October 16th, 1964

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October 16th, 1964: The birthday of Analog Synthesis

Yes
2
13%
No
12
75%
Very Debatable (please explain your thoughts)
2
13%
 
Total votes: 16

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October 16th, 1964

Post by saltmiser » Thu May 15, 2008 1:33 am

If you recognize the date in the topic, then I guess the answer to my question is yes..

Anyway, the date in the topic is the day Robert Moog presented his first Modular Moog to the Audio Engineering Society..could we say this is the by-date birthday of analog synthesis?

http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=604

Sorry if this belongs in off topic..but what do you guys think?

Edit: I think it is, since wasn't Robert Moog the big pioneer in analog synthesis? If so, this was the day he told the world about his new invention. Sure I guess he could have just made a few and sold them but he must have figured it'd be better to formally present it.

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Post by Johnny Lenin » Thu May 15, 2008 2:07 am

Well, it's a tautology if you define analog synthesis in terms of the technology developed by Moog. There had been earlier synthesizers based on similar -- though not exactly the same principles -- even the first electronic musical instrument to be called a synthesizer, the RCA Mk. I, in 1952. It would be more accurate to say that 16 Oct 1964 was the birth of voltage-controlled analog synthesis [and I'm not even sure how accurate that is].

Despite Trevor Pinch's insistence that the Moog synthesizer was sui generis, it employed features that had been used in the RCA Mk. I. And Pinch is dead wrong that Moog's work wasn't informed by knowledge of the RCA project. In fact, Moog, then an engineering student, was one of the first people to request technical details of the RCA Synthesizer when it was made public in 1955. And, as an engineering student, he would certainly have read the detailed article published by Herbert Belar and Harry Olson in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in May of that year.

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Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu May 15, 2008 2:56 am

You mean anniversary, not birthday. Only things that are born have birthdays.

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Post by Johnny Lenin » Thu May 15, 2008 3:01 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:Only things that are born have birthdays.
Some of them have anniversaries, too. And if you forget that, you're sleeping on the couch.

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Post by Shanesaw » Thu May 15, 2008 3:08 am

I'm gonna say no.

I think this was in another post somewhere:

http://www.discretesynthesizers.com/nova/intro.htm

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Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu May 15, 2008 3:25 am

Johnny Lenin wrote:
Stab Frenzy wrote:Only things that are born have birthdays.
Some of them have anniversaries, too. And if you forget that, you're sleeping on the couch.
This is true, although my couch is very comfortable.

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Post by mpa1104 » Thu May 15, 2008 3:32 am

Well, I'm voting Very Debatable, mainly because there was no specific limitation on the type of instrument and whether you need to involve electricity at all, in which case I would argue that analogue additive synthesis began somewhere around the 1400s when the humble portative (the first keyboard instrument) had grown to about this size:

Image

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Post by saltmiser » Thu May 15, 2008 10:50 pm

That article on the novachord is sweet, I always figured there'd be a tube driven synth around somewhere I just never knew where or by who.

So, could we call this the day that allowed synthesis to get popular? Since compared to the RCA Mark 1 and mpa1104's pipe organ (:P), Robert Moog's synths seemed pretty portable, and probably inexpensive as well. Also I don't think there's too many novachords around since that guy's website says there's only about 1000 of them in existence. And, once people became interested in Moog's stuff, that's probably when other companies looking at this field figured the time was right to make some nice synths to compete. What do you guys think?

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Post by Johnny Lenin » Fri May 16, 2008 1:21 am

Well... the early Moog modulars were anything but portable, and they were not meant for performance so much as recording. And they weren't exactly affordable. According to Trevor Pinch, the first full modular system sold to Eric Siday cost $1,400 in 1965, which would be about $10,000 in 2008 dollars. I remember reading that Wendy Carlos's system cost $5000 in 1968, which would be $30,000 in today's money. Certainly, they were less expensive than the RCA synthesizers -- which were both one-offs and never intended for commercial sale -- but hardly mass-market items.

On the other hand, Moog Music was the first company set up to sell synthesizers, so perhaps we could say that the date is the anniversary of the commercialization of the synthesizer [since Moog made some sales at the conference].

IMO, what made synthesizers popular was the introduction of the MiniMoog. It sold for $1,200 at its introduction in 1970 -- equal to about $6,500 today -- was actually portable and could be played live feairly easily. Not sure what date it was actually introduced, though.

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Post by saltmiser » Fri May 16, 2008 1:49 am

@Johnny Lenin; well I was considering the Minimoog as the "takeoff" for synthesis..this is all for a research paper btw (due tomorrow of course :P), and I figured going back to the roots of Robert Moog's history would be best, since without the modular moog the minimoog probalby wouldn't exist. That, and keith emerson used a modular moog in karn evil 9 which also has a part in my paper..at least for the studio recording. You're right about the whole Moogs-were-designed-to-be-sold thing though; that's also what I was pointing at when I said the date was significant.

ftr; my paper is about the postmodernism movement; and how synthesis contributed to music of the postmodernist era (seeing as how we're still in postmodernism..yeah look at this forum..). The Karn Evil 9 has to do with a "perfect world", but run by computers; which is what modernism/postmodernism goes for, a "perfect society." I have to pick a certain date that is significant to the postmodernist era, and I figured the date robert moog introduced his synth formally would be good, since without the moog where would we be?

