A E J O T Z
Joined: Aug 14, 2011
Location: Corvallis, Oregon, USA
Audio files: 110
|Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:35 pm Post subject:
Subject description: the dirtiest word in synthdom
|Two of my favorite instruments have been Casios. As you may already know, in addition to Casio's tidal wave of corny sounding "consumer" keyboards, they also built a few noteworthy models. I have owned two of their better efforts.
My first synthesizer (and some may argue that it wasn't a synth at all) was a now-classic Casio MT-65. I bought it new in 1983 because I liked its sounds. The music store clerk, a bitter failed rock star wannabe, told me that I couldn't learn keyboards on a toy like that and what I really needed was the Hohner electric piano that he apparently was told to unload on some unsuspecting rube. (I didn't buy the Hohner.)
I intended to use the MT, along with my brand new 4-track cassette recorder, to flesh out some demos of my awful guitar-based songs. (In fairness, my music was pretty good but my lyrics were horrible. It took me decades to realize how bad a lyricist I am.)
I needed to learn how to use the MT and the recorder so I plugged the former into the latter and noodled a simple melodic line. I then played that line back and noodled another simple melodic line to accompany it. By the time I filled four tracks I had unwittingly and quite accidentally created my first AEJOTZ tune. The completed work was greater than its respective parts and was surprisingly harmonically and rhythmically complex.
I blew off the demo project and instead made several hours of synth music, from which I distilled a one-hour cassette album. I gave the album to friends, family and fans of my awful guitar-based music. (Yes, I'm afraid there were some.) Everyone hated my synth music because it was 1983 and they hadn't been trained to enjoy electronic music, yet. They told me, in essence, "don't quit your guitar job."
[If you want to hear an example of my 1983 stuff, the tune "camelot" is available in the electro-music.com archive.]
Flash ahead to 2011 when I was so sick of guitar-based music that I could hardly stand to listen to it anymore. I longed for something different. I enjoyed Stereolab, but something about their middle albums reminded me of something... what was it? It finally came to me. It reminded me of my 1983 AEJOTZ music! Suddenly I longed to play more synth music.
I searched the internet for "cheap synthesizers" and found two candidates: the Microkorg and the Casio "Cosmo" CZ-101. I promptly bought one of each and the first to be delivered was the Cosmo.
Programming the Cosmo is supposedly similar to programming a Yamaha DX7 or, perhaps, visiting purgatory. I found a PC sound editor that makes it a little more graphically accessible but not really easier. Experience with the Cosmo and with my other synths has finally given me some understanding but at first it was headache inducing.
I kept at it for only one reason: the Cosmo is the boingiest mo-fo this side of Mars! You can make some absurd noise with this little monster. There are more programmable parameters than you can shake a digital stick at. It has two dual-voice oscillators, eight-stage envelopes (!), some very unique waveforms, ring, noise, detune, portamento, switchable mono-poly, fully programmable vibrato and patch storage. Holy crap!
But best of all is the boing. I just can't make any other synth boing like the Cosmo. Circuit bending? We don't need no steenking circuit bending! This thing screams like an alien android in heat. I haven't used the most extreme sounds in any recordings but I sure have scared the neighbor's dog with them. The Cosmo is truly one nasty little girl.
There were later CZ synths with bigger keys and more features but the sound engine is always the same. I like the 101 because it's small and it's the original. The keys on my unit are shite, so I MIDI it to my $15.00 garage sale Casio CT-470. All the other controls work fine. The CT's sounds are among Casio's lamest (check out my tune "luna" which is all CT) but the keybed is superb.
Half of the Cosmo's presets are crappy but some are great. Usually when you hear a Tomita whistle in my tunes it's the Cosmo preset. (The exception is in"bunnies" which was all Microkorg, like everything else I did in 2012. It was a bitch making the whistle from scratch on the MK.)
[Speaking of Tomita, the CZ synthesis system was an offshoot of the original Cosmo synth that Casio designed and built for Tomita!]
There are also some great sounding synth horns in the Cosmo presets ("napoleon") as well as some unearthly zonks.
I found and downloaded a big library of CZ patches online and they all work on the 101. I tweak a lot of them and have made a few scorching patches from scratch. But I've only scratched the surface. The editor-librarian is free and lets you save patches on your computer.
I wouldn't want the Cosmo to be my only synth but I sure love having it in my rig. When my other synths seem too polite for something I want to do, I just turn to my all-digital squonk maker. If I was serenading a Venusian chick, this would be my instrument of choice.
I got my Cosmo for $150.00 USD. If you're more patient than I was in 2011 you can find one cheaper. Owner and tech manuals, programming guides, schematics, patches and patch books are free online. It is rumored that the Behringer BCR2000 will not give you instant parameter access on CZs, dammit. I'd sure buy one if it did.
I suspect most of the CZ-101s out there have crapped out keys. I can't tell if mine are worn out or just stiff with old lube but the action is shot. Most players don't like mini-keys anyway. But use this sucker like a rack unit and you've got something special. (I've been tempted to try to service the keys but I'm scared of breaking a brittle old wire ribbon or something even worse when taking the unit apart.)
The 1/4" audio output is mono. This is not a stereo synth. (I first used a stereo cable and thought one channel was dead. Duh. I'm lucky I didn't fry anything.)
It can run on 6 "D" batteries and has guitar strap buttons, but it's pretty heavy for keytar use. The batteries keep your 16 "internal" patches in memory. There is a pinhole on the back to restore factory presets. When the batteries get low the Cosmo can make some very weird random patches.
If anyone gets one of these and needs help finding online resources, just PM me. I'll be glad to give you links.
AEJOTZ is pronounced "A-Jotz"
electronics = magic
free albums at aejotz.bandcamp.com