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3 Electronic Maestros Interviewed 133

Posted by timothy
from the thomas-dolby-soundtrack-in-background dept.
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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3 Electronic Maestros Interviewed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:39PM (#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.
    • by Dzimas (547818) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @10:06PM (#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.

      • 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.

        By the time Series III reached the market which was around 1987, Akai already


      • In The Art of Digital Music [artofdigitalmusic.com], Police drummer Stewart Copeland talks about scoring The Equalizer: "I had to turn over a show every week, and I did the first half of the first season with just the eight monophonic, 8-bit voices on that Fairlight. It was a chunky kind of sound, but it was one that most people hadn't heard before. So it registered as fresh.

        "The Fairlight was very unfriendly for players. It was more something that you programmed. But that was perfect for me, because I'm not a keyboard player.
  • Just in case... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ImaLamer (260199) <`john.lamar' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:41PM (#12123341) Homepage Journal
    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    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".
  • stylophone (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @08:48PM (#12123382)
    What? no rolf harris for the stylophone?
    • 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.
  • "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.
  • Its one of the few occasions when computing and math truly do come together
  • by Hao Wu (652581) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:00PM (#12123456) Homepage
    Giorgio Moroder [giorgiomor...allery.com] reigns Lord and inventor of electronic music. His pop-flavor made some think the man is Satan himself, but it was groundbreaking nonetheless.
  • I'd rather pay Dave (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AtariAmarok (451306) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:04PM (#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.

  • by Col. Bloodnok (825749) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:07PM (#12123499)
    http://www.delia-derbyshire.org/ [delia-derbyshire.org]

    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.
    • Again, this is not about Electronic Music, the genre, but about music in elctronic form, which has nothing to do with the genre.
    • 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.
    • Indeed, although the theme was composed by someone else, she assembled the whole thing. Even today the lead line of the Dr Who remains largely unchanged, nobody has managed to better that huge lead sound.
  • Bubble Boy: "Moors!!"
    George: "Moops!!"

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

  • by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:12PM (#12123527) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
      • 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 :)
        • 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 Ami

      • The father of the .mod files is Karsten Obarski [wikipedia.org] (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 [octamed.co.uk] (these days pretty much Windows only, but older Amiga versions do exist), Digibooster Pro and
    • Yep, there were (and are) some great songs in that format.

      See the Mod Archive [modarchive.com] for thousands of tracks. Their Top 10 lists [modarchive.com] have a good sampling.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 [obsolete.com]

    synthesisers have been around for 120 years !
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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

    Origins:

    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 t
    • 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 kn
    • 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.
  • Fairlight & Moog (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0m3gaMan (745008) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @09:44PM (#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.

    • Also I believe it was used for the opening chords to Planet Rock.. ;-) Absolutely wicked tune.
    • Re:Fairlight & Moog (Score:3, Informative)

      by macshit (157376) *
      His current company is Big Briar, which make very cool (albeit expensive) effects pedals.

      His company is now called Moog Music [moogmusic.com] -- 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 [moogmusic.com] -- very, very cool (albeit expensive :-).

      Also check out Dave Smith's
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ray Kurzweil is notably absent from the Maestro list....
  • by Rod Beauvex (832040) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @11:08PM (#12124177)
    ...inventor of FM Synthesis? [wikipedia.org]
  • Appropriate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @11:29PM (#12124269) Homepage

    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?

    • Watch bernie worrells biography, he mastered the moog, his a modern day boch. http://www.strangermovie.com/ [strangermovie.com]
    • Re:Appropriate (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @02:49AM (#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.

  • by gnu-sucks (561404) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @02:22AM (#12124965) Journal
    Lets see... Les Paul invented:

    1) Multitrack recording

    2) Echo, and flange effects

    3) Electric Guitar

    4) Electronic Synth

    I mean, come on people...
  • 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.
    • SOB is the well known record, but Carlos improved considerably on the techniques used. The Well Tempered Synthesizer is a much better album in many respects, and by the time of the Switched-On Brandenburgs she'd taken the Moog synth as far as it could go in that area.

      Well worth checking out are the Sonic Seasonings album (very early ambient soundscapes) and the soundtrack to Tron which features loads of Moog bass goodness together with live orchestra and early digitial synthesis.
  • "[Q]: Was anyone else working on the digital synthesis of sound?

    [A]: I heard that Stanford University was doing some interesting work. I went over to visit them and they had rather large computers that churned away for 10 minutes and played one note."
  • film out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rishistar (662278)
    This comes up as a slashdot story the day after I get info about a Moog film [imdb.com] being shown at my local cinema.
  • I know jack about making music, but I have had a copy of Science and Music by Sir James Jeans for some time and recently got interested in the mathematics of harmony. Which brings up an interesting question:

    Is there any equipment/software that plays chords using true small-number-ratio intervals (3:5, 5:6, etc.) rather than the nearly-correct ratios given by the 2^(n/12) intervals in the common tuning?

    Better, is there something that can be programmed to do both in the same sequence? Or simultaneously as

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