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Michael Webb

(Tok Pisin for ‘bamboo band’).

Both a struck aerophone (alternatively, an idiophone) comprising a set of three or five tuned bamboo tubes, and the name for an ensemble including these instruments. It was featured in popular music in the Solomon Islands (its place of origin) and parts of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu for several decades from the 1970s. The primary instrument is derived from the handheld tuned stamping tube, and comprises a set of 7- to 9-cm-diameter bamboos, open at both ends and graduated in lengths of up to 2 metres, arranged in raft form. A band will include at least three sets; each set is commonly tuned (to a guitar) 1–3–5–6–8 (or 1–3–5), usually in a low register, to sound one of the three primary chords in a given key. With flexible paddles players vigorously slap in succession one open end of each bamboo in a boogie-woogie rhythmic-melodic pattern that outlines a triad; sets alternate according to changes in harmony. The ensemble includes guitars and accompanies harmonized singing. A related Solomon Islands ensemble without guitars yet employing Westernized tuning, involves multiple sets of panpipes, ‘pantrumpets’, and the rack-mounted bass ...

Article

Richard Johnston

Guitar, mandolin, and ukulele manufacturer. It was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1976 by Bill Collings (b 1948), who had moved from Ohio to Texas following a failed attempt at medical school. After building a few guitars and some banjos, Collings moved to Austin in 1979. His background as a machinist led him to emphasize precise jigs and fixtures even when he was working out of a small single-car garage. Demand for Collings guitars, specifically for updated versions of Martin and Gibson flat-top styles from the 1930s, prompted his move to a 1,000-square-foot shop in 1989. Two woodworkers were hired, including Bruce Van Wart, who is still in charge of wood selection and top voicing on the firm’s acoustic guitars. By this time, production had increased to a level that allowed sales to a few retailers.

In late 1991 the company relocated to a much larger facility on the outskirts of Austin, and the number of Collings guitar models, and employees, began to grow. Bill Collings was one of the first flat-top guitar builders to offer fully carved arch-top models as well. These deluxe jazz guitars were quickly accepted as the equals of those from premier American builders, and they sold for similar prices; but only a few were completed each year. Collings was also one of the first small, independent guitar companies to incorporate CNC (computer numerical control) carving machines for building both guitar parts and the precise tooling to aid in their assembly, which is still done by hand. One of the signature differences between the Collings models and the Gibson and Martin originals that inspired them is that Collings uses an unglued bolted mortise and tenon neck joint, rather than a traditional dovetail....

Article

Syndrum  

Hugh Davies

Electronic percussion instrument invented in Los Angeles by Joe Pollard, a professional drummer. In 1976 he met Mark Barton of the Tycobrahe Sound Company in Hermosa Beach, California, who made some well-received prototypes. Along with Donald Stone, they patented the design and formed Pollard Industries of South El Monte, California. The Syndrum is played like a drum, but has a piezo-electric sensor mounted in the centre of a mesh-covered ‘head’. Syndrums were initially made in two forms: the 477, a drum (also in sets of two and four) connected to a separate electronic console, and the 177, a single-drum unit with built-in controls governing electronically generated sounds. The two-head 277 followed. While the Syndrum was very popular with rock bands and for disco in the late 1970s and early 80s, Pollard Industries failed and in 1978 was sold to Research Development Systems, Inc., which added the Syndrum CM, a single-head drum with controls on the sides. All the drums offered multiple sound effects including the ‘laser’, bird calls, clave, anvil, several types of toms, bass drum, and snare drum. Used Syndrums remain popular, and many keyboard synthesizers and sample libraries offer Syndrum sounds. In ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Monophonic analogue synthesizer produced between 1982 and 1984 by Synton Electronics, a Dutch firm founded in 1973 by Felix Visser. The device was created by Visser along with the product specialist Marc Paping and product developer Bert Vermeulen. Synton originally built vocoders, but soon began importing and distributing Fairlight, E-mu, and Linn products in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Syrinx 1, created about 1975, was never produced commercially. Only 300 Syrinx 2 synthesizers were built. First priced under £400, but prized by collectors, originals sold for more than £1200 in the early 2000s. The device is not MIDI-compatible and has no presets, but includes two voltage control oscillators, a voltage divider, a noise generator, two ADSRs (attack decay sustain release envelope generators), two low-frequency oscillators, a pulse-width modulator, a ring modulator, and three voltage control filters. It features a mixer and a touch pad that can control pitch-bending and other parameters. All but the last series (which were mounted in a flight case), had a 44-note keyboard. The Syrinx 2 was distributed in the USA by Robert Moog. Synton went bankrupt in ...

Article

Wasp  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Small analogue–digital hybrid synthesizer designed by Chris Huggett with rock musician Adrian Wagner and manufactured between 1978 and 1981 by their firm, Electronic Dream Plant (EDP), in Combe, near Oxford. The Wasp was also briefly available in kit form. This synthesizer has a two-octave, solid, monophonic ‘keyboard’ with pitch-bend and portamento controls; the diatonic keys, knobs, and lettering are yellow on a black background, to match the instrument’s name. For a real keyboard, it substitutes flat copper plates under a printed vinyl sticker. The conductive plates sense skin capacitance to trigger the associated pitches. The Wasp contains two oscillators, a white-noise generator, a filter, and an envelope shaper, and offers various voltage-controlled features, as well as a small built-in loud speaker and sockets for connecting to other EDP products. The circuitry incorporates a digital pitch-coding system which facilitates links with other devices, including microcomputers. In its shiny black plastic case and with batteries in place, the Wasp weighs only 1.8 kg (a deluxe version with wooden case and conventional keyboard is heavier but still easily portable). Although relatively inexpensive, small, and rather fragile, the Wasp was powerful and versatile for its time and developed an enduring following. EDP developed a still smaller model, the Gnat, with one oscillator and pulse width modulation, and the Caterpillar, a three-octave keyboard controller with four-voice polyphony. Other EDP creations included the Keytar, a guitar controller based on the Wasp, which was never produced, and a microcomputer-based 252-step sequencer called the Spider....