Remembering Keith Emerson and his titanic synth legacy

In news reverberating with synthesizer lovers and keyboardists everywhere, Keith Emerson died last night in his home in Santa Monica at age 71. Mr. Emerson’s impact on the world of keyboards and synthesizers is hard to overstate. And that impact may be wider now than ever before. If the musical idiom in which he worked was distinctive attached to its particular era, the role of the synthesizer he helped establish is one that now reaches around the world to artists across genres.


Read the article Bob Moog wrote when he met Leon Theremin

It’s hard to imagine what the evolution of the synthesizer would have been without Leon Theremin. For one, it was Theremin’s invention that first captivated Robert Moog. Theremin kits were Dr. Moog’s first product and many would say, his first electronic instrumental love. That impact was significant, too, on a whole generation – actually, even my own father made building a kit Theremin one of his early experiences with electronics. The fall of the Soviet Union still has ripples felt in the electronic music world today. And surely there’s no more poignant moment in the intertwining of post-Cold War history …


On the Eve of New 808 Film, Techno’s Roots Matter More Than Ever [Videos]

If rock music had the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster, hip hop and dance music have the TR-808. And if its sound seems sometimes overly familiar, even that is in some sense a hat-tip (pardon the pun) to its enduring ubiquity. Now, the Roland TR-808 gets its own full-length documentary, told primarily through the eyes of the people who repurposed its idiosyncratic sound to spin new musical genres and start a revolution. The film features extensive input from Arthur Baker, who acts as a centerpiece for the movie. Baker was the producer behind Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock,’ a record …


Bitwig Studio 1.1 Adds Lots of Details; Can It Escape Ableton’s Shadow?

Bitwig Studio has been quietly plugging along in development, adding loads of engineering improvements under the hood. Version 1.1 is the largest update yet. Here’s the summary of the update: Minus the marketing speak, the exhaustive changelog (here, for Mac): It’s an impressively long list of enhancements in quantity, though most of the changes are fixes and enhanced hardware and plug-in compatibility. For instance, you can side-chain VSTs, and there are new options for routing multiband effects and multi-channel plug-ins. The big enhancements: More routing for audio and MIDI VST multi-out sidechain support and multi-channel effect hosts Updated …


Just Do It: Moog Engineer Explains Why They Remade Keith Emerson’s Modular [Videos, Audio]

It started as an April Fools’ Joke. Then it turned out to be real. But with plenty of new instruments to work on, why would Moog remake a dinosaur – both in form and literal size? Engineer Gene Stopp doesn’t blink when asked that question. In a tour of the modular for me and Keyboard Magazine – a magazine whose very existence is partly indebted to the legacy of Keith Emerson and Moog – he was confident. Do this once, and no one can ever question whether you know what it means to make a real, exact replica of the …


Before Computers, the Godfather of House Made Remixes with Razor Blades: Frankie Knuckles, RIP

The picture of old-school DJing is someone hauling around a crate of records. Frankie Knuckles, the house pioneer, was playing The Warehouse in Chicago and touring with reels of tapes. Remixing was something done with a razor blade. The saddening news has arrived that “godfather of house” Frankie Knuckles has died at the age of 59. His friend and collaborator David Morales shared the news via Twitter late Tuesday. (See Ben Rogerson’s report in MusicRadar, which comments a bit on the origins of Jamie Principle’s Your Love.) The man most associated with Chicago house music actually was born in the …


Musikmesse Wrap-up, with Keyboard Magazine: The Latest Gear [Gallery, Roland Wireless Vid]

Like a World’s Fair of all the invention in music technology, the big trade shows still gather many of the latest creations from around the globe. And while the NAMM show in California is big, Musikmesse is bigger: spanning some 11 halls (together with a live lighting and event show called Pro Light+Sound), it’s the biggest on Earth. Having covered NAMM for German publication DE:BUG, I’m thrilled to get to do the reverse and highlight the best of Messe for California-based Keyboard Magazine. Musikmesse 2012 Gear Report [Keyboard Magazine] Instead of trying to cover absolutely everything, this is the stuff …


AlphaSphere, Spherical Music Controller, Becomes A Messe Favorite; Keyboard Mag Video Hands-on

Music trade shows are typically full of sensible and useful instruments. They may not always represent something revolutionary, but people find homes for them in their musical lives. Of course, the world’s fair futurist in us may want something really different. It was a real treat to get my hands on the AlphaSphere, a UK-engineered alternative instrument that maps pitch across touch-sensitive surfaces arrayed in a sphere. It’s what a lot of people were talking about at Messe when people asked “what’s cool?”, as friends rounded up friends to march them over to the booth. (It’s Hall 5.1, stand C27 …


Piano Lovers: Ivory II’s Resonance Modeling a Winner, Says Keyboard Mag

Steinways in a row. One example of how pianos can be tough to model: the distinctive Steinway treble “sparkle.” Photo (CC-BY-ND) mypouss. For something with a row of keys, the piano can prove surprisingly hard to model perfectly. But computer software, blessed with lavish storage space for samