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News from the World of Vintage Synthesizers

If you’re fascinated by the world of vintage synthesizers, you’re gonna love this.

First, Jim points us to Collectors Weekly, which talks about the rise of the synth sound:

In the summer of 1970, after popping into a pub for a pint, rock keyboardist Keith Emerson sat down at his enormous Moog modular synthesizer in London’s legendary Advision recording studio and noodled a few improvised notes. His goal was to add some electronic punch to the end of a mostly acoustic-guitar number called “Lucky Man,” written by his singer-guitarist bandmate, Greg Lake. As his fingers ran up and down the synthesizer’s keyboard, Emerson played along to the bass, drums, vocals, and guitars already recorded by Lake and drummer Carl Palmer. Their contributions were lovely, imbued with the traditional rhythms and melodies of folk music and warmed by the human voice. In contrast, Emerson’s notes were otherworldly, rising and falling in syrupy sweeps, as if propelled through a rollercoaster of resonant tubes.

Emerson would later say he was just fooling around, and that he definitely did not expect his first take to be his last, but Lake and sound engineer Eddie Offord liked what they heard so much, they deemed Emerson’s work on “Lucky Man” done.

The following year, in 1971, Pete Townshend of The Who patched a few simple chords played on a regular Lowrey organ through an EMS VCS 3 synthesizer to produce the bouncy, almost shivering, sequence that introduces and closes “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” And by the summer of 1972, Pink Floyd would use an EMS Synthi AKS, as well as the VCS 3, on just about every track of its “Dark Side of the Moon” album, cementing the synthesizer’s reputation as an instrument that knew how to rock.

Keep reading.

On a related not, a very rare Doctor Who synth has been restored

EMS Synthi 100

…while another non-working model has been put up for sale on eBay for just £70,000. (Via Tom)

EMS Synthi 100 copy

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “News from the World of Vintage Synthesizers

  • Hi Alan, thanks for the mention of my work on the UoM Synthi 100. The clip is from late 2014 when the 100 was first re-energised after decades in storage. In March 2015, I presented a talk/demonstration about the background of EMS and the 100. I featured Tristram Cary’s concept of manipulating sound without razorblades, demonstrated 16 channel CV as audio!
    In 2016 I presented the first Synthi 100 live and interactive concert with live musicians. Two sold out live performances with the Synthi 100 centre stage, mixed to quad with 4 Subs (70’s quad ‘old school’ and LF spacial summing was just superb)
    No tuning problems! Tuned all 20 osc’s to 440 (3 x LF osc’s to 110), six days later including moving to the performance venue (MRC) powered up, patched up and the ocs’s were 398-441Hz, a minor touch up and we ran a 2hour rehearsal and two back to back performances across 6 hours without re-tuning.
    Not one item was tuned to the Western scale or used the keyboard except the ‘1/6th tone white noise filtered to 1/6th tone intervals.
    It was a great analogue event, alternate tuning, experimental, 70’s quad and a 45yo Synthi 100 at its best. “In 2016, you have to love it” LesC.


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