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 Forum index » Reviews, Editorials and Commentary » Commentary and Editorials
The "Zimmer Syndrome"
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abstraktor



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:06 am    Post subject: The "Zimmer Syndrome"
Subject description: How much is too much?
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Not quite a cat among the pigeons, but I know that this possibly contentious topic will probably generate some indignant responses from fellow members, but its something that I feel important to raise -and where else than in the EM forum?
Browsing the internet recently, I discovered that Hans Zimmer (everyone knows of him, of course) has recently purchased a restored Roland System 700 from RL in London. This was the first system ever built, so I'm sure we can all appreciate the enormous sum paid. He has also just bought the largest CMS system ever assembled -again, this is very serious money. (I could have spent an hour checking his modules and adding them up from the price guide, but I'm not quite that much of a geek).
Now Mr. Zimmer is undoubtedly a very rich man -and a quick search turned up some pictures of his enormous analogue synthesis studio in LA (I think). This was from a few years ago, so you could add in the Roland and CMS systems on another (large) wall..or two.
Now some people would argue that this is nothing more than a jaded millionaires's play den, but of course we at the EM forum know that it is more than that. Or do we?
Some wealthy people collect vintage cars yet others collect fashionable homes, and yet more vintage electronic instruments -so what's the difference? Ah, you say, but Hans is a well respected movie composer and synthesist, so these instruments are his stock in trade. You can only drive one car, or stay in one house at at time, but Mr. Z could use all of his vast collection simultaneously, possibly for his next Hollywood blockbuster commission. And what about JMJ's warehouse in Paris? Vince Clarke's collection? etc. etc.
Now before people get back to me accusing me of sheer envy, let me explain myself- I know that there are quite a few people on the EM forum who have amassed large sytems themselves, assembled over the years and no doubt often financed by well paid day jobs, because, as a producer and composer with a long stint in the industry behind me, I know that the modest returns from my career havent enabled me to have the sort of purchasing power needed to possess what I think I want, let alone anything approaching HZ's rig. I've also used analogue synthesizers for many years, and I know this is sad to admit, but instead of soccer heroes and pop stars, I had brochures of ARP's and EMS's on my wall as a 14 year old, dreaming of the day when I had my own Electronic Music Studio (with capital letters!). A recent foray into Eurorack modularity has brought this back to me again, I've realized, (not necessarily a good thing for a middle aged male) when I daydream over my "ideal" system....and then I have to wake up to the realities of not only economics, but a questioning of why I feel the need to continually expand or replace gear. I can fool myself that a C-Thru Axis64 might just stimulate my lazy Muse, and a new Jomox 888 will give me a modern take on classic Roland drum machines, and get me away from the computer screen, but with a welter of plug-ins supplying the same sounds (Ok, not exactly the same sounds) why do I feel the need to spend another £900? After all, most classical musicians usually stick with one instrument throughout their working career, so perhaps my gear hunger is just another manifestation of rampant consumeritis (or a mid life crisis). A lot of my favourite artists in the electronic world had the most basic of equipment compared to what we can easily acquire now, so maybe I'm just not trying hard enough to get the best out of what I have. Less is more?
Anyone out there in EM land have any thoughts on this?
-Abstraktor
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Muied Lumens
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good post. Very Happy

Yes, less is more, but more is also more. The important point for me is that you use what you have, even if you don't hyper-utilise every little nook and cranny of it all. Most people who have vast amounts of gear have acquired it over years, and more or less know how to use it. At least they should. If not, well - it's a passion and nobody should feel guilty about it. It's much better than obsessive gambling.

I think it is more about what people individually feel about it than the actual amount of money tied up in hard- and software. If I had unlimited funds, I would in fact spend fairly humbly on equipment because I like to feel intimate with each piece of hardware than have an impressive looking rig. Most of my dream money would go into a well built, if relatively compact studio. It would still come to a large bill anyway though. Wink

Mr Zimmer not only knows his way around the gear that he buys, but he also employs experts of all kinds and is a team worker to boot, so I forgive him for making me vaguely envious on occasion. Very Happy

He has inspired me through his music and the interviews with him that I have come across, but that is not to say that I dismiss what you have to say - you put across some good points.

