If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ...

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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by balma » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:38 pm

f**k vst-rojan corrupted my unfinished tracks database for the third time!!!!


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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by Roby31 » Sat Jul 17, 2010 11:52 pm

Phollop Willing PA wrote:This thread, is silly anyway. How can one say that a software emulation could ever be possible without hardware to use as a template for the program is beyond my logic capability.
Only if it is your thought that the software NEEDS something to emulate. The DX7 didn't emulate any synth that I know of and it was basically a computer software with dedicated interface like every other digital hardware or software synth.
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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by ninja6485 » Sun Jul 18, 2010 2:38 am

krzeppa wrote:This thread is definitely very interesting. If software did come first...and some significant time passed before any hardware synths came on to the market...what would we really be saying about them? It is really hard to know. Perhaps we would have all grown accustomed to the "software" sound. Maybe that would have been the "sound" of choice. Maybe we would have thought they sounded superior to hardware because we had grown up listening to software. People may have said things like..."Oh, that analog synth is pretty cool, but it is just not as good as a
softsynth." As funny as that sounds to me (and probably many of you), it would be weird/interesting/odd if that was they way we thought.
i don't know, i think what people like about hardware is little bit deeper then just growing up listening to it. Even if software came first, the qualitites that make hardware preferable to alot of people would still be there, unless they were just never developed. it's like we all used to eat cheesecake and french pastries, but now we're eating dairy-queen and milkyways. it's all good, and people have their preferences and practicality, but there's something a little extra and richer about the french pastry/ analog style hardware that is sort of intrensic regaurdless of when you experience it. i would even go as far as to compare my arp odyssey with my virus ti in that respect as well, and i love how they both sound.
it's entirely possible (even though anything is possible in this fantasy) that analog synths would have still been developed, but with a much greater array of digital controlls and what not, modoled after the software style of creating tone colors, whatever that would have been.
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by moremagic » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:10 pm

Roby31 wrote:
Phollop Willing PA wrote:This thread, is silly anyway. How can one say that a software emulation could ever be possible without hardware to use as a template for the program is beyond my logic capability.
Only if it is your thought that the software NEEDS something to emulate. The DX7 didn't emulate any synth that I know of and it was basically a computer software with dedicated interface like every other digital hardware or software synth.
Except the DX7 was preceded by the program Music 4 running on an IBM, which was where John Chowning first invented FM synthesis

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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by Roby31 » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:30 pm

moremagic wrote:
Roby31 wrote:
Phollop Willing PA wrote:This thread, is silly anyway. How can one say that a software emulation could ever be possible without hardware to use as a template for the program is beyond my logic capability.
Only if it is your thought that the software NEEDS something to emulate. The DX7 didn't emulate any synth that I know of and it was basically a computer software with dedicated interface like every other digital hardware or software synth.
Except the DX7 was preceded by the program Music 4 running on an IBM, which was where John Chowning first invented FM synthesis
This only strengthens my point. Softsynth that didn't emulate analogue gear.
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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by nvbrkr » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:23 pm

It being able to emulate electronic keyboards like the Rhodes or the B3 sure was a big selling point, though.

Oh yeah, and the marimba.

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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:49 pm

Yoozer wrote: says it all ;)
Solderman wrote:Purely hypothetically, the only way I see this could have happened is if no one bothered to pay attention to pre-1960's electronic music until computers had matured enough to handle reproducing it. Then it likely wouldn't be synthesis in its original meaning: Bringing different modules together to form a single voice. At least not at first.

I'd bet there would still have been lots of stuff done with tape, using the studio as an instrument, in the meantime.
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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by rschnier » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:31 am

Roby31 wrote:
moremagic wrote:
Roby31 wrote:Only if it is your thought that the software NEEDS something to emulate. The DX7 didn't emulate any synth that I know of and it was basically a computer software with dedicated interface like every other digital hardware or software synth.
Except the DX7 was preceded by the program Music 4 running on an IBM, which was where John Chowning first invented FM synthesis
This only strengthens my point. Softsynth that didn't emulate analogue gear.
Exactly. I think this brings up a good point -- the technology that ends up being used "first" to implement a synthesis technique tends to be the one that most-easily implements that technique at a given point in time. FM synthesis is technically possible to implement using only analog hardware, but it's very difficult/costly and cumbersome to accomplish that way. So the first practical implementation of FM was in software (and I do feel that the DX7 and its ilk was really a software synth that just came preloaded in its own dedicated computer).

In contrast, subtractive synthesis is much easier to implement using pure analog hardware than it is (or was, back in the 20th century) in software. Perhaps if embedded computer technology were sufficient to model analog hardware back in 1984 when the DX7 came out (as it was sufficient to implement FM), we would have seen analog modeling "synths" implemented inside music keyboards rather than running them on our standalone computers.
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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by cornutt » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:47 pm

moremagic wrote: Except the DX7 was preceded by the program Music 4 running on an IBM, which was where John Chowning first invented FM synthesis
Y'know, when I first read the OP, I thought, "what a ridiculous question". But then I thought about the MUSIC I-V programs (and their offspring, Csound), and realized it wasn't such a ridiculous question at all. IIRC, MUSIC I was originally written for a PDP-1 and so preceded the first Moogs by a few years. And don't forget, a hybird -- the RCA Synthesizer, with analog sound generation and digital control -- preceded them both.

