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 Forum index » Artists » Seraph
Fixin' A Hole
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seraph
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2003 8:13 am    Post subject: Fixin' A Hole Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The idea for writing this article came to me while looking at pictures of some of your (I guess you know who you are) studios. There is nothing wrong being the proud owner of a lot of stuff, but I wonder if we really need every piece of equipment we own. Is it only a matter of “addiction” to musical instruments; the so called “furniture factor”? So, I started thinking about all the musical instruments I have owned over a 25 year span (more or less), and the list is very long. It took me a couple of days and some research on the internet to recall the model names and the various details, and maybe I have still forgotten something.

Fender Rhodes Stage Piano Mark I
My first electro-mechanical instrument was a Davoli electric piano in the late 70’. It had hammers like a Fender Rhodes, 88 keys, but it was housed in a wooden baby grand shaped case that made it very heavy to carry around - but it was very good looking. I have not been able to find any picture of it, and I was surprised to read that Tangerine Dreams used one. I sold it to buy “the real thing”, a Rhodes Stage Piano Mark I (73 keys); the one with "curved top cover". On top of it I had an Elka Rhapsody 490, a “string machine”. I was a teenager and had a regular gig with a rock band at a bar named “Red Garter” in Florence, Italy where I live (the bar is still there, I guess). I was never satisfied with the sound of my Fender Rhodes because it wasn’t the one I heard on LP’s (I added an Electro Harmonix Small Stone foot pedal but I did not got what I was looking for).

Siel Cruise
I sold the “string machine” for the first synthesizer of my life, a Siel Cruise. It had a monophonic synth and a polyphonic organ section and you could layer or split the two. At that time you could look good with a keyboard like that but it was a very crude sounding machine. With these keyboards, and a Korg KPR77 drum machine, I worked a lot in piano bars in and around Florence in the early 80’s. At the same time I started getting into multitrack recording with a Revox A77 (a 2 track tape recorder with overdubbing capabilities). Then I moved on to a Teac 3440 (a 4 track tape recorder). I experimented also with an Electro Harmonix Memory Man, a foot pedal delay.

Elka Synthex
In 1984 I bought a great synth, an Elka Synthex, http://www.vintagesynth.org/elka/elkasyn.shtml. It has been called the best of the Italian synths. I used it mostly for jingle productions. When I bought it it wasn’t MIDIed, then few months later it was retrofitted with this, at the time, brand new “computer interface”. Trying to synchronize its internal sequencer with my pre-MIDI Korg drum machine was a nightmare; the clock resolution wasn’t the same. I sold it 14 years later and I do not miss it.

In 1986 I moved to Boston to study Music Synthesis at Berklee College of Music. There I started upgrading my setup:
    Yamaha KX76 master keyboard (that I still own),
    Yamaha MEP4 (a midi event processor programmable only in hexadecimal, perfect for a geek like me Smile )
    Roland D110 (not many good sounds but those were cool), and a
    Yamaha TX81Z (I love FM synthesis with a breath controller)
    Yamaha TX802 (one of my best workhorses. Sold after many years of service and sometimes missed)
    Yamaha DD5 drum pad midi controller (it was cheap but very cool)
    Alesis HR16 drum machine (I really liked it. It was my main source of drum samples for many years)
My first “music computer” an Atari Mega ST4 running C-LAB Notator sequencer and Dr. T’s X-OR editor. I remember seeing Notator in action for the first time in a music store. When I saw the salesperson opening the edit window dragging, copying and deleting notes on a music staff, I instantly knew that was my future.
Other software I used on the Atari includes:
    Music Mouse by Laurie Spiegel
    Intelligent Music's M (I had my "randomistic", "stochastic", "aleatory" period)
    Intelligent Music's RealTime (a sequencer with algorithmic quirks and twists. Cool!).
During the winter 1989/90 I met Mr. Joel Chadabe in Albany, NY. He was the boss of Intelligent Music. We talked about the possibility, for me, to work for their Italian distributor, but they left the midi software business in early 1990.
Dr.T’s KCS Omega, Copyist, TuneSmith, TigerCub (I worked for their Italian distributor, too bad they went out of business - their stuff was too weird and not mainstream at all).

