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Article

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.

Live is equally suited to arranging and production applications, with abilities similar to those of other popular recording platforms such as Cubase and Pro Tools. It can run in tandem with most other DAW systems using the ReWire protocol by Steinberg Media Technologies (the creators of Cubase), allowing Live and other programs to share audio and MIDI information with a host DAW. In many ways Live has redefined the role software and computers in general have had in music creation and production. It was among the first programs able automatically to ‘beat match’ (synchronize audio files with different tempos). An integrated Max/MSP platform (a visual programming language) allows users to program their own virtual instruments by linking together pre-made blocks or ‘objects’. Ableton also produces virtual instrument plug-ins and libraries of samples for their Live platform....

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 1961 and 1982) and an electronic piano (from 1965). After Markowitz's death his son Steve Markowitz succeeded him as president.

The Allen organ was the first fully-electronic organ to become commercially available. A three-manual instrument was produced in 1946, and a four-manual one in 1954. In 1949 a two-speed rotating loudspeaker unit, the Gyrophonic Projector, was introduced. The company was one of the first to develop a fully transistorized organ (1959), and in the digital Computer Organ (1971) it pioneered the replacement of oscillators by a computer that generates sounds by means of digital waveform synthesis (based on recordings of pipe organ spectra). The original organ was designed for use in churches, but later models included concert and home organs. The concert models have frequently taken solo and obbligato roles in orchestras, under conductors such as Barenboim, Bernstein, Dorati, Karajan, Mehta, Ormandy and Stokowski. Four-manual touring organs were commissioned in the mid-1970s by Carlo Curley (380 loudspeakers) and Virgil Fox (over 500 loudspeakers)....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Electronic music controller produced by nu desine Ltd in Bristol, UK. Conceived by Adam Place (b Chatham, Kent, 1986) while studying sound design at Nagoya Zokei University in Japan, the prototype was developed in 2007 while Place was a student of music and visual art at Bristol University, where he was inspired by the electronic and bass-heavy sounds of Bristol’s underground music scene. Place founded nu desine in September 2010 to commercialize his design. Introduced at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in March 2012, the AlphaSphere entered commercial production later that year with the ‘Elite’ series. The firm, with six employees in 2012, also develops other new interfaces for human and computer interaction.

The AlphaSphere can communicate with other electronic devices such as computers, digital audio workstations, and synthesizers, by sending MIDI and OSC (Open Sound Control) messages over a USB connector. The OSC messages include specific network address information that allows the AlphaSphere to control multiple devices on a network. The AlphaSphere features six rows of eight circular, pressure-sensitive silicone pads arranged in rings encircling a pedestal-mounted sphere; sphere and pedestal together measure 26 × 26 × 32 cm and weigh about 2.5 kg. The pads incorporate a patent-pending touch technology; each pad offers independent aftertouch control affecting the audio output continuously during the duration of contact. The lowest pads are the largest and the uppermost pads the smallest. Pitches can be placed in different arrangements; for example, a major scale can be arranged around a row, with perfect 5ths playable by pressing the pads on opposite sides of the sphere. Coloured LEDs within the sphere light up between the pads and the LEDs can be controlled in different ways....

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by 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.

For higher-quality music production, by 1981 other firms began to produce various circuit boards (sound cards) to plug into the Apple II. Examples include ALF Products’ synthesizer card and Mountain Computer’s popular 16-oscillator digital synthesizer with software. Two commercially produced digital synthesizers with polyphonic keyboards, the alphaSyntauri (...

Article

Laurence Libin

(Delmetia )

(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.

From the mid-1920s Beauchamp also experimented with electrical amplification of guitars (including lap steel and bass guitars) and violins of unconventional shape, without normal resonators but using simple phonograph pickups. After his collaboration with the Dopyeras ended, 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

Carvin  

Matthew Hill

Firm of musical instrument manufacturers and distributors, primarily of electric guitars, amplifiers and sound-reinforcement equipment. The company was founded in 1946 in Los Angeles, California by Hawaiian guitarist Lowell C. Kiesel (b Eustis, NE, 22 Feb 1915; d San Diego, 28 Dec 2009) as the L.C. Kiesel Company. In the late 1940s the company relocated to Gothenburg, Nebraska. In 1949, Kiesel moved back to the Los Angeles area and renamed the company “Carvin,” after his two eldest sons Carson and Gavin. The company has relocated and expanded several times during its existence; to Baldwin Park in the early 1950s, Covina in 1956, Escondido in 1975, and to San Diego in 1995.

