New anthology of Michele Mercure's 80s synth music from the cassette underground

In the 1980s, Pennsylvania-based Michele Mercure was composing music for theater, film, and TV animation. After a trip to the Netherlands, she became inspired by the German kosmiche music scene of Kluster, Tangerine Dream, and the like. But Mercure cut her own path into experimental electronic music, weaving her synthetic, rhythmic soundscapes with strange samples and cut-up vocalizations, resulting in tracks that move between abstract and ambient dreamscapes and mechanized intensity. For decades, Mercure's self-released cassettes (under the name Michelle Musser) moved through underground trading circles but many of those recordings will now reach a wider group of heads. Beside Herself is a gorgeous 19-track Michele Mercure retrospective released today by the esteemed curators at RVNG Intl. and Freedom To Spend labels. To celebrate the release, Mercure and Mary Haverstick created the wonderful "Electronumentary" above. Below, one of the album tracks. From RVNG:

Mercure’s artistic path never ran through creative meccas New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, and then moving to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in her twenties, Mercure was already an adept musician when she encountered a local and lively theater scene, and was asked to score an unorthodox performance of Waiting for Godot. The experience was pivotal in marrying music and image for Mercure, and so she began making music for film, television, dance, and theater. It wasn’t until a long sojourn in Eindhoven, however, that she became transfixed by electronic music (ala Conrad Schnitzler, whom she would correspond with for years) that would inform her music to come.

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Moog's new flagship polyphonic synthesizer

Moog is finally releasing a new polyphonic analog synthesizer, its first polyphonic model since production stopped on the Memorymoog in 1985, and a direct descendant of the iconic-yet-monophonic Minimoog Voyager released in 2002. Above is the only image released so far of the new Moog One. It's priced at $6000 for the 8 voice model and $8,000 for the 16-voice model. From Sweetwater:

Powered by a sound engine with the most advanced architecture ever conceived for a Moog synth, Moog One is available in 8- and 16-voice versions that can simultaneously articulate eight or 16 voices, depending on the configuration of your instrument. The Moog One tri-timbral architecture lets you easily assign, split, layer, and stack voices with up to 48 oscillators in Unison mode...

Clad in a handcrafted ash cabinet, the Moog One aluminum front panel is fitted with 73 knobs and 144 buttons, welcoming hands-on interaction with all the sound-sculpting and performance controls. Extended on-screen functionality is accessed via More buttons (one for each module) that serve up additional parameters in the center-panel LCD to deliver the most intuitive and efficient synthesis experience possible.

Via Moog Music, a couple fine uses of the prior Moog Polymoog Synthesizer released in 1975:

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Rebirth of the Keytar!

Roland has announced the AX-Edge, a brand new keytar for synth players who want to "step into the spotlight." The AX-Edge, approximately $1000, features 49 full-sized keys, hundreds of preset tones, ribbon controller, and modulation bar, and Bluetooth MIDI. It's available in black or white and the "edge blades" on the instrument can be swapped to change the look.

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Gorgeous tiny synthesizers in wooden boxes

Love Hultén is a designer who builds gorgeous devices that merge faintly-retro stylings with digital guts (previously, previously, previously, and previously).

Now he's created the Bivalvia Synthesis, which is adorable and -- as this video shows -- capable of some lovely sounds ...

As he describes it:

The Bivalvia Synthesis is a small synthesizer toy based on Axoloti core, the open source hardware synth created by Johannes Taelman. The casing is handmade from wood and unfolds like a clamshell to reveal six dial/fader controllers combined with 15 high quality Cheery MX keys - 12 MIDI notes in chromatic scale, octave up/down and patch shifting. For output, there's stereo output on the back and a built-in full-range 15W speaker. Combined with Axoloti Patcher software - a user friendly and very graphic modular environment, you can create your own effects and sounds using oscillators (from subtractive to FM), filters, modulation, and much more. Simply connect the Bivalvia Synthesis to your computer via USB and start making objects. Build your own personal patch bank and store it on the built-in SD card.

