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Ableton  

Brandon Smith

Music production software company based in Berlin, with a branch in New York. Ableton (Ableton AG) was founded in 1999 by Gerhard Behles, Robert Henke, and Bernd Roggendorf. Its main product is a computer program called Live, which was released in 2001. This is a digital audio workstation (DAW) environment for recording audio and MIDI with an emphasis on working in real time, essentially allowing the user to play the software as an instrument. Practically any operation can be controlled via MIDI. Since its introduction, Live has become popular among electronic music artists for its ability to allow spontaneous manipulation of audio in a performance situation. Many manufacturers of MIDI controllers have developed control surfaces for Live, bridging the gap between software and hardware....

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic organ, several models of which were developed by Heinz Ahlborn (formerly a designer (1951–4) with Apparatewerk Bayern), and (from the mid-1960s) by Otto Riegg; it has been manufactured by Ahlborn-Orgel GmbH in Heimerdingen, near Stuttgart, from 1955. Like companies in several other countries, Ahlborn fought a long legal battle for the right to use the word ‘organ’ in the name of its instruments (‘Elektronenorgel’); after ten years the suit was resolved in the company’s favour in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

An Electronic organ designed by Jerome Markowitz (1917–91) between 1937 and 1939, and manufactured from 1939 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and from 1953 in nearby Macungie. The Allen Organ Co. was founded in 1945; besides many models of the organ, it has manufactured two electronic harpsichords (introduced in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

A polyphonic digital synthesizer manufactured by the Syntauri Corp. of Palo Alto, California, from about 1981 until the company closed in 1984. It was the first electronic instrument based on a home computer, the widely used Apple II microcomputer; this made the AlphaSyntauri relatively inexpensive. It consisted of an eight-voice, polyphonic, four- or five-octave, velocity-sensitive keyboard and plug-in circuit boards that were inserted in the Apple II. The designers made the AlphaSyntauri software flexible and accessible to counteract some of the limitations of common hardware synthesizers of the time, and it was arguably one of the first true ‘softsynths’ (software synthesizers). As many as eight synchronized tracks could be recorded by the sequencer memory and played back at variable speeds. A music education course, MusicMaster, was designed for use on the AlphaSyntauri....

Article

Hugh Davies

An electrical circuit which increases the strength of its input, and normally acts as an interface between an otherwise incompatible input and output. Certain hi-fi systems and large-scale amplification installations feature separate power amplifiers, which drive one or more loudspeakers, and preamplifiers, which boost and match the different electrical characteristics of a variety of inputs; preamplifiers are otherwise incorporated into other devices, such as mixing consoles and stereophonic hi-fi amplifiers. At its simplest the amplification chain can be seen as microphone (or other source)–amplifier–loudspeaker. The rock music ‘amp’ (combination unit or ‘combo’) consists of a portable loudspeaker cabinet containing an appropriate power amplifier and preamplifier. ...

Article

ANS  

Hugh Davies and Andrei Smirnov

Photoelectric composition machine (named from the initials of Aleksandr Nikolayevich Skryabin) developed from about 1950 in Moscow by Evgeny Murzin (c1913–70). The idea for such a machine dated back to 1938, when Murzin visited the acoustician Boris Yankovsky, who had collaborated in experiments on graphic sound with Arseny Avraamov and soon afterwards worked with Evgeny Sholpo in Leningrad on his composition machine, the Variophon. The ANS was remarkably close to the concept of the Mechanical Orchestra, a sound synthesis machine proposed by Sholpo in ...

Article

Hugh Davies and Anne Beetem Acker

Microcomputer designed by Steve Jobs (b San Francisco, 25 Feb 1955; d Palo Alto, 5 Oct 2011) with Steve Wozniak (b San Jose, CA, 11 Aug 1950) and manufactured in various versions from 1977 until 1993 by Apple Computer Inc. of Cupertino, California. It has been widely used in musical and other contexts. The Apple II consists of a single box for the logic circuitry (based on the MOS 6502 microprocessor) with an integral alphanumeric keyboard, and attached peripherals typically including a visual display unit, two disc drives, a printer, and joysticks. The original Apple II included a monophonic speaker and one-bit sound capability that could be made to sound like two or three simultaneous voices....

