Watch James Horner Play Piano, Talk Overnight ‘Aliens’ Climax

On a very personal note, I’m saddened this week to learn of the news of the death of the great film composer James Horner. See him talk about his approach to scoring Field of Dreams at top for some of his approach. Best of all, you get to see him at the piano. When I was a kid, Horner was one of the people who inspired me to investigate composition. I was entranced with the sweeping romanticism of the Star Trek II score that was his big break – an aching, yearning, but dreamy vision of the future, filled with …


Is Yamaha Finally Joining the Retro Synth Party?

Well, you saw this one coming – if probably a lot earlier. With the dance music market growing and synth fever spreading, Japanese giant Yamaha seems to have some new keyboard up its sleeves. In a teaser video today, the first of a series, Yamaha promises something called “reface.” Updated: there’s more. New Yamaha Synths Will Include “Totally Alien” New Technology, Says Interview The video shows a blurry show of a Yamaha CS-80, the one synth mentioned by name in the artist videos. And there are keys involved (from the spread of the hands in the one artist video, they …


8-bit Remake of Hasselhoff’s True Survivor is the Best Thing We’ve Watched This Week

Okay, we hit some sort of nerd singularity just now. Start with David Hasselhoff’s cheeky, cheesy “True Survivor.” Remake it on the 8-bit SidTracker 64 app. You’ll swear all of this actually happened in the 80s, even if it didn’t. Retrorgasm. And yes, this gem is included in the app. Musical arrangement: Fredrik Segerfalk Graphics by Vanja Utne: http://twitter.com/CheesePirateEq2 Video and extra GFX by Moppe SidTracker programming by Daniel Larsson Please roll down your windows and ghetto-blast this one this weekend.


SidTracker 64 Puts Retro Chip Music Creation on Your iPad

Pity the iPad. Unlike the Commodore 64, Apple’s wundertablet doesn’t come with a state-of-the-art SID synthesizer chip inside. Well, now emulation solves that problem. SidTracker 64 is both an emulation of the SID sound chip on the Commodore computer line, plus a workstation for arranging your own songs. And it’s already got some songs to get you started, like the classic “Commando” by Rob Hubbard, which you can play or remix. It’s loaded with all the usual production extras. And don’t let the “tracker” name put you off: you can play in real time, which naturally works well on the …


Add Classic 80s Yamaha Drum Machine Sounds to Your Set, Free

Ready for some poppy, retro Cocteau Twins feeling in your Mac or Windows plug-in collection? The aptly-named “Vintage Drum Elements” does the job for free. The sound source for the plug-in drum machine is the classic Yamaha RX5, with its distinctive, synthetic sound sets. And while this is advertised for your synthpop and chillwave 80s fans, you get a range of cutting timbres you could easily apply to something else – not just Depeche Mode throwbacks. There’s also more than one kit. Four basic drum selections are included, including a harsher “synthetic” option and and “ethnic” variant, plus some really …

The 100m is probably a more appropriate model for whatever is coming from Roland next, but check out the stunning industrial design on the original System 100. This might inspire a custom Eurorack cabinet with keyboard, or two. Photo (CC-BY Notreshuggie.

The Last Time Roland Did Modular: The System 100

With widespread reports that Roland will soon have a new modular product, it’s worth remembering: Roland has done modular before. That legacy carried the name System-100. The original 100 semi-modular lineup of the late 70s, and the Synthesizer-101, might actually be more relevant today than it was when it first shipped. The clever concept here was to put a full-featured monosynth with a keyboard at the center, then add modules around it. That seems to make loads of sense to me, as it creates a playable instrument that can nonetheless be patched for more creative sound design options. The full …


THX Just Remade the Deep Note Sound to be More Awesome

It’s one of the best-known electronic sounds ever – perhaps the best electronic sound branding in history. It made its launch in 1983 – right before Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, no less. But it seems the THX “Deep Note” was due for an upgrade. And that’s what it got last week. THX called upon the original creator of Deep Note, Dr. James ‘Andy’ Moorer, to remake his legendary sound design for modern theater audio technology. Here’s a look at that history and where it’s come.


Crowd-funding Campaign Wants to Pay Back Amen Break Creator

It’s the best-known sample of all time. It might be the most-heard six seconds of sound in modern recording. But before it became the “Amen break,” the signature riff was part of The Winstons’ song “Amen, Brother.” And so, how much did the artists who actually produced the original sound earn from their “success”? Well, that’ll be … nothing, apart from the original revenues from the 1969 release. Nothing in royalties from its use … well, seemingly everywhere. (N.W.A.? Oasis? Futurama? Check.) Zip. Zero. The drummer, Gregory Coleman, died homeless in 2006. Richard L. Spencer, the vocalist and sax player …


Dave Smith Prophet 6 Synth: 6 Analog Voices, and a Dilemma

Never say never. Few would have imagined just a few short years ago that essentially all – not most, but all – the major 2015 electronic instrument news out of the annual NAMM trade show would come down to 70s-/early 80s-style analog synthesizers, in the form of keyboards and modular. Nor would you imagine two of the big names would still be Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, alongside Korg and Moog. (Well, maybe Tom and Dave did – how ambitious were you three decades ago, gentlemen?) Certainly, no one ever expected to see the name Sequential Circuits again. But that’s …


Antiques Roadshow? Yamaha to Celebrate Its Synth Legacy with Vintage Gear

Hey – don’t forget Yamaha. For all the buzz about Roland and KORG (and American makers like Moog), the titan Japanese maker surely deserves its own enormous claim to synthesizer history. This is the company that made one the most influential polyphonic synths of all time (the CS-80), and introduced the world to FM synthesis (DX series) and physical modeling (VP series). You can still make DX and VP sounds that seem like they fell out of the future. And Yamaha are no newcomer, either. This year will mark the 40th anniversary since the firm first entered the synth market …