Thanks to everybody so far for helping me with identifiying the significance of this date; I might cite this thread in my paper..

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Post by Johnny Lenin » Fri May 16, 2008 2:17 am

That's interesting, since my PhD research is riffing in some of the same areas.

I know you don't have time for it, but if you did, I'd direct you to Fredric Jameson's article "Postmodernism and Consumer Society," which you might find useful... actually, it's online here. One way to think of postmodernism/ity is not as something that follows or supercedes modernism/ity, but is contained within it: there is something very modern about the postmodern critique of modernity, and the postmodern can't exist without the modern. What's the point of dismissing grand narratives if there are none grand narratives? Very schizophrenic. In effect, I'm not sure postmodernism is a movement so much as a critical attitude to modernity.

I'd like to see your paper when you finish it. Please PM me. In return, I'll share a couple of short papers I wrote earlier this year that you can plunder for quotes and citations -- just PM me your e-mail address.

And without Robert Moog, we probably wouldn't be playing synths with piano keyboards... but that's another story.

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Post by saltmiser » Fri May 16, 2008 2:56 am

I'll post it as a PDF right here, or link it to my server or something. Mind you, this is for my 11th grade CP english class. :P I'll try to make it good though, this topic actually interests me..

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Post by Dr. Sound » Fri May 16, 2008 4:45 am

Didn't Bob Moog admit getting ideas after seeing Raymond Scott's huge setup on his estate in Long Island, NY? I think this is mentioned in the Moog documentary perhaps.

If I recall, Scott used a series of traffic light switches as a huge step sequencer to control oscillators he had build in a machine shop he had on his premises. He is purported to have made Moog promise not to copy the design for his own step sequencer designs.

Please correct me if I am wrong. This would of course shift the timeline in question, as Scott used his analog setup in the late 1950's for the infamous Bufferin aspirin commercial and earlier.

''Raymond Scott was an inventor of synthesizers as far back as the 1940s."

http://www.raymondscott.com/

from the site:

Q: What is the name of the ''assembly-line'' (or ''conveyor-belt,'' or ''factory,'' or ''construction,'' or ''robot'') music I've heard in so many cartoons?
A: The title is "Powerhouse", and it was written, performed, and first recorded by Raymond Scott in 1936.
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Post by pour_furets » Fri May 16, 2008 7:58 am

Johnny Lenin wrote:It would be more accurate to say that 16 Oct 1964 was the birth of voltage-controlled analog synthesis [and I'm not even sure how accurate that is].
What of Hugh LeCaine's electronic sackbut? The first prototype was built in 1945. It used voltage control to alter the timbre of the note played. This was little more than selecting different waveshapes, but it was a big step toward what synthesizers would become by the 1960s.

I'd have to do more research to find out, but I'm curious where Buchla was with his synthesizers in 1964. I'd always read that they pretty much developed their instruments independently but concurrently.
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Post by Automatic Gainsay » Fri May 16, 2008 7:19 pm

"Well, it's a tautology if you define analog synthesis in terms of the technology developed by Moog. There had been earlier synthesizers based on similar -- though not exactly the same principles -- even the first electronic musical instrument to be called a synthesizer, the RCA Mk. I, in 1952. It would be more accurate to say that 16 Oct 1964 was the birth of voltage-controlled analog synthesis [and I'm not even sure how accurate that is]. "

I would, to some degree, have to go along with what Johnny Lenin said.
However, to effectively answer this question, the terms have to be defined. Since so many are so willing to have words like "analog," "synthesis," and "synthesizer" be so vague, it's really an impossible question to answer.

If I were to answer the spirit of your question, I would define the words thusly:
1. Analog: when electronically produced sounds have an equivalence in electrical impuse and resultant soundwaves. (which is to say that pipe organs are not actually "analog," they produce soundwaves without any sort of conversion from electrical impulse to soundwave) (forgive my lame-a*s nomenclature)
2. Synthesis: when individual aspects are combined to form a whole... but in the case of "analog synthesis," when noise generating electrical components are combined with noise filtering and amplitude controlling components to generate electrical impulses which are analogous to soundwaves, and are converted to them.

If we can agree to those terms (and I'm sure many of you won't want to, for whatever reason), then it is still difficult to say when analog synthesis had its start. There have been lots of analog devices with synthesis aspects throughout the 20th century, and many of them have come very close to what we consider "analog synthesizers."
I would agree with Johnny Lenin that the origin of voltage controlled analog synthesis happened in that period... but since Don Buchla independently came up with the same process, it's hard to say that Moog was the inventor, or at least, the sole inventor.
What I think we can all agree on is that the origin of voltage controlled synthesis was around that date in the 60s.
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