Sunday, February 27, 2011

My interest in music was primarily from my mother's side of the family. My mom attended Oberlin college, played Cello and was a bit of a "folkie" in the 60s and 70s.

My early albums were um..eclectic and included "The Monkees", "Partridge Family", "Banana Splits", "Bridge over Troubled Water", and interestingly enough my mom bought me Autobahn when it came out.

I think it helped cure me of the other albums...'cepting S&G - still like them!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the interest of remaining chronological, I am deferring a description of my iMac and iPad synthesizer software. In the 90s my first serious electronica investment was a wavetable sound card that cost around $245 and had memory slots for 2 MB of memory which was more than I had on my motherboard at the time! The AWE32 sound card from Creative labs gave me wave table synthesis which was worlds better in sample quality than the cheap FM synth cards that were prevalent on most PCs.

I remember getting software to use my computer keyboard as a monophonic "piano" as well as getting software to create soundfonts. Using Cakewalk LE I was able to put together rudimentary tracks of sampled music and better still, was able to sample my kids voices, pop them onto a keyboard and "play" them as instruments.

I don't have anything I created at that time that was worthwhile to keep, but it was a blast learning how to make/shape sounds and build up soundfonts into instruments.

It wasn't until years later that I left Windows for more Mac based software - and I didn't care at all for Macs until the release of OS X. My own hardware at the time ran either Windows 9x or Linux (pre 1.0 releases).

For music options, though, there were at that time very few open source options so it was Windows or Mac.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Film day

In or around 1974, I was gathered up with my class and we walked single-file into one of the "pods" (don't ask, it was the 70s) to see a film-strip.

They lugged out the screen, projector and in minutes we were viewing a bizarre musical score on what looked like a sci-fi monstrosity of wires, keys and switches.

An old engineer and a young musician were describing making electronic music and played some really funky Bach pieces. Of course these were Bob Moog and (then) Walter Carlos.

The film was a few years old and was describing the engineering of the Moog synthesizer. I was absolutely enthralled. I had been playing trumpet for a few years and had never thought that anything interesting could come out of a machine like this, and lets face it, patch cables are cool!

More than anything, I think that film got me hooked on the idea of electronic music. It would be years before I would really have a chance to make some myself but I knew I wanted to try it. Shortly after that experience, I bought "Switched on Bach II" on 8-track so that it never had to end.

The only way that film could have had more of an impact would have been if they had shown us all A Clockwork Orange.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Electronic kit

Another early exposure to electronic music was a shrill electric organ that could be built with my 150 in 1 electronic kit.

Get all of the colored wires in just the right springs and bamo - a variable pitch sine wave. Sort of my first try at patching!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Intro to Electronica

In or around 1970, my folks purchased a Kimball organ with tons of pushbuttons, voices and pedals. I think this was the first exposure I had to an electronic instrument of any kind. I quickly found that I had no aptitude whatsoever for keyboard instruments, but that did not stop me from spending hours playing with various sounds on the organ or just mashing keys.

I think this more than anything started a fascination with sounds that weren't quite "natural" as music went. There were buttons for "brass", "strings", "trumpet" and many more that sounded almost entirely unlike the instruments they were supposed to emulate but they did do something to the sound! I think the organ we had was state of the art for the time by being mostly "solid-state" - meaning no vacuum tubes.