Oooo I love it. Read the rest

Moby auctioning music gear to benefit animal rights group

Moby is selling more than 100 vintage synthesizers and a slew of other musical equipment to benefit the animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. His Reverb marketplace store opens tomorrow, April 26.

“This is the equipment I’ve used to make all my records,” Moby said. “I have so much equipment and almost all of it has profound sentimental value to me, including synthesizers I started using in the 80’s. But rather than keep it all in storage, I want to sell it for a good cause.”

From Reverb:

Among the items that Moby is parting with is a Roland Jupiter-6 that he calls the "crown jewel" of his synth collection, having used it on "almost every techno record I made, from Go to U.H.F. to Thousand." Before Moby acquired the Roland, it is fabled to have actually belonged to early techno musician and legendary producer Joey Beltram.

Other synths Moby will be selling include the Yamaha SY22 Vector that Moby used to rework “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from Twin Peaks for his song “Go” (the first single he released under his own name), a Yamaha SY85 he used on “Feeling So Real,” a Roland Juno-106 synth used to create the basslines on song “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” and “We Are All Made of Stars,” and a rare and unique Serge Series 79 Modular unit.

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Electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani explains synthesizers on kids TV show (1980)

On this 1980 episode of 3-2-1 Contact -- the excellent PBS kids TV show about science -- legendary experimental electronic musician Suzanne Ciani explains the basics of synthesizer technology. If you aren't hip to Ciani's music that spans avant-garde, classical, cinematic, and new age genres, I highly recommend you check out the fine anthologies and reissues of her work from the good people at Finders Keepers Records. Below, her stunning track "Paris 1971" from the compilation "Lixiviation 1968-1985." And you can check out Ciani live at this May's Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina.

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Keyboard Fantasies: exquisite New Age music you've never heard

In 1986, Canadian musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland recorded a stunning cycle of expansive, meditative, and uplifting synthesizer songs called Keyboard Fantasies. Self-released on cassette, that "New Age multilayered synthesizer music to relax, dance and sing with," as Glenn-Copeland described it, went mostly unheard even as he continued to compose soundtracks, musical theater for children, wrote for Sesame Street, and performed on the Canadian children's TV show Mr. Dressup. Now though, a beautiful reissue from the excellent Seance Centre label has brought Keyboard Fantasies into the sunlight where it belongs. Above, "The Lake Sutra," a brief documentary film following Glenn-Copeland, now in his 70s, to Huntsville, north of Toronto, where he recorded Keyboard Fantasies.

Beverly Glenn-Copeland's Keyboard Fantasies is available from Seance Center on vinyl and, of course, cassette.

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Cover of "Video killed the radio star" created entirely with a tablet

Dan Baker:

Here's my take on the Buggles' 1979 hit, "Video Killed the Radio Star", using NOTHING but the fantastic on-board sounds of GarageBand for iOS10: so unbelievably powerful... All vocal parts recorded using the internal mic, with lead vocal processed through the internal guitar amp simulator: the original 1979 vocal was played back through a VOX AC30 guitar amp to get that sound. Everything here mixed on the iPad as well, with lots of effects not fazing it in the slightest. "Alchemy" is an expensive sounding synth, also used on Logic Pro X, and the bass sound actually sounds like a Fender Precision.

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Interesting vintage documentary on how analog technologies changed the sound of music

Get ready to go down a rabbit hole of musique concrète documentaries, of which this one from 1979 was by far the most informative, with this clip especially interesting.. Read the rest

Doctor Who theme creator Delia Derbyshire awarded posthumous Ph.D.

Working from a traditional score by Ron Grainer, Delia Derbyshire created one of television and electronica's most distinctive works of music: the theme tune to Doctor Who. For her pioneering work with synthesizers, often in crudely sexist and exclusionary workspaces, she is being posthumously awarded a degree by Coventry University.

Due to BBC policies at the time, Grainer – unwillingly – is still officially credited as the sole writer.

Derbyshire stayed at the workshop for 10 years, recording sound for Inventions for Radio and Cyprian Queen – all in the days before modern synthesisers and machines. She was later approached by Paul McCartney to work on a backing track for the Beatles hit Yesterday.