Article

Apps  

Anne Beetem Acker

Specialized software programs that can be downloaded and run on handheld electronic devices including tablet computers and some mobile phones. Inexpensive apps have been developed that enable host devices to function as musical instruments (e.g. Ocarina, Pocket Guitar, Pianist, Pocket Shaker), radios (Pandora, Sirus Jango, Tuner Internet Radio), music players (iTunes, Google Music), sound mixers (DJ Mixer Pro, Audio Core Mixer), sequencers (Guitar Sequencer, BeatMaker), synthesizers (Moog Filtatron), effects creators, (AmpliTube, Sonic Vox), recorders (Pro Studio), DJ Scratch tools (MixMeister Scratch), and provide ‘toolkits’ such as chord dictionaries for various instruments (ChordMaster). Apps have been supplanting specialized devices such as mechanical and digital metronomes (iBeat) and electronic tuning aids (Cleartune)....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Experimental electronic instrument designed at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile by Claudio Bertin, Gabriel de Ioannes, Alvaro Sylleros, Rodrigo Cádiz, and Patricio de la Cuadra. First described publicly in 2010, it has an interface that responds to the user’s natural gestures, improves the audience observation experience, is easy to master, and allows exploration of tonal and rhythmic possibilities. The novel design methodology centred on formal analysis of video recordings of a focus group discussing characteristics of instruments and performance, as well as of video recordings of individual gestural responses to eight categories of sounds of diverse timbre, pitch, and dynamics. The results were used to describe the characteristics of the instrument being designed and to create mock-ups that led to the Arcontinuo. The instrument’s playing surface resembles a curved board that is placed vertically on the performer’s chest, with straps securing it over the shoulders and a prop resting against the player’s stomach. The board’s flexible magnetic surface measures three-dimensional data from several fingers simultaneously, using an embedded grid of Hall effect sensors. Software interprets the results to produce the sounds....

Article

Term used to describe the system adopted in partially polyphonic electronic keyboard instruments to determine which of several keys depressed at any one time shall give rise to a signal. Partially polyphonic instruments are those in which two or more sounds (usually no more than 16) can be generated simultaneously; if more keys are held down at once than the instrument has ‘voices’, the assignment system causes a certain selection of keys (the highest, lowest, latest, etc.) to generate sounds....

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic keyboard instrument (not a piano) developed by Lee de Forest (b Council Bluffs, IA, 26 Aug 1873; d Hollywood, CA, 30 June 1961) in New York from 1915. De Forest introduced his Audion triode valve (vacuum tube) in 1906. A more sensitive development of John A. Fleming’s diode valve, it was to prove a major step in the development of electronics, especially radio. About ...

Article

Hugh Davies

An Electronic organ, several models of which were manufactured between 1951 and the mid-1950s by Apparatewerk Bayern (AWB) in Dachau. The first model was the entertainment organ Polychord III, designed by Harald Bode. It had two five-octave manuals and a 30-note pedalboard. The sounds were produced by an oscillator for each note, and a second system of 12 oscillators, using frequency division, supplied some of the timbres. The Polychord III was one of the first electronic organs manufactured in Germany after World War II; many of its principles were continued in later models of the AWB organ. After Bode left the company at the end of ...

Article

Ax  

Laurence Libin

In the argot of American popular music, a term for any instrument. The word particularly denotes wind and string types common in bands, such as saxophones and electric guitars; it is less often applied to keyboards and drum sets. Of uncertain origin but widespread by the 1950s, this usage apparently emerged in the early 20th century, perhaps in connection with the colloquial terms ‘woodshedding’ (laborious practicing or performing) and ‘chops’ (a wind player’s jaws, mouth, or embouchure, and by extension, any instrumentalist’s technical ability), as in ‘He’s woodshedding with his ax to improve his chops’. ‘Cutting contests’ (performance competitions) between early New Orleans jazz players naturally involved their axes. Such rustic terminology implies effortful, demonstrative physical work, like chopping wood with an ax....

