Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

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Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:18 pm

Though Eno always describes his use of synths as a means to an end, I was a bit surprised that there isn't a comprehensive thread on this subject already. I should note that this subject is often complicated by the fact that Eno frequently uses descriptors like "digital guitar" rather than the equipment he used to create these sounds.

According to Eric Tamm's biography of Eno, "The main synthesizers Eno has worked with are the EMS Model AKS, Yamaha CS-80, Yamaha DX7, Arp 2600, Korg Micropreset, and Yamaha YC-45D organ."

Contrary to Tamm's assertion, I don't think he used the ARP 2600 much -- the only example I can think of is the last track on Music for Airports (with the tape slowed down to sound particularly delicious). There are a few one-offs as well. He used the Prophet 5 on the first Jon Hassell record, but I don't know if he ever used it again. I'm not sure what he used on Discreet Music, tho to my ears it sounds like (his one and only use of) a Mellotron. I have no idea what he used the Micropreset on at all.

My sense is that before he became enamored with the DX7 in the mid-80s, the Synthi was his favorite -- it was his primary box for "treating" other instruments by running it through the external input. On several occasions, he waxed poetically about how the Synthi had a joystick. My favorite example of this was on Bowie's "Beauty and the Beast" in which he does some incredible mangling of Robert Fripp's guitar. In many ways, he must have been among the first musicians (certainly in pop music) to use synths in this way.

I also love his use of CS-80, which he started to use around the time of his Cluster collaborations in 1977-78 through around the time of Apollo in 1983. Unlike Eddie Jobson, Eno explored its fragile qualities on records like Music for Films -- there are also several tracks where he uses the glissando to dreamy effect.

Odd that Tamm doesn't mention Eno's use of the Minimoog, which is all over his records from the mid- to late-70s -- Another Green World, Before and After Science and his Bowie collabs. Playing around with my SE Midimini the other night, I realized that one particularly good example is the LFO-modulated sound that concludes "Over Fire Island" from Another Green World. You can catch it during the fade -- just a beautiful, beautiful sound.

One final point: one of the things that makes Eno's use of synths particularly distinctive is that they are almost never alone -- Eno almost always pairs them with acoustic instruments which tend to emphasize the synthesizer's more otherworldly qualities.

What other things do folks have to say about this Vintage Synth Explorer?

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Shreddie » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:47 pm

Not alot other than he very rarely uses hardware synths anymore. :|

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by tim gueguen » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:44 pm

Eno used a Sequential Circuits Pro 1 in the early '80s, which he liked for its arpeggiator. He told interviewer Chris Everard in 1984 he didn't like the Prophet 5. At the time he also had a Casio 202 and a Farfisa organ that supposedly formerly belonged to Pink Floyd. http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/bria ... scm84.html
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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Esus » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:30 pm

This is just a guess, but looking at his flowchart on Discreet Music, I'm thinking ARP 2600 for tone generation, Oberheim DS2 (or DS2a) for sequencing, some kind of octave-or third-octave graphic EQ, and two Revox a77s for recoding/looping duties.

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Artmuzz » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:46 pm

I read that Brian Eno was the only artist in the music world to know how to program a Yamaha DX7. His DX7 sounds on Apollo are breath taking.

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:00 pm

Esus wrote:This is just a guess, but looking at his flowchart on Discreet Music, I'm thinking ARP 2600 for tone generation, Oberheim DS2 (or DS2a) for sequencing, some kind of octave-or third-octave graphic EQ, and two Revox a77s for recoding/looping duties.
I've seen the flowchart, but can't recall whether this one is the actual one or somebody's representation of it (did SEMs even have "digital recall" in 1975?). But I do recall it mentioning "synthesizer" for the input, yes -- so probably not a Mellotron.

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Richard Gear » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:04 pm

Very interesting thread. I know he said that he can't figure out staying immobile while playing/composing music. There has to be some physical involvement. Therefore, he can't stand working on a computer even though he admits that it's a very powerful tool that you might expect him to enjoy.

I'd also be curious to know which synth(s) he used on Before and After Science. Last track (Spider and I) is one of my favourite and I just love the sweeping keyboard. Kinda reminds me the ending of Bowie Ashes to Ashes.

I'm surprised that he still prefers his DX7. It proves that it's better to really master just a few synthesizers that to have so many. In this case, he could be described as the opposite of Jean-Michel Jarre. But he's not the only one to master the DX7. I've been amazed by Jexus DX7 video on YouTube.. but that's not much related to this thread.

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Esus » Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:51 pm

Naive Teen Idol wrote:
Esus wrote:This is just a guess, but looking at his flowchart on Discreet Music, I'm thinking ARP 2600 for tone generation, Oberheim DS2 (or DS2a) for sequencing, some kind of octave-or third-octave graphic EQ, and two Revox a77s for recoding/looping duties.
I've seen the flowchart, but can't recall whether this one is the actual one or somebody's representation of it (did SEMs even have "digital recall" in 1975?). But I do recall it mentioning "synthesizer" for the input, yes -- so probably not a Mellotron.
Yes, that's the one from the album. I seem to recall an interview that he mentioned a digital sequencer at some point. The DS2 had just come out in 1974--a year before Discreet Music was released:

Image

The only other digital sequencer that I'm aware of from that period was the Sequential 800, and I don't think that came out before 1976, so that's why I'm guessing it's the Obie. As a side note, they were more ARP-friendly than Moog for interfacing.
IIRC, Oberheim 4- and 8-voice synths had patch storage modules, but only the TVS-2 had a sequencer, and it was an 8-stage analog.

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by upfineclouds » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:42 pm

Artmuzz wrote:I read that Brian Eno was the only artist in the music world to know how to program a Yamaha DX7. His DX7 sounds on Apollo are breath taking.
This is a big exaggeration and part of the DX7 myth. Think about Vangelis, Enya, Depeche Mode and many more.
Richard Gears wrote:But he's not the only one to master the DX7. I've been amazed by Jexus DX7 video on YouTube.. but that's not much related to this thread.
In my opinion, Jexus did not show any art in programming DX7. Actually, these kinds of sounds come from this synth when you hardly know what you are doing. It's nothing more than garage punk wankery. But it is entertaining, I must admit. I've heard much better DX7 sounds.

I've read an interview with Brian Eno where he mentioned using Minimoog model D and where he also thought it sounded sterile. :lol:

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:27 am

I saw that "Model D is sterile" comment somewhere else recently. One of the things I really admire about Eno is his ability to admit that his tastes change -- that things he used to disdain he now loves or appreciates. After having used digital gear for probably 30 years, I would be fascinated to see what someone like him would do with analog gear again -- and how it differed from what he did back in the day.

As for Before and After Science, according to Discogs, this is what Eno used on that record's second side:

Here He Comes -- Yamaha Cs80, Moog
Julie With... -- Mini-moog, Yamaha Cs80, Aks
By This River -- Yamaha Cs-80
Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd) -- Moog
Spider And I -- Keyboards, Synthesizer [Aks]

I'm assuming "Moog" is also Minimoog (unless he used another) -- I'd also venture to guess that the AKS on "Spider and I" is not the predominant keyboard texture on that song. Perhaps that's the Yamaha YC-45D organ?

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by GuyaGuy » Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:40 am

Lest we forget:



And for those who might have missed it:


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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by colmon » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:22 am

i always find discussing the synths eno used as kind of missing the point a bit -- he was all about processing. everybody always talks about his supposed complex dx7 programs, but actually if you listen to something like The Shutov Assembly it's all quite simple FM sine and bell tones processed through an Eventide, so you get these wide, evolving swathes of pitch-shifting sound

i think the greatest use of synth in any eno song has to be "The Belldog" from After The Heat, though I'd wager that Conny Plank was more responsible for that, rather than eno

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Micke » Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:15 pm

Naive Teen Idol wrote:
As for Before and After Science, according to Discogs, this is what Eno used on that record's second side:

Here He Comes -- Yamaha Cs80, Moog
Julie With... -- Mini-moog, Yamaha Cs80, Aks
By This River -- Yamaha Cs-80
Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd) -- Moog
Spider And I -- Keyboards, Synthesizer [Aks]

I'm assuming "Moog" is also Minimoog (unless he used another) -- I'd also venture to guess that the AKS on "Spider and I" is not the predominant keyboard texture on that song. Perhaps that's the Yamaha YC-45D organ?
Maybe he ran the YC-45D organ through the AKS filter or simply multi-tracked the AKS!?
"The (Yamaha) CS-80 is a step ahead in keyboard control, and a generation behind in digital control" -- Dan Wyman, Jan 1979

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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by Artmuzz » Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:12 pm

Here is a video I uploaded to YouTube earlier this year of Brian Eno trying to use his broken Yamaha DX7 synths.



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Re: Here We Discuss Brian Eno's Use of Vintage Synths

Post by mama. » Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:28 pm

ems synthi is probably the most analog of analog synths you can use, they have trouble staying in tune etc, and then the dx7 is certainly the most digital of digital synths you can use but the his results are so eno.

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