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Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Interactive laser music controller made by Human Beams, Inc., also known as Beamz Interactive, Inc., based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The firm was cofounded in 2001 by the rock musician Paul Riopelle and the Beamz’s inventor, Jerry [Gerald Henry] Riopelle, also a rock musician and record producer. Todor Fay and Melissa Jordan Grey developed the controlling software. The Beamz system was first released in late 2010. Eight patents, for the controller, interactive music creation methods, and applications, had been filed by 2010.

The performer triggers preloaded music sequences, optionally running over a background rhythm track, by interrupting laser beams using the hands or any object. The user need not be able to read music; the system ensures that combinations are always ‘harmonically pleasing’. The model C6 has six laser beams, the C4 has four. The W-shaped Beamz tabletop controller is linked via a USB connection to a host computer running the controller’s software. An easy-to-use computer interface allows the performer to select or store new sequences. Different types of sequences, notes, and sounds can be assigned to each laser. Sound is produced using the computer’s audio hardware and played back through any connected loudspeaker system. The system comes with preloaded songs and settings, with more available for download over the Internet from the firm’s website. In addition the user can save personal music files and improvisations. Particularly intended for the DJ market, the system enables dynamic remixing of songs, and the lasers create a dramatic appearance. The performer can trigger melodies and rhythms that loop on top of each other, incrementally layering the sequences. A sequence can be a melodic or rhythmic pattern that starts, ends, or changes to a different pattern when triggered. A single note of a synthesized instrument can change pitch when triggered, and the player can then trigger different beams to layer in other sounds....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[Doctor Rhythm]

Electronic percussion instrument released in 1980 and manufactured by the BOSS division of Roland. Very popular, small, inexpensive and easy to use, the Dr Rhythm model DR-55 was one of the first drum machines to use ‘step-write’ programming, where in ‘write’ mode the user can select a sound and use buttons to move incrementally (‘step’) through each beat of the beat pattern and select a choice of sounds. It can store up to six 16-step drum patterns and two 12-step patterns, the latter for triple-metre rhythms. Its four (analogue) voice-circuit sounds are snare, kick drum, rim-shot, and hi-hat. The pattern can be switched during playing, and volume, tempo (45 to 300 beats per minute), tone, and accent can be globally adjusted. The DR-110 Graphic (1983) adds a graphic display showing a step-programming grid for the drum voices, and includes 16 preset patterns plus 16 memory locations for user-programmed 12- or 16-step patterns, plus two ‘song’ memories for up to 128 bars of patterns. Its drum sounds can be programmed or played in from drum pads....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Electronic device that changes the sound of an instrument, especially used with electronic or electric instruments such as electric guitar, bass, and keyboard. An effects unit can be a rack-mounted box with manual controls (most commonly used in studios), a tabletop box with manual controls (commonly used by a DJ), a box set on the floor (a ‘stompbox’) and usually operated by the foot, or built into an amplifier (including those in some electric guitars). Multi-effects (multi-FX) devices combine several effects in one unit, allowing combinations to be pre-set and accessed with one touch. The most common stompboxes have one pedal and one effect, but some offer multiple effects and a simple pedalboard for selection. Effects units can be connected into an ‘effect chain’. If an effects unit in the chain is turned off, the signal passes to the next in the chain, allowing the performer to choose which effects in the chain to control. Multiple effect chains can be controlled from an ‘effects management system’....

Article

Stephen Ruppenthal

(John )

(b Oakland, CA, Sept 19, 1952). American guitarist, synthesizer player, and producer. He studied economics at Harvard University (BA 1976) and began performing in improvisational contexts in 1974. In 1979 he became involved in experimental rock and has since performed extensively in the United States and abroad. He has worked with, among others, Derek Bailey, David Lindley, Fred Frith, Herbie Hancock, Jerry Garcia, Bill Laswell, Eugene Chadbourne, Michael Stipe, Diamanda Galás, John Zorn, Richard Thompson, and John Oswald; he has also played with the Rova Saxophone Quartet and many free-music groups in the San Francisco Bay area, where he has been based. In both solo and ensemble performance he characteristically aims for some type of fusion of rock, jazz, non-Western, and avant-garde classical styles and focuses on “language elements of attack, articulation, pitch bend trajectory, and velocity.” His use of elastic rhythms, non-tempered scales, and widely varied timbres shows the influence of Southeast Asian and Indian musics and the blues. His extended solo improvisations (such as “The Shadow Line” on the album ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[KTV]