But despite her talent and credit from her peers, Delia failed to gain widespread recognition during her lifetime, eventually becoming disillusioned with the industry and finding work as a radio operator in Cumbria.

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Deconstructing the synth score of Blade Runner (1982)

Justin Delay breaks down and recreates the otherworldly 1980s synth sounds of Vangelis's stunning score for the original Blade Runner.

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New documentary in production about electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick

Morton Subotnick is an 84-year-old avant-garde composer whose pioneering electronic music, and approach to musicmaking, influenced the likes of Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Four Tet, and countless techno artists. Subotnick helped Don Buchla design what was likely the first analog music synthesizer and used it to create his seminal psychedelic masterpiece, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), the first electronic music work commissioned by a major record company, Nonesuch/Elektra. (Fan-made video below.) Just a few years before, Subotnick co-founded the iconic San Francisco Tape Music Center that became a creative home for Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, and so many more incredible composers. And he's still making sounds. Now, Toronto's Waveshaper Media, the production company behind “I Dream Of Wires" and the forthcoming “Electronic Voyager" film about Bob Moog are working on a documentary about Subotnick. Support it on Indiegogo.

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Listen to a ten hour playlist of killer Moog music

In 1948, Robert Moog, age 14, was inspired by classical Theremin performer Clara Rockmore to build his own Theremin. Then in 1964 Moog designed a brand new kind of electronic instrument, a modular voltage-controlled synthesizer. That instrument and Moog's work since transformed the sound of modern music forever. To hear how, dive into this fantastic 10-hour Moog playlist:

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Moog Music introduces new Sonic Origins series

Moog just unveiled a new showcase of artists using their instruments. Sonic Origins starts things off with Russell E.L. Butler of Black Jeans, who thinks of the sounds "as an initiator of dialogue." Read the rest

Remaking the synth sounds of The Thing, Halloween, and Assault on Precinct 13

If you dig Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein's fantastic synthy soundtrack to Stranger Things, you need to dive into the 1980s electronic soundtracks of John Carpenter. Yes, Carpenter directed classics like Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, and Escape from New York, but he also scored the films himself. In the video above, Reverb's Justin DeLay unpacks Carpenter's soundtrack sound.

Synthesizers used in the video: Ensoniq ESQ-1, Roland Juno 106, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, MiniMoog Model D, Ableton Live, Roland 606.

"The Synth Sounds of John Carpenter" (reverb.com)

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Stranger Things soundtrack on vinyl, and covers by Tangerine Dream

Austin band Survive's masterful synth soundtrack to Stranger Things is available now digitally and at your local independent music shop on vinyl! Meanwhile, the surviving members of Tangerine Dream, a primary influence on Survivor's Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, released their own covers of the Stranger Things score! Listen to them below. And here's a bit from an excellent interview that Billboard's Gil Kaufman conducted with Dixon and Stein:

How did that main theme come to life?

It's an old demo Michael had, but it's nothing like what you hear... nowhere near as much of a piece of music as it is now. That was just some random thing that ended up in the library they had and when they found it they were like, 'what if this was the main title?' We thought it could be good, so we built it out. We've been wanting to get into music for TV and film for a long time, but we had no idea how. We've been passively creating libraries, weird droney noises... so we had this collection of songs that we were trying to figure out how present to people in film....

Without that previous (soundtrack) experience, how were you able to create music that spoke so deeply to the characters in the show?

They said our music was actually used to help cast the show. During the demo period they said, 'we know you can do dark and epic, but this is a show about a group of kids, so we need to show the producers that you can do the more lighthearted, sentimental stuff.' So a lot of the demos were like that.

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Listen to your images with Pixel Synth

Olivia Jack's Pixel Synth turns images into music, scanning across the pixels horizontally and interpreting brightness values as notes. The results are peculiar, obviously, but also strangely melodic. You can edit your image, too, or simply start with a blank canvas. Click "invert" for a synthesized moment of Hammer Horror. Advanced trippers can also edit the synth parameters and the drawing tool. Read the rest

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