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seraph
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I wrote an article in 2003 called: "Fixin' A Hole" Exclamation

Needless to say: the Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS for short) hasn't stopped Exclamation Actually I have lost track of the gear I have sold, bought and bartered.

help help help

...but I have noticed a trend Shocked I'm trying to reduce the amount of gear I surround myself with Wink one day I'll give up... Rolling Eyes

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sizone



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I can't find fault in this case.
As Lumens points out, the guy has an army of techs. Think about the long term gain this presents. When Zimmer dies there will be a half-acres worth of fully restored, well maintained vintage gear going back on the market. Given that there aren't many electronic music museums and that the ones that do exist aren't rolling in grants this is about the only way we're going to see synth history preserved.
Regarding acquisition: Acoustic instruments usually have an -ideal- sound, they're considered to sound better or worse. Synths, on the other hand, sound different. In my case, most of the excess gear I have is because synth x has some weird, unique feature that I really like whereas synth y has some -other- weird, unique feature that I really like.
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abstraktor



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

all good points folks - yes, Mr. Zimmer should bequeath a museum of analogue for all us poor folks to gaze open mouthed at ("please dont touch the exhibits sir" I hear the attendants say already!).
Thanks for the link to your article Carlo - it made me laugh at the same time think nostalgically about the atari ST -now there was MIDI timing.
Yes, more is more..............
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have absolutely no opinion on Hans Zimmer´s Roland System 700 modular.. well.. not true.. scratch Why would anyone ever want to buy a System 700 in 2009? A modern modular from any of the serious cottage industry vendors would be a far better choice for a serious synthesist. However, if money is not an issue and if it feels like a brilliant idea.. well.. sure.. go ahead Mr. Zimmer .. and get all those daft 700s out of circulation. Laughing Even though I don´t find the 700 to be of mythical proportions I still think that it is cute and it is a good thing that he has the inclination to preserve such a system for posterity.

As for the GAS.. sure .. we are all bitten by the bug. A lot of gear is always a good thing. He who has the biggest pile when he checks out has won. Shocked

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seraph
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
Why would anyone ever want to System 700 in 2009?

furniture factor, maybe Question

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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
elektro80 wrote:
Why would anyone ever want to System 700 in 2009?

furniture factor, maybe Question


For how good the vco's sound.
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DrJustice



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yesterday right after th OP had posted, I wrote a lengthy reply. However, the text ran wild, so I decided to let it zimmer for a little while.

Today there's lots of answers, so I think I'll just say that if I had the means I'd very likely be collecting fine sports cars and rare synthesizers - without shame. Of course I'd be using them all. That said, it is my opinion that you certainly don't need mountains of gear to make good music. With, say 'only' three or four (non-trivial) synths, most people will have a lifetimes worth of sonic exploration to fuel their compositions. But it wouldn't be the instant gratification route of three new softsynths before breakfast, and a dozen after supper - yes, I think that there is an alarming inflation going on there, where the concept of synths as 'intimate' instruments gets devalued. If anything, that's where the rampant consumerism that the OP mentioned is happening Twisted Evil

In the case of HZ, JMJ, VC et al, I think they should just do it. It's obviously their passion. As has been mentioned, they are preserving pristine specimens for posterity.

What I don't quite grasp is the kind of bloat that I'm seeing, where musicians 'producers' are unable to make a rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" without having 16384 voices worth of polka boards and a huge studio in LA. This is not for the love of the instruments, AFAICS...

DJ
P.S. My micro rant on inflation is not aimed at anyone here; you guys are the most reflected bunch of synthesists on the planet salut
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abstraktor



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

yes, that is one of the points I was trying to infer - that it's important to push synthesizers (and yourself) to the limit. The kind of intimacy that you arrive at working with real electronic instruments, in real time, is far more rewarding than skimming through 100's of souped up soft-synth presets, (although I feel that plug-ins do have their place...). It's ironic that back in the 60's and 70's most musicians would have given their right leg for patch recall, whereas these days, people are investing in Analogue Modulars to get away from preset stupour.
It would be interesting to hear HZ's opinion on this topic.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've been feeling for some time that the gear that I get gets in the way of actually making music. Being nibbled on a little bit by the DIY bug doesn't help. I feel more so about software though - softsynths sap more energy for less reward than hardware, is my personal feeling. If I had the possibility to put full time and energy into making music though, I'm sure I could make good use of a lot of stuff.

/Stefan

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abstraktor



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

absolutely agree with you 100% antimon
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mono-poly wrote:


For how good the vco's sound.


-But the System 700 VCOs are not exceptional in any way.. they are just OK.
It could of course be that an old and degraded 700 VCO will sound kinda exciting, but the factory fresh 700 VCOs simply sound ... well.. like OK.

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kkissinger



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:16 am    Post subject: Applications oriented Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've tended to approach synthesis from the standpoint of the form and content of the music I wish to make.

My analog synth is VCO and keyboard-rich (9 VCOs, 2 Keyboards) because in the days of tape recording, I could not afford more than four channels. Thus, it was necessary for me to record multiple musical voices on each channel without resorting to noisy track-bouncing.

With today's digital multi-track recording and looping software, such a large synth wouldn't be as critical to success.

Having said this, to patch and control an analog synth is more fun and intuitive than digital synthesis. My K2600 has a warm sound -- in fact, it has a real "kick ass" sound -- it is a kind of dream machine. Yet, to program it isn't as fun as it is to program my Aries modular.