Of course I also needed a mixer ( a Boss BX16) and a midi patch bay: first a Kawai MAV8 (not programmable) and then a KMX MIDI Central 15 in/16 out (programmable) that I still own and that I consider one of the best choices I ever made to work with midi instruments.

I came back to Italy in 1990 and, of course, I kept upgrading my setup: a newer Atari Mega STE4. Even if I am not using it now I am sentimentally attached to this computer and am not going to sell it. It’s like a pet; would you sell your dog? I had all the midi peripherals made by C-Lab/Emagic for a total of 8 independent midi ports. I never ran out of midi channels even in the heydays of midi hardware! And then came an avalanche of stuff, chronologically:
    Korg M3R (I loved it! Its sounds inspired many songs I wrote)
    Yamaha MU80 (my first General Midi synth)
    Emu Proformance 1+, my first piano module
    AKAI S1100 (I bought it used with a 50 something library of CD ROMs. I sold the sampler and kept the CDs Smile )
    Boss DR660 drum machine (it did not last long)
    Alesis Nanopiano, Nanosynth, Nanobass (I had all 3 of them mounted on a 1 unit rack)
    Korg Wavestation A/D (it did not impress me, maybe because when I bought it its sounds were already out of fashion)
    AKAI S2000 (it was connected via SCSI to my computer. (I hate SCSI, SCSI IDs, SCSI terminators. I got rid of everything SCSI. Thanks God for USB and Firewire a.k.a.IEEE 1394 protocols)
    Yamaha MU100R (I love VL synthesis with a breath controller)
    Yamaha SU10 (battery powered sampler useful for live gigs, the only hardware sampler I own)
    Kurzweil Micropiano (my main source of piano sounds)
    Alesis QSR (good sounding synth and GM module)
    Alesis DM5 (nice drum sounds module)
    Alesis DM Pro (great drum sounds module with internal effects)
    Korg Wavestation SR (same as Wavestation A/D)
    Roland JV1010 (cool but hard to program without a computer)
    Roland JV2080 (fully expanded with 8 cards, spectacular)
    Access Virus C (wow! It gathers no dust, if you know what I mean)
This is only the list of sound modules but in the mean time I changed many mixers:
    Yamaha M1602 (it served me well until I sold it)
    the ill fated Yamaha Promix01 (forget it)
    Behringer MX2642 (inexpensive and excellent)
    Motu Midi mixer 7s (1 unit rack mountable and midi programmable, 7 stereo pairs inputs, that’s all I need now)
Effects processors:
    Behringer Ultramizer (outboard processing is dead)
    Digitech Studio Quad V2 (outboard processing is dead)
    TC Electronic Fireworx (even if it sounds fantastic, outboard processing is dead, for me, at least)
Vocoders:
    PAIA 6710 (I soldered all the parts together then I sold it)
    Digitech Talker (not exactly a vocoder but a talk box, sold when I bought the Virus C)
Miscellaneous stuff like:
    MAM MAP1 arpeggiator (sold when I bought the Virus C)
Midi controllers:
    Charlie Lab Digitar (interesting device but I did not need it)
    Yamaha CBX K2 (my main keyboard for live gigs)
    M-Audio Oxygen8 (get rid of your midi interface, go USB)
    Peavey PC1600X (great programmable midi fader controller)
And what about computers? I bought a Umax (Apple compatible) Power PC604e in 1997 that I upgraded to G3 (the infamous SCSI computer). It was followed by a G4 400MHz and then by a G4 500MHz dual processor running:
    Emagic Logic Audio Gold (a huge application, fantastic)
    Emagic SoundDiver (a great editor)
    Propellerheads Reason, Recycle, Reload (I love Propellerheads. Reason is my main virtual synth, sample playback device of the above mentioned AKAI CD ROMs plus a huge collection of audio CDs)
    Ableton Live (a new approach to audio files)
    Native Instruments Reaktor (a behemoth of a virtual synth)
Audio cards anyone?
    Digidesign Audiomedia III (2 analog inputs/outputs plus S/PDIF, good sounding)
    Digidesign Digi 001 (a great studio-in-a-box that I recently sold because I am going Firewire)
Audio monitors:
    Yamaha MSP5 (a great bang for the bucks)
MIDI Interfaces:
    Midiman Macman (1 midi in / 3 parallel midi out, serial port)
    Emagic mt4 (2midi in/4 midi out, USB)
After all these years and all this gear what can I say? A friend of mine told me once an old english proverb: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. It does not seem to apply to me. Maybe I should consider slowing down the rate at which I exchange instruments. Why should I keep spending a lot of time reading manuals when I could be playing? Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded with a 4 track tape recorder. So what? (BTW, I shook hands with Mr. George Martin the day of my graduation.)

