Don Buchla died. This is the Guardian’s obituary.

Although Moog is often credited with having invented the first modular synthesizer, Moog even admitted during his lifetime that Buchla was the first to have a full concept of how to put all the modules together to add up to an instrument. Buchla tended to avoid the term ‘synthesizer,’ preferring to use terms such as ‘electronic instrument.’

That is, I guess, the neatest summation of what I valued most about Buchla – who I came to late. Not just neat synthesizers with tangles of wire, but a clear understanding of how they were instruments. Whilst the System 100 and 200 are all obviously hugely important, for me, nothing summed that up more than the Music Easel. I might still write something about how perfect the Easel is as an electronic instrument; I’ve found that the more I stare at Buchla’s instruments, the more cleverly put together they are. (Not to be a downer on Moog, but some days, I’m sad how dominant the Moog-subtractive East-Coast model is. It’s a great model for synthesis, but god, therea re so many others.)

This also reminds meme of the work I did on Twinklr, and the work I’m continuing to do on something like an instrument:

“…if a designer expects to design legitimate instruments, he has to design them from the outside in,” Buchla continued. “He has to build the outside of the instrument first. This is what the musician is going to encounter. You cannot become obsolete if you design a legitimate instrument from the outside in.”

It was all there, right from the start, and he kept playing and making throughout his life. As somebody pointed out on Twitter: even if you don’t know his instrument or name, his influence is in every music studio in the world, every softsynth, every EDM track. It was all there.

Then again, maybe the most pertinent quotation from the obit is Suzanne Ciani:

“He never wore matching socks, but oddly, as an enthusiastic tennis opponent, always wore pristine tennis whites.”

  • In absolute agreement with Michael Cook: this is a great article about what procedurally generated sound is like – the answer being, a lot of up-front work on parameters before procedure kicks in; the role of the sound designer being in designing systems and simulations as well as sound (rather than *just* the sound); and most importantly, something that can be explained to a lay audience with truthful language, rather than hyperbole. A good piece of technology journalism.
  • Cracking article on John Chowning, who invented FM synthesis whilst at Stanford, and the long road to it becoming a commercial and creative prospect. Interesting on the relationship of IP to universities, but also fascinating on Chowning himself – a composer and musician, not a mathematician, who developed one of the hardest-to-understand forms of synthesis simply as a way to push the palette of timbres he could compose with. Brilliant.
  • "Currently your Arduino can only beep like a microwave oven. Mozzi brings your Arduino to life by allowing it to produce much more complex and interesting growls, sweeps and chorusing atmospherics. These sounds can be quickly and easily constructed from familiar synthesis units like oscillators, delays, filters and envelopes.

    You can use Mozzi to generate algorithmic music for an installation or performance, or make interactive sonifications of sensors, on a small, modular and super cheap Arduino, without the need for additional shields, message passing or external synths." Ooooooh