The big thing that happened was that, in terms of price point, the analog hardware got there first. Analog synths were becoming affordable to (successful) musicians by the late '60s. Prior to that, both analog and digital methods had been mainly confined to academic and research settings, and so most of what came out of them was in the realm of "serious", avant-garde music. Some of that was good, some of it wasn't, but none of it enjoyed more than a microscopic public following. Digital synths didn't start to get in the average musician's price neighborhood until about 1980, and by then, analog had a ten-year head start.

I can conceive of circumstances in which it might have worked out the other way. What if the first ICs had been developed about five years earlier? What if Fairchild had gotten serious about pushing the F8 microprocessor for commercial applications, instead of just mainly military stuff? What if Bell Labs had viewed both MUSIC V and Unix as being more than just Murray Hill playtoys? It might be unrealistic to expect affordable soft-synths ten years before the Moog, but it's conceivable that they both might have gotten there at about the same time.

So a thought experiment: what if they did? Well, the history of electronic music might have been very different. Then again, it might not have. Consider: even if digital synthesis had been affordable for the 1970s musician, the technology of the day still wasn't going to produce a system capable of rendering in real time. I've heard some stuff that came out of MUSIC V in the early '70s, and it was explained to me that a three-minute track took all night to render. That's a h**l of a long time to wait just to find out that you have a clam in bar 12 and you need to fix it and run it again. It wasn't something you could take on stage with you. And between 1960 and 1980, live performance was huge in popular music -- even bigger than it is now. Yeah, you could tape the piece and play it back on stage, and you might get away with that on Ed Sullivan, but no way would you get away with it at the Fillmores. What we might have seen was a pop/rock synth scene and a classical synth scene that evolved to be about equal in size, but much different. The pop/rock scene would be about what we remember, but the classical scene would have been relying on the techniques that suited digital synthesis. The two camps would have sounded a lot different, and there might have been an intense rivalry between them.

Instead, the pop/rock (and fusion jazz) synth scene flourished, while the classical synth scene kind of withered away. By the time the digital synths became affordable, not too many in the classical world were interested anymore. What was left of it consisted mainly of people who bridged the gap between classical and rock, like Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, and to an extent, Larry Fast and the Tangerine Dream guys. I'm not really sure why that happened. I know that back in the late '60s, some of the classical guys felt that the analog synths were primitive compared to what they had been able to do with the pre-synth-era tape studio.

The other question -- supposing that digital technology had evolved so much faster that it would have been practical to build a real-time-playable digital synth in 1970 -- is probably a ridiculous question. If that had happened, our society would have evolved so differently that differences in electronic music would be lost in the noise.
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Re: If software synths had occured BEFORE hardware synths ..

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:54 pm

cornutt wrote:[everything you just said]
Well said, well written, and a very interesting and plausible viewpoint!

Some thoughts you inspired me to think:

20th Century composers (classical) were looking for anything that would allow them to create (and record) new timbres, and were drawn to (originally) electronic devices often cast off from the 2nd World War for this purpose... but it wasn't because they were drawn to objects or even musical instruments. They were drawn to ANYTHING which could give them a new palette. As such, electronic composers from 1911 up to 1970 would have gladly snatched up any digital device (were they in existence, or possible) which would help them meet those ends. Initially, the computer was almost always used to control sounds, record sounds, or especially to generate performances- less so for creating actual timbres. Composers were interested in computer-authored/controlled devices, but since the devices were usually less about creating timbres, it didn't catch the more-sizable crowd of composers looking for those sounds.

Of course, the RCA provided both (at least inasmuch as you could create timbres, programming, and recording), but I'm going to assume it wasn't as accessible as the entirety of composers might have wanted. ; )

20th Century composers didn't give a s**t if the sound was "analog" or "digital." That sort of thing came around MUCH MUCH later, and really didn't have anything to do with the pre-1970 synth enthusiast. Wendy Carlos herself looks down upon analog as not being powerful enough to achieve her musical aims, and I think a lot of electronic composers from the pre-1970 electronic music movement feel similarly. That's why so many of them (like Carlos) are so intrigued by digital synths and especially software- much more control and application from a compositional and groundbreaking standpoint.

The 1970 shift from composer to popular musician happened I think largely because the unique timbres of the synthesizer had become widespread due to Carlos and the subsequent popular musicians. What had been a mysterious, new, groundbreaking, and exciting thing was suddenly a bit of a fad. That, coupled with the fact that so many composers found the boundaries of what could effectively be done with analog, led to it shifting from art music to popular music. Many composers of the sort who needed to be doing something new and unique moved on to other instruments, etc.
In 1970, the synthesizer moved from unique compositional/timbral tool to musical instrument along the same lines as the same old instruments found in the orchestra (in that its keyboard was used to play standard Western harmony, and most users were using it to play traditional melodic and harmonic structures- only the timbre was new... and then not new for long)
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