As the lyrics of “Fixing a hole” say:
I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where will it go
I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where will it go
And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong
I'm right
Where I belong I'm right
Where I belong
.

It is certainly time for me to fix some of my holes.
Holes anyone?

Carlo Serafini
Florence, Italy
July 2003

Thanks to Howard Moscovitz for proofreading and editing this article

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Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex - Frank Zappa

Last edited by seraph on Tue Aug 25, 2009 2:32 pm; edited 5 times in total
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egw



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2003 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

If I ever find the perfect instrument I suppose I could get rid of everything else. But that is never going to happen. Each one has its own character and I enjoy playing with them to see how they inspire me. I even enjoy reading manuals and learning how to use new things.
Different instruments are better for different kinds of music and for different situations. Such as recording in the studio, gigging, jamming with friends, or just experimenting.
I still keep around a lot of things I don't use any more, but I can always sell them if I need to raise some cash. I try to keep everything in the same condition as when I bought it.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Carlo, you make some good points here. And you describe the ever changing deposit of great gear in out studios in a cool way.

I could quite probably make a similar list or two. The main point here I think is reloated to what EGW hints at. All this things are instruments.. music making tools.

You have a few instruments on your list that I in fact loathed back then but I have no problem with those specific intrsuments being quite suitable for other composers. Experience have probably taught me that one should only look at all these wonderful gadgets as instruments and tools but the compelling music is in our heads. There is no such thing as the best piece of gear or the best "stop the shopping now my dear.. this synth IS IT" kinda thingie out there.

I can often speak for hours about some weird old stupid analog synth.. I have even spoken highly of the PPG 2.2/2.3 and the Waveterm B. OK.. I accept I am a victim of nostalgia, the old gear is not that great really.. but YOU could use it to make music YOU thought was just excellent. And... from what I have seen recently.. new, interesting instruments with great potential are still being introduced on the market.

Old synths often had specific differences in sound, interface and features. If you wanted to do this and/or that .. -you would need this and/or that synth. From what I see these days the same is still the case.

When MIDI happened.. a lot happened to music. Computer sequencers became the next "tape" recorders and gradually ppopular music itself changed too. Back in the old days you would need X number of musicians in a band with x amounts of instruments to play a specific song. Synths turned into "jack of all trades" tools.. and then useable samplers showed up. The late 80s turned into a "more of everything" race and it seems to me that the current instrument/performance approach to electronic/digital instruments is a return to the mid 70s. Computers are here to stay as are synths with a performance orientated GUI. It is an a pretty interesting development that many software synths have VERY deep interfaces with a lot of control. OK, you might need to buy some controller surfaces but the on-screen interfaces are there still and I think this is educating a new generation into sound shaping madness and not recruiting spece cadets for the "calculator pad interfaced home organ style mid/ late 80s miracle box factory patch crusade".

