit DAC's, but IIRC there were only two of them, so software mixing for MOD playback was still needed. That DSP you're thinking of was in the Falcon, the floppy ST sequel that finally passed the Amiga in sound capabilities -- 8-channel 16-bit, although I'm not sure if the Moto DSP mixed these in software, or if there was a dedicated chip...

Re:Remember those .mod files? (2, Insightful)

Explo (132216) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125390)

The father of the .mod files is Karsten Obarski [] (I can still remember listening the Sleepwalk and other pretty much very first mods, how damn fine they sounded those days around '87...)

As an old-time Amiga fan, I'll have to note that there were also trackers (as the .mod and friends composing programs were/are known) that could play more than 4 sounds on the basic Amiga 500 sound hardware since late 80's. OctaMED [] (these days pretty much Windows only, but older Amiga versions do exist), Digibooster Pro and Octalzyer are good examples of these.

Re:Remember those .mod files? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124087)

Yep, there were (and are) some great songs in that format.

See the Mod Archive [] for thousands of tracks. Their Top 10 lists [] have a good sampling.

the first commercial synthesiser ? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123564)

while Moog was a pioneer and respecty is due, he was not even close to the "first"

but dont take my word for it, go look it up []

synthesisers have been around for 120 years !

wow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123576)

Dave Smith? That's my mechanic! I had no idea he was also the father of MIDI... he's never brought it up before.

120 Years Of Electronic Music (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123589)

i hate it when people say "XXXXXX was the first" without even looking it up, 0.75 seconds on a quick google search says


120 Years Of Electronic Music


The origins of electronic music can be traced back to the audio analytical work of Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894) the German physicist, mathematician and author of the seminal work "SENSATIONS OF TONE: Psychological Basis for Theory of Music" (c1860). Helmholtz built an electronically controlled instrument to analyse combinations of tones the "Helmholtz Resonator", using electromagnetically vibrating metal tines and glass or metal resonating spheres the machine could be used for analysing the constituent tones that create complex natural sounds. Helmholtz was concerned solely with the scientific analysis of sound and had no interest in direct musical applications, the theoretical musical ideas were provided by Ferruccio Busoni, the Italian composer and pianists who's influential essay "Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music" was inspired by accounts of Thaddeus Cahill's 'Telharmonium'.
1870-1915: Early Experiments

The first electronic instruments built from 1870 to 1915 used a variety of techniques to generate sound: the tone wheel (used in the Telharmonium and the Chorelcello)- a rotating metal disk in a magnetic field causing variations in an electrical signal, an electronic spark causing direct fluctuations in the air (used uniquely in William Duddell's "Singing Arc' in 1899) and Elisha Grey's self vibrating electromagnetic circuit in the 'Electronic Telegraph', a spin-off from telephone technology. The tone wheel was to survive until the 1950's in the Hammond Organ but the experiments with self oscillating circuits and electric arcs were discontinued with the development of vacuum tube technology.
1915-1960: The Vacuum Tube Era.

The engineer and prolific US inventor Lee De Forest patented the first Vacuum tube or triode in 1906, a refinement of John A. Fleming's electronic valve. The Vacuum tube's main use was in radio technology but De Forest discovered that it was possible to produce audible sounds from the tubes by a process known as heterodyning. twentieth century by radio engineers experimenting with radio vacuum tubes. Heterodyning effect is created by two high radio frequency sound waves of similar but varying frequency combining and creating a lower audible frequency, equal to the difference between the two radio frequencies (approximately 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). De Forest was one amongst several engineers to realise the musical potential of the heterodyning effect and in 1915 created a musical instrument, the "Audion Piano" . Other instruments to first exploit the vacuum tube were the 'Theremin' (1917) 'Ondes Martenot' (1928), the 'Sphäraphon' (1921) the 'Pianorad' (1926). The Vacuum tube was to remain the primary type of audio synthesis until the invention of the integrated circuit in the 1960's.
1960-1980: Integrated Circuits.

Integrated Circuits came into widespread use in the early 1960's. Inspired by the writings of the German instrument designer Harald Bode, Robert Moog, Donald Buchla and others created a new generation of easy to use, reliable and popular electronic instruments.
1980-present: Digital.