The company began by marketing electric guitar pickups of Kiesel’s design, but soon expanded to selling complete instruments (mostly Hawaiian guitars), and amplifiers. In 1954, the company began extensive mail-order sales, featuring Spanish and Hawaiian electric guitars, double-neck instruments, electric guitar kits, electronic components for musical instruments, and even accordions. At various times in the 1950s and 60s, catalogs featured not only the company’s own offerings, but instruments and accessories made by Fender, Martin, Bigsby, and DeArmond. In addition to consumer sales, Carvin also made electric guitar pickups for other manufacturers, notably those found in early Mosrite instruments....

Article

Casio  

Hugh Davies

Japanese electronic instrument manufacturer. Casio was founded in Tokyo about 1956 by Toshio Kashio as the Casio Computer Co., to make smaller electronic machines; it has been specially successful with its pocket calculators, digital watches and cash registers. Its first musical keyboard was marketed in 1980. Casio pioneered electronic keyboards designed for children. It has manufacturered organ-like home keyboards (since ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[Mobile]

Ensemble of performers using programmable mobile (cellular) phones. MoPhoO, the Mobile Phone Orchestra of CCRMA at Stanford University, formed in 2007 with 16 phones and players under the supervision of Ge Wang, Georg Essl, and Henri Penttinen, claims to be the first repertoire- and ensemble-based mobile phone performance group. Notably it uses only the phone’s onboard speakers. Since MoPhoO’s founding, other cell phone ensembles have been founded at the University of Michigan, Berlin (both founded by Georg Essl), and in Helsinki (directors Henri Penttinen and Antti Jylhä). The Michigan ensemble uses custom-made wearable speaker systems. Repertoire consists of scored compositions, sonic sculpture, and structured improvisation. For each piece, the phones run customised programmes that direct how they respond sonically to inputs that can come from the keypad or touchpad, the accelerometer positions, the built-in camera, or the microphone. For example, the keypad numbers can be mapped to different pitches in different modes, or to any sort of sound or sequence of sounds. While cell phones have considerable computing capability, they have limited acoustic bandwidth, but partial selection can suggest bass frequencies that are below the cell phone’s actual capability....

Article

Kyle Devine

American manufacturer of electronic keyboards and drum machines. The company was founded in Upland, California, by Harry Chamberlin in the late 1940s. Instead of the electronic circuits and digital processors used to generate sound in most synthesizers, Chamberlins replay the sounds of existing instruments and effects recorded to electromagnetic tape. In using prerecorded sound, Chamberlins are considered forerunners of digital sampling techniques and technologies.

Harry Chamberlin’s first device, the Rhythmate (considered one of the first drum machines) used a series of dials and switches to play back fourteen looped drum patterns. Later designs, such as the Model 200 (1950s) and the M1 (1970s), used a conventional keyboard to activate the tape mechanism. Instead of tape loops, these keyboard models used tape strips that played for several seconds before automatically rewinding. Using tape strips allowed the initial attack of the instrument to be heard.

Sales were sizeable but never enormous: several hundred Chamberlins were produced during the company’s lifespan (...

Article

Clavia  

Brandon Smith

[Clavia Digital Musical Instruments AB]

Swedish producer of virtual analogue synthesizers and digital organ and electric piano emulations. The company was founded in 1983 in Stockholm by Hans Nordelius (b1949) and Mikael Carlsson, and it sells its products under the brand name Nord. Clavia’s first product, the Digital Percussion Plate 1, introduced in 1983, developed into the ‘ddrum’ series of digital drum synthesizers. In 1995 Clavia produced its first keyboard synthesizer, a virtual analogue called the Nord Lead. Two years later Clavia developed a hardware synthesizer with a computer interface called the Nord Modular, which was fully patchable via the supplied editor software. In 2001, Clavia released the Nord Electro line of performance-oriented keyboards featuring realistic emulations of classic electromechanical instruments such as the Rhodes piano and Clavinet plus a virtual Hammond tonewheel organ. The Electro series (now in its second version) is used by many performing groups. The double-manual Nord C1 (introduced in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

[Connsonata]

Electronic organ originally designed by Earle L. Kent (who later developed the electronic music box) and manufactured in a large number of models by C.G. Conn of Elkhart, Indiana, from about 1947. It was known until the mid-1950s as the Connsonata. The organs were later made in Carol Stream, Illinois, and from about 1960 to 1979 in Madison, Indiana. The Conn company was purchased in 1969 by the publisher Crowell-Collier & Macmillan, Inc., and organ production was taken over from 1980 by the Kimball Piano & Organ Co., which later closed the operation in the face of competition from digital organs.