We must allow synths to be used be everyone for whatever style of music. What happened after the Jupiter 8 and the DX 7 was synths being used in "ordinary" popular music in a new way, which is just great. I guess it is the same way with a synth as with a violin.. -you can make whatever kind of music with it that you want. This points to something I mentioned in another post somewhere in this forum, -that even though I use synths I am not quite sure I make electronic music. I DO use relatively new soundshaping tools, but it is still just music which comes out of the PA. Fact is.. most of the theory ( music theory, that is) which applies to the music many of the members at the electro-music.com forum make, was developed before synths and digital instrumets were even invented.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Elektro80 wrote:
even though I use synths I am not quite sure I make electronic music. I DO use relatively new soundshaping tools, but it is still just music which comes out of the PA. Fact is.. most of the theory ( music theory, that is) which applies to the music many of the members at the electro-music.com forum make, was developed before synths and digital instrumets were even invented.

Interesting comments. I think we'll have to start a new topic about that.

Anyway, I just now got around to listeing to all of the mp3 samples of Carlo's music that are in this article. Very nice.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah, aren´t those tracks cool?
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seraph
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 3:19 pm    Post subject: I am flattered Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thank you guys. I am flattered Very Happy
What I was thinking about while I was writing the article was:
"why a violin player keeps playing the same stupid 4 stringed instrument when he/she could play an instrument with a much greater polyphony? and why a sax player plays a monophonic instrument having a range of notes barely beyond 3 octaves? Why they are not constantly looking for something new and more powerful? Why they do not care for 24bits/ 96KHz audio files? Should not Earth be ruled by keyboard players? And, why not, acoustic instruments should be banned from the Solar System?
Is this unquenchable thirst healthy or some kind of mental disorder?
P.S.
I have to say that I just installed Emagic Logic Gold 6.0.1 that, thanks to Rewire 2, can be hooked up with Propellerhead Reason 2.5. When I first saw that this magic was actually working (it's so cool when computers do what they are supposed to do Laughing ) I was happy as a king. Am I nuts?

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Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex - Frank Zappa

Last edited by seraph on Wed Aug 06, 2003 3:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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seraph
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Fact is.. most of the theory ( music theory, that is) which applies to the music many of the members at the electro-music.com forum make, was developed before synths and digital instruments were even invented.


Few days ago a was researching for an article on the history of electronic music that I was writing for an Italian web site.
In the 50's a French engineer, Pierre Schaeffer, started recording the sounds and the noises of a railroad station. He, then, assembled and edited the tapes of the recordings and came up with a piece called "Railroad Study" and the so called "musique concrete" was born.
When, today, we "assemble" songs using samples we are doing something very close to what Schaeffer was doing 50 years ago.
No "theoretical music" but "concrete music" (as the Merriam-Webster dictionary says: a recorded montage of natural sounds often electronically modified and presented as a musical composition)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good example! Very Happy

When it comes to montage I guess many were inspired by Eisenstein, just that they do it with sound instead. Actually, sound montage work is older that musique concrete. A good example would be the sound design for old radio shows like Dimension X and others. I am aware that most of the sounds were performed live.. but .. anyway..

Another example of "old" nice stuff is the orchestral suite version of Alexander Nevsky ( rewritten from the score for the Eisenstein movie by the same name ). "The battle on the ice" sequence is really interesting. This is a nice mix between "ambient" and tonality and rythm. Ahh.. right... forgot.. this one is of course written by Sergei Prokofiev. There are many nice recordings of "Andrey Nevsky". The 80s Telarc release might be one of the better.

And we haven´t mentioned early La Monte Young yet.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2003 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

More about the Yamaha MU100R sound module, Wind Synthesizers and VL synthesis:

http://www.windsynth.org/iwsa_labs/patch_programming/prog_techniques/yamaha_mu100r_programming.shtml

http://www.davemerrick.com/MU100Rpatches.htm

http://www.windsynth.org/iwsa_labs/patch_programming/prog_techniques/VL1_Guide/

http://members.aol.com/whitfiel/windfaq.htm

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