The next and current generation of electronic instruments were the digital synthesisers of the 1980s. These synthesisers were software controlled offering complex control over various forms of synthesis previously only available on extremely expensive studio synthesisers. Early models of this generation included the Yamaha DX range and the Casio CZ synthesisers. []

Re:120 Years Of Electronic Music (0, Redundant)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123635)

OMG. This is not about Electronic Music, the genre, but about music in elctronic form, which has nothing to do with the genre.

Re:120 Years Of Electronic Music (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123914)

Which is why "electronic music" goes back over a century.

Get some coffe in ya. And look up "genre" while yer at it ;-)

Re:120 Years Of Electronic Music (1)

negative3 (836451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124014)

I'm not sure the part about Helmholtz being first was useful. To quote the article, "Helmholtz was concerned solely with the scientific analysis of sound and had no interest in direct musical applications." Pythagoras had a great deal to say about the mathematical underpinings of music. Why isn't he the first by centuries? You also have to think about the impact of people's inventions. Mention the word MOOG to any musician and they will instantly know what is meant by that. Same with MIDI. I don't know anything about Fairlight, but that's probably not unreasonable as well.

Re:120 Years Of Electronic Music (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124321)

Too bad De Forest didn't understand his own invention well enough to actually make it useful in radio. Fortunately we had Edwin Armstrong for that.

pioneers? I don't think so. (0)

Triv (181010) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123652)

Electronic music [] has been around since 1900 and really picked up steam after the German invention of magnetic tape during World War II. 1979's three decades too late.


Re:pioneers? I don't think so. (0, Flamebait)

black mariah (654971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123773)

RTFA, dipshit. We're talking about the guy that COMMERCIALIZED synthesizers, the man that fucking INVENTED sampling, and the guy that invented MIDI. Yes, they're pioneers and only retards that didn't read the fucking article are going to say anything otherwise.

Yes, there were other, even commercial, pioneers (4, Informative)

antispam_ben (591349) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124759)

the man that fucking INVENTED sampling

'Sampling' was first done in the analog domain, by an instrument named the Mellotron. It had an organ keyboard with a magnetic tape, tape head, and capstan mechanism under each key, and activated whem the key was pressed. The samples were factory-recorded (for new sounds you had to record a new tape for each key) and the machine was playback-only, but it fits the name sampler. It was used by the Beatles ("Strawberry Fields Forever"), King Crimson, and most of the Moody Blues albums of the '60's and '70's, among others. And yes, the Mellotron was a commercial product.

Re:Yes, there were other, even commercial, pioneer (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125263)

I though the Mellotron was the one with tow sounds - one of which doesn't sound like a string section and the other doesn't sound like a female choir.

Fairlight & Moog (4, Interesting)

0m3gaMan (745008) | more than 9 years ago | (#12123695)

Both watershed instruments of their day.

I got to meet Dr. Moog (rhymes with 'vogue') about ten years ago. Affable, intelligent guy. He's the Les Paul/Leo Fender of the synthesizer. His current company is Big Briar, which make very cool (albeit expensive) effects pedals.

Fairlight: The "original" OS9! ;-) For anybody who wants a sample (heh) of what the Fairlight CMI can do, Jan Hammer really brought it to the fore with his contributions to the 'Miami Vice' sountrack. I believe the CMI is also on Herbie Hancock's 'Future Shock' album and his others of the mid-80s.

Re:Fairlight & Moog (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124144)

Also I believe it was used for the opening chords to Planet Rock.. ;-) Absolutely wicked tune.

Re:Fairlight & Moog (2, Informative)

macshit (157376) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124247)

His current company is Big Briar, which make very cool (albeit expensive) effects pedals.

His company is now called Moog Music [] -- previously there was somebody else who owned the rights to the name "Moog", but apparently he's won them back. I'm not sure if he's retired the name Big Briar or whether they simply exist in parallel.

Their signature product is a modern version of the classic Minimoog synthesizer, called the Minimoog Voyager [] -- very, very cool (albeit expensive :-).