Electronic music player that accompanies singers with pre-recorded music. The name comes from Japanese, kara (‘empty’) and oke (‘orchestra’). The basic karaoke machine includes some form of music player, a built-in audio mixer, microphone inputs, and audio outputs. The first karaoke systems included a microphone, eight-track tape player, amplifier, loudspeaker, and printed songbooks. Later machines display the lyrics on a video screen, and the more expensive versions can adjust the pitch level to suit the singer without changing tempo (some early systems allowed for changing the pitch but only by changing the tape speed, altering the tempo). Some early 21st-century versions include an Auto-Tune audio processor to correct intonation and software for making music videos. Karaoke systems for public spaces often are integrated into a pedestal that holds the controls, song storage, microphones, and video display, with separate loudspeakers. Portable systems resemble portable CD players, with or without a video screen. Wireless-microphone karaoke systems by companies such as Entertech use television or entertainment consoles for both audio and video. Video-game versions allow singers/players to receive scores or perform ‘with’ famous bands, sometimes as an animated character onscreen....

Article

Lambda  

Anne Beetem Acker

[Korg Lambda ES50]

Analogue string synthesizer manufactured in 1979 by Keio of Tokyo as part of the Korg range. The Lambda has a 48-note keyboard with full polyphony, three voltage control oscillators, chorus and vibrato effects, and one voltage control filter. An unusual feature is the incorporation of two envelope generators for each note. The preset orchestral sounds have limited editing capability. The presets form two groups, each with an independent output: a percussion set (pianos, clavis, and harmonics), and an ensemble set (brass, strings, chorus, and organ). The unit has a joystick that facilitates simultaneous control of pitch bends and chorus phase speed. The string sounds are particularly prized, and modern synthesizer makers include Lambda string sound samples in their libraries. The Lambda was used for live performance and recordings by many rock musicians of the late 1970s and early 1980s including Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and Les Rockets....

Article

Sumanth Gopinath

[portable media player]

An easily transported, often handheld machine that plays pre-recorded and/or broadcast media, sometimes possessing recording capability; the term is most often associated with portable digital audio and multimedia players. The history of the portable media device can be linked decisively, if not exclusively, to the invention of audio recording (portable magic lanterns and other cinematic precursors were common in the 19th century). Mechanical audio devices such as the suitcase gramophone, popular among sailors and soldiers, emerged during the first two decades of the 20th century, and early radio kits were portable, preceding the often-discussed “domestication” of the record player and the radio into household furniture. Radio sets became fitted components in automobiles around 1930, and so-called portable player pianos—portable player piano mechanisms applied to regular pianos—were even invented around the same time. But despite the commonplace description of such devices as “portable,” the term has meant different things at different times and for different devices: one could articulate a scale-of-portability continuum dependent in part on object size, ranging from media playback and transmission machines that were transportable (which by definition would include all consumer models), to those moved about with relative ease while usually requiring stationary setup and usage (including the examples above), to handheld and pocket-sized devices that could allow for media consumption while on the move. Another consideration in portability was the power sources for such devices, which during the first half of the century shifted from the mechanical to the electrical but which were still hampered by the limitations of batteries, notably their cost, size, and storage capacity....

Article

Jeff E. Winner

(b Brooklyn, NY, Sept 10, 1908; d North Hills, CA, Feb 9, 1994). American composer, electronic music pioneer, electronic instrument inventor, and pianist. After attending Brooklyn Technical High School, he studied theory, composition, and piano at the Juilliard School of Music. Following his graduation in 1931, he became a pianist for the CBS Radio orchestra. In 1934, at age 25, he wrote his first hit, later recorded by Louis Armstrong.

In 1936 he assembled a six-piece “Quintette” from his CBS colleagues, including Bunny Berigan, and Johnny Williams, father of movie score composer John Williams. Following successful live radio performances, they began recording on 20 February 1937. Scott’s compositions for this band represent his attempts to rejuvenate Swing music with minimal improvisation and busy, tight arrangements. He dubbed the style “descriptive jazz,” and the Quintette was popular until he disbanded it in 1939. Though Scott didn’t score cartoons, these compositions are familiar to millions because they were adapted into classic Warner Bros. ...

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 ...