Article

Hugh Davies

An electronic organ, many models of which were manufactured by the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. in the United States beginning in 1946. The original models were designed by Dr. Winston E. Kock (1909–82), the company’s director of electronic research from 1936. Baldwin organs normally have two manuals and pedals; the earlier models were mostly church, cinema, and concert organs, but the company has subsequently manufactured a wide range of instruments, including many for home use, especially “spinet” organs in which two shorter manuals are staggered by one octave. Advances in electronic technology around ...

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Coleman County, TX, March 18, 1899; d at sea nr Los Angeles, CA, March 30, 1941). American inventor of musical instruments. He was co-founder of the National Stringed Instrument Corporation and the Rickenbacker guitar company. He played the violin and the lap steel (‘Hawaiian’) guitar in vaudeville before settling in Los Angeles, where he worked with John and Rudy Dopyera to develop an acoustically amplified guitar, probably inspired by Stroh models. An early model with a Victrola horn failed, but trials using conical aluminium resonators within a metal guitar body (a prototype of the three-cone Dobro guitar) proved successful and attracted investors. Production of metal-body guitars under the name National soon involved Adolph Rickenbacker’s nearby tool and die shop....

Article

Allison A. Alcorn

(b Elgin, IL, Dec 12, 1899; d Downey, CA, June 7, 1968). American guitar maker and inventor, known as the father of the electric solid-body guitar. Before World War I he was a patternmaker at a machine shop in Los Angeles. After the war he became a motorcycle racer known as ‘P.A.’, a nickname that carried into later life. During World War II, Bigsby designed parts for US Navy ships. As a guitarist, Bigsby played with an amateur country and western band, and in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Synthesizer module manufacturer founded by John Blacet (b 1946) in 1978 as Blacet Music Research in Lakeview, Oregon. Blacet initially made kits for analogue modules including a digital pattern generator, a voltage-controlled clock with event arranger, a phase filter, and a frequency divider, followed by analogue delay modules, the ‘Dark Star’ (a mini noise module) and the ‘Syn-bow’, a self-contained wand-controlled synthesizer. With the popularity of digital synthesizers in the 1980s Blacet’s business plummeted, but renewed interest in analogue synthesis in the 1990s enabled him to produce a full line of kit and assembled analogue synthesizer modules in the Frac format. These modules are noted for fitting a large amount of functionality into very small modules. In spring ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Technology that allows a person to control a music-related output with commands expressed by brain signals. The output signal can control physical and virtual instruments and composition systems. Therapeutic applications include allowing severely physically disabled persons to participate actively in music-making. A number of methods of detecting and measuring brain activity have been tried; electroencephalography (EEG) has proved to be the most practical. Neural activity generates electric fields that can be detected by EEG electrodes placed on the scalp. The electrodes are placed in an array that allows mapping of neural activity over time. The signals are very weak and must be amplified and broken into frequency bands commonly labeled from low to high as Theta, Delta, Alpha, low Beta, medium Beta, and Gamma....

Article

Buchla  

Hugh Davies

A Synthesizer, several models of which have been designed by Donald (Frederick) Buchla (b Southgate, CA, 17 April 1937) and manufactured by Buchla Associates (later Buchla & Associates) in Berkeley, California, since 1964. Between 1969 and 1971 CBS Musical Instruments had manufacturing and marketing rights to the original model. Donald Buchla gained experience in electronics by building devices such as a sonar-like guide for blind people and also constructed acoustic sound sculptures; in ...

Article

An electromagnetic device for use with a piano. See Sostenente piano, §5.