Also check out Dave Smith's current company, Dave Smith Instruments [] . They make a similarly cool, though quite different (and much less expensive) synthesizer called the Evolver [] , and are currently gearing up for a keyboard version [] .

One interesting thing is that both Moog and Dave Smith clearly have taken to heart the experience of having had their respective companies fail in the '70s, and seem to be trying very hard to avoid the excesses which caused those previous failures. Until fairly recently, I think D.S.I. was basically a one-man company (and still, if you send email with a problem or suggestion, it will probably be Dave Smith who answers...).

List is incomplete without Kurzweil (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12123750)

Ray Kurzweil is notably absent from the Maestro list....

What about John Chowning.... (4, Interesting)

Rod Beauvex (832040) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124177)

...inventor of FM Synthesis? []

Appropriate (4, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124269)

I was just yesterday viewing a video from Teacher's TV of Jim and Caroline Corr and a sound engineer showing how they produced one of their songs.

I was struck by the fact that it starts from a few basic chords and by the time they get done with it, it takes 50 or 60 laid-down tracks to produce what you hear on the record - which is then "duplicated" on stage by six people and some instruments for the live performance...

What struck me is how a live performance sounds much (if not exactly) like the record with far fewer electronic efforts. Makes you wonder if the electronic effects are really worth it. Obviously it many cases, depending on the song, it is. Enya, for example, can hardly play her stuff live at all because of the production values in her records. But others, like the Corrs, have no problem.

Would it be more cost effective for many bands to drop the effects and play it "straight"? In some cases, maybe, in others, it might be a disaster.

I've noticed that Andrea Corr's voice is sometimes barely recognizable on the record - due to the fact that I have seen her sing live (on video) more often than I've heard the recorded songs. So I'm more used to her "real" voice than the processed and synthesized one. This effect only fades if I watch a video where the Corrs lip-sync to the record (which many TV shows appearances require).

I tend to prefer the "real" voice to the processed one. I wonder how many others prefer their favorite singer's "real" voice over the recorded versions? Or a "real" performance over a "produced" one?

simple (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124600)

Watch bernie worrells biography, he mastered the moog, his a modern day boch. []

Re:Appropriate (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12125074)

One of the 'problems' with this, the reason it doesn't happen all that much, is because most musicians and/or producers are artists. They think like artists and behave like artists. If they could, they'd make their live performances sound more like the CDs, not the other way around.

A lot of songs are actually written in the studio during the recording period .. Somebody has some ideas for lyrics, somebody thinks they've got something that will go well with it, and so on .. the addition of 'effects' is a live part of the recording process.

Bands on low budgets or who've never recorded before usually come in with whole songs, ready to go .. this can be a minor nightmare for the recording technician depending on the quality of the players, the instruments being used, and the studio .. but in general it's what creates the "I like their old stuff better than their new stuff" phenomenon..

When they've got a budget, a contract to make an album, or they're a band signed to a label which has affiliations with the studio, they usually don't come in with much at all .. They've often been touring until the week before, promoting their previous album. They come in with scraps of lyrics, they try to remember a few riffs they thought of one night .. They have no choice but to use the recording process as an integral part of the music creation .. The mixing and effects are another instrument in the band.

TaTcO (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12124420)

If you do NOt []

And what about Les Paul (5, Informative)

gnu-sucks (561404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12124965)

Lets see... Les Paul invented:

1) Multitrack recording

2) Echo, and flange effects

3) Electric Guitar

4) Electronic Synth

I mean, come on people...

Re:And what about Les Paul (1)

kronocide (209440) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125375)

Don't forget sliced bread.

Wendy Carlos -- Switched On Bach (1)

kronocide (209440) | more than 9 years ago | (#12125367)

It's funny, I was reading the sleeve notes to Wendy Carlos's "Switched-On Bach" last night. The record, from 1968, seems like a joke, but it's nothing but and amazingly well-sounding for having been made in the 60's. Bob Moog was personally involved in this project, and many improvements to his synth were made to accommodate the artistic needs of classical music.
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