Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Rick N Boogie » Sun May 08, 2011 9:07 pm

Somewhat off-topic, but I remember the first time I met my friend Greg's dad, Don Ivan Punchatz, who did the coverart for the Bermuda Triangle album- I saw the original art framed on a wall and thought, how odd. Took a few minuets to discover this was actually the origianl artwork, which floored me. Awesome album, I have a copy on Coral colored vinyl- a treasure in my collection. Sorry, carry on.
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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by Esus » Sun May 08, 2011 9:09 pm

cornutt wrote:
Micke wrote: I also read in another AH post that Tomita apparently had custom tapes made for his mellotron.
I'm sure Micke knows this already, but the Mellotron 400 (which is what it sounds like Tomita had) is a three-track machine which lacks the "stations" of the Mark II, so on a 400 you can only have three sounds at a time. What the 400 did have was interchangeable tape frames, which you could swap out in twenty minutes or so, if you wanted to be able to load different sounds. When you bought a 400, it came with one tape frame, and you could buy additional ones.

As I understand it, there was no "standard" set of tapes for the 400. Each time you ordered a new 400 or an additional tape frame, you told Streetly which three sound banks you wanted on it. Streetly had a master library of 100 or so sound banks that you could choose from. AFAIK there were only a few choir sounds available: a male choir, a female choir, a mixed choir, and I think there was a boy's choir. So it seems likely that most of the artists who were using Mellotrons to do choir sounds in that time period were all using the same few sounds.
IIRC, by the time the 400 came out, Mellotrons were being distributed by Mellotronics or Dallas Arbiter. Unless specified otherwise, a 400 came with a stock set of Flute, Violins, and Cellos. The track selector had 3 positions: Positions A=Flute, B=Violins (3), and C=Cellos (3). You could put the selector in one position, and while playing, switch, or even segue into the next position. So while the 400 was capable of 3 sounds at any given time, you could have a kind of mix of A/B or B/C at best. The arrangement for all those playback heads was incredibly crude--a rudimentary cam setup on a piece of wood that resembles a 3 foot long popsicle stick. With the cover off, watching the heads move across the tapes was pretty amazing. I'm guessing all the alignment problems only helped create the sounds we all know and love today.

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Re: Tomita - choral sounds on "The Bermuda Triangle"?

Post by ndkent » Sun Jun 10, 2012 1:47 pm

To add some things. He was most definitely heavily into post processing Mellotron with his modular, It basically becomes the oscillator rather than the VCO. I'm sure there is no doubt there.

The lesser known technique, though certainly talked about by him is the whole approach or laying down control tracks to synchronize overdubs. They would trigger envelopes and the sequencer to make things happen in perfect timing and also leaving his hands free to adjust further. By the 80s though he got into computer based sequencers and poly synths. His Bach album had sampled Moog for polyphony, JP8000 before they hit the shops and he was using Opcode StudioVision by then (since switched to Nuendo)

I guess the mystery is firstly it's known from his soundtrack work he had access to orchestras and choirs and he did use a real sitar so he may not have been entirely pure and authentic when it comes to synthesis. Something along the lines of feeding in something acoustic from tape and or doing his own mellotron tapes. Nothing really conclusive but also I'm sure a sort of explanation for the sounds few can figure out

As for covers, yes the worldwide "Bermuda Triangle" cover is quite wonderful. As a footnote, in Japan most of his albums had different covers, Bermuda Triangle being no exception. It was a collage by Tadanori Yokoo who's been internationally famous since the 60s and sometimes involved with music himself. That said, imho he's done much stronger collages. The Japanese covers are quite interesting to see especially if one has grown used to the international covers for decades.

On June 20, 2012 he's releasing "Claire de Lune Ultimate Edition" which is like a remake in SACD surround of "Snowflakes are Dancing" for his current label. He's adding 3 tracks and if he takes the approach of "The Tomita Planets Ultimate Edition" from 2011 he's redoing a lot of the pads, Mellotron and anything he's feeling had flawed engineering with the latest Roland gear while his leads remain Moog modular. The arrangements are mostly the same with occasional tinkerings.

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