Before the Web and SoundCloud, publications wanting to share sound examples – whether that was from artists, tutorials, or whatever – had to get creative. And so it was that Keyboard Magazine included flexible discs in the magazine, some time in the 80s.

Based on a discussion from various Keyboard editor and contributor veterans, it seems there have been a number of attempts to digitize these over the years, along with lots of other useful content like those Brian Eno DX7 presets I shared yesterday. But the sheer content volume of a monthly magazine published starting around 1975, plus the lack of even scans let alone a proper digital archive for most of that span of time, atop complex copyright issues around the musical materials keyboard featured, have meant this is done in fits and starts.

That also means that what you hear here is definitely of … marginal legality.

Still, it’s a reminder of the power of sound to illustrate ideas. And those sounds are charmingly leisurely in their pacing, in contrast to today’s algorithm-heavy, clickbait-driven world. (Sigh.)

Indeed, oddly, it was in the Flexi-Disc age that magazines shared all sorts of random content that they might not do today. And I love the trained radio voice introducing sampling resolution concepts.

It’s all a reminder that it isn’t so much the medium itself that matters as it is a commitment to editorial. There are commercial struggles now, as ever.

There are some heavy hitters in these releases, too. (Yeah, about that copyright.)

Herbie Hancock, Jan Hammer, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Chick Corea sit alongside some seriously obscure stuff. Have a listen, at least until these are found and deleted.

The history here is terrific. But while I think some archival work is interesting, I think it’s even better to spend energy building new stuff. Part of what made Keyboard special was the sense that obscure experimentalists and the likes of Herbie Hancock were part of a single community. That spirit ought to be more possible today – and perhaps less exclusively men, less limited to the US or US and UK.

And, heck, maybe we should see about producing some flexi-discs for record fairs.

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