Having said this, I will add another cabinet of modules to my Aries synth -- not because I need them, but because I enjoy DIY projects. I wouldn't consider adding a cabinet of factory-built modules -- the point is the joy of DIY and the notion of adding additional capability to my Aries synth (I'm adding a Klee Sequencer, an MPS, and I'd like to add a Clock Divider, Voltage Quantizer, a quad panner, and a fixed filter bank.) I've been so busy that I won't be able to start building until 2010.

So what's the point of this post?

That my Aries synth has, up to now, been built for specific music-making -- nothing more, nothing less. Going forward my Aries synth will satisfy my desire to build some stuff.

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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:
mono-poly wrote:


For how good the vco's sound.


-But the System 700 VCOs are not exceptional in any way.. they are just OK.
It could of course be that an old and degraded 700 VCO will sound kinda exciting, but the factory fresh 700 VCOs simply sound ... well.. like OK.


It's really close to stuff like the moog modular 921 and kobol and sem.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well I have an Axis but that Jomox 888 looks good, thanks for the tip Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

What sort of bemuses me, I guess, about twenty first century modular synthesizers is the rise of the boutique module. The Euro format seems to be the most infected by this. There are some new things that really do advance modular synthesis, particularly in the area of control, but there seems to be a rising tide of things that strike me as ultimately self-defeating from a modular point of view.

For me, the beauty of modular synthesis lies in the ability to process harmonic spectra, amplitude, and pitch with a subset of modules and control those parameters over time with a another subset of modules. The line between these module subsets is, of course, blurred, at least in the "East Coast" Moog paradigm. This is what makes modular synthesis so powerful.

Sadly, plain "vanilla" modules have become almost passé these days - but they remain, IMO, the most powerful modules in the modular repertoire, because they can be chained in an almost infinite number of variations. The task of patching a modular to accomplish a specfic task is yours, the synthesist/musician; the patching of these most basic of modules to produce complex tonal variation and control structure is what drew me to modular synthesis.

Nowadays, you see the rise of the Flombular Zazinator and the Spelunking Drimbobulus modules that do this and that, and *only* this and that. I listen to samples of these things, or watch videos, and they often actually do cool stuff, but rarely do I hear one do anything a well-equipped "vanilla" modular couldn't do. You may use that module in a piece or two, then have no other need for it. It's like using a preset. I view these modules as stoking up the GAS, but lacking the versatility to really be worth the money in the long run.

I don't blame Hans one bit.

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elektro80
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Scott Stites wrote:
What sort of bemuses me, I guess, about twenty first century modular synthesizers is the rise of the boutique module. The Euro format seems to be the most infected by this. There are some new things that really do advance modular synthesis, particularly in the area of control, but there seems to be a rising tide of things that strike me as ultimately self-defeating from a modular point of view.


Agreed. And I think it is kinda disturbing that seemingly a lot of newbies wondering how to get into modular synthesis will spend a lot of thought, time and money on populating their first modular with Anal Convolvers and other boutique stuff ( plan B and such Shocked ) instead of simply building a full working basic system first. scratch

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Exactly. I equate those type of modules to steroids. They bulk you up for a time, but ultimately lead you nowhere.

I may be going a bit off-topic here, so forgive me: Lately I have, for some reason, been mulling over what it is about modular recordings that have really tripped my trigger. I've had somewhat of an epiphany in that area: I like modular music that doesn't constantly remind you that it's been made with a modular.

I'm not into a imitative synthesis one jot - I'm perfectly bored by modular samples that sound every bit like a trumpet or a saxophone or a guitar; I consider that somewhat of a waste of time. What I mean is, for me the best recordings of modular synthesizers are those recordings that do not self-consciously scream "I'm a modular synthesizer". These are the recordings that make you forget about what it is making the music - it doesn't necessarily sound like an existing instrument, but it doesn't wave its arms at you and say "this is a ladder filter" or "dig the crunchiness of my square wave". It's not overt, it's mysterious. It's not the "I am a modular, hear me roar" stuff. It's the "You forget the instrument and get immersed in the sound" stuff - you may not be 100% sure what it is, and it doesn't matter. For me, that's where the real magic is.

I think perhaps that's a result of watching too many "dig this filter" or "dig this VCO" videos (I'm just as guilty as anyone for that kind of stuff).

I suppose I'm not making sense - it's hard to put into words. Confused

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You make perfect sense.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Scott Stites wrote:
I suppose I'm not making sense - it's hard to put into words. Confused


dunno, for music I prefer music over demos ... and for demos the other way around ... but features for the features often is not very interesting music ... music has to breathe a bit & all, a demo better not ... if that makes any sense Laughing

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think that, once in a while, we all should listen to some good acoustic music Exclamation

Cool

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
I think that, once in a while, we all should listen to some good acoustic music Exclamation

Cool


Sorry, but to hell with that. If it isn't electronic, it isn't music.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Rolling Eyes

of course Twisted Evil

Wink

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