Conn organs normally have two manuals and pedals, and they range from church and theatre organs with traditional consoles to home organs, including several of the ‘spinet’ design in which two manuals (each usually having 44 notes) are staggered by one octave. The Model 700, introduced in 1955, originally had two 61-note manuals and 25 pedals, later increased to 32 pedals. Exceptionally, some of the theatre organs and the Theatrette spinet have three manuals, and other large instruments were customised, usually by combining features of of existing models. The sounds are generated by a single oscillator for each note (the first model contained 166 oscillators). Some models include an additional Leslie tremulant loudspeaker. Advances in electronic technology from about ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Brand name for a 41-note electronic piano accordion and for electronic organs and pianos and amplifiers. These were manufactured by CRB Elettronica of Ancona, Italy, from about 1960 into the 1970s and distributed by Chicago Musical Instrument Co. (CMI). While there are similarities with electronic instruments made by Farfisa (also distributed by CMI), the Cordovox schematic diagrams are clearly marked with CRB’s logo. Most models of Cordovox organ have one manual, but the CDX has two. An unusual feature of this model is the ‘Arpeggio/Glissando’ switch which when set to ‘Arpeggio’ allows the player to hold a chord on the lower manual, and the chord will arpeggiate using the sustain voices. Similarly, the ‘Glissando’ setting will cause a chromatic sustained glissando. The two-manual CDX-0652 ‘White Elephant’ is a Cordovox organ with a built-in Moog Satellite monosynth, designed by Thomas Organ, which bought the rights to the Moog Satellite. The synthesizer voices play only from the upper manual, the organ on both. The CDX-P425 and CRD-P423 are 60-key electronic pianos....

Article

Crumar  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Italian manufacturer of electronic keyboard instruments, founded in the early 1970s in Castelfidardo, near Ancona. The firm was named after its founder, Mario Crucianelli, and his partner F. Marchetti. The Crucianelli family already owned a large accordion firm that had designed the first electronic accordion, but disputes led Mario and his brother Vincenzo to leave and form Crumar. Mario’s son Sante worked as sales manager and as a marketing/engineering liaison. Crumar’s early range (produced from about 1974) included several types of electric piano (the Compac, Roady, Roadracer, Roadrunner, Baby Grand Piano, and others), electronic organ (including the Toccata), and string synthesizer (Multiman, Orchestrator, and Performer), and instruments incorporating a polyphonic synthesizer section (Composer, Stratus, and Trilogy). The Synthephone (1982), a small electronic keyboard instrument, features a breath control facility. Crumar’s analogue synthesizers were comparable to the Moog and other types, and the Crumar Spirit was designed by Robert Moog along with Jim Scott and Tom Rhea....

Article

Cwejman  

Anne Beetem Acker

[CW Elektronik]

Swedish producer of analogue synthesizers, founded and solely operated in Kungälv by the Polish engineer Wlodzimierz (Wowa) Cwejman (b 1949). Cwejman began building the analogue synthesizer ‘Synthra’ to custom order in the 1970s, but dropped out of the field to work in industrial electronics when digital synthesizers came on the market. In ...

Article

Brandon Smith

American manufacturer of synthesizer modules, based in Glendale, California. The company was founded in 2002 by Cynthia Webster, an electronic music artist and synthesizer module designer. While in high school in the 1970s, Webster bought an ARP 2600 synthesizer and soon thereafter went to study with Jim Michmerhuizen (author of the ARP 2600 user’s manual) at the Boston School of Electronic Music; she then studied electronic music at San Francisco State University and Mills College. In 1976, she founded Synapse (1976–9), a magazine dedicated to electronic music. After a hiatus from electronic music to work as a cinematographer, Webster acquired a modular synthesizer by Modcan and began producing her own diverse modules, along with other designers including Mark Barton and Herbert Kuhnert, under the name Cyndustries. Although Cyndustries modules were originally intended for use with Modcan systems, they are also available in other formats including the Behringer Eurorack, Dotcom (Synthesizer.com), PaiA’s FracRak, and MOTM by Synthesis Technologies....

Article

Daewoo  

Anne Beetem Acker

(Korean: ‘great Woo’)

South Korean manufacturer of acoustic and digital pianos. Founded in 1967 as Daewoo Industrial, the large conglomerate Daewoo International Corp. is named for its founder, Kim Woo-jung. In 1977 the Daewoo Precision Industries division purchased the Sojin musical instrument factory of Yeoju, Korea. Sojin had been making guitars; it added upright pianos in 1976. Between 1980 and 1991, Daewoo exported Sojin pianos as well as pianos under the names Royale, Daytron, Daewoo, Schafer & Sons, Sherman Clay (until 1987), and Cline, in addition to private labels. These pianos were of inconsistent and relatively low quality. Starting in 1989, Daewoo began to manufacture digital pianos. In 1990 they produced 13,452 uprights, 2,364 grands, and 2,120 digital pianos.

In 1991, Daewoo purchased a 33% share of the German piano maker Ibach, selling the Sojin equipment to a Chinese firm and replacing it with copies of Ibach’s machinery. Thereafter, instead of Sojin pianos, Daewoo produced Ibach brand instruments to a higher standard, using components such as Renner actions and Delignit wrestplanks. However, the parent Daewoo International Corp., stressed by the Asian financial crisis, went bankrupt in ...

Article

Dimi  

Hugh Davies

A digital synthesizer developed by the Finnish composer and electronic designer Erkki Kurenniemi (b Hämeenlinna, 1941), with Jukka Ruohomäki (b 1947), and manufactured by Digelius Electronics in Helsinki between 1971 and the late 1970s. An early example of the digital synthesizer, the Dimi resembles neither more recent digital instruments nor the analogue synthesizers of its own period. On a small tablet (40 × 40 cm) a printed circuit is laid out in a fan shape, with 46 terminations; a stylus is used to make all interconnections and operate all controls through the tablet (though the tablet and stylus may be replaced by an alphanumeric keyboard). The system also includes a television screen, which can receive input from a television camera; the graphic images shown on the screen can then be converted into sound, in a manner analogous to the techniques of graphic sound. The Dimi contains a range of modules similar to those on a small modular synthesizer, as well as a memory, which can be used as a rhythm generator. A recording ‘DIMI 1’, featuring Ruohomäki as performer in works by Bach, Kurenniemi, and Ruohomäki, was released in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Line of MIDI-based reproducing player pianos introduced by Yamaha Corporation in 1982 (1986 in North America). The Disklavier system combines an acoustic piano with an electromechanical player-piano system. As in other such systems, fibre-optic sensors register the movement of keys, hammers, and pedals during performance, while the digital controller operates a bank of solenoids installed under the piano’s key bed; one solenoid is positioned under the tail of each key, with additional solenoids connected to the pedal rods. Performance information is stored digitally on CD-ROM, floppy discs (still used for many accompaniments for instructional piano material), or a hard drive. Disklavier systems can be connected to sequencers, tone modules, and computers via MIDI and Ethernet. A built-in speaker system attached to the case under the soundboard is used to play back optional digital piano sound and especially for playback of accompanying orchestral or vocal tracks.

Unlike other electronic player systems, the Disklavier is only installed in new Yamaha pianos and only at the factory. It cannot be installed in older Yamahas or other brands of pianos. Compared with other systems, the Disklavier’s recording capability is generally regarded to be of the highest quality and sophistication. Of the Disklavier models available in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

A polyphonic digital synthesizer developed by Dean Wallraff in the late 1970s and manufactured by his company Digital Music Systems of Boston, MA (originally Brooklyn, NY) beginning in 1980. The DMX-1000 was designed to be controlled by a master computer, such as the PDP 11 made by the Digital Equipment Corporation (which also forms part of the DMX-1010 package). The complete system includes a visual display unit, two disc drives, an alphanumeric keyboard and a real time control panel. The first commercially-produced digital synthesizer offering microprogramming, the DMX-1000 has a ‘transparent’ capability, permitting any combination of synthesizer modules to be programmed using the Music 1000 digital signal processing language (which was developed for the DMX-1000). It allows signal processing of synthesized, live, and pre-recorded sounds, and was used for speech synthesis. Faced with competition from Yamaha, Wallraff left the synthesizer business in the mid-1980s and turned first to composing, then to Internet distribution of educational software, and finally to practising law. (D. Wallraff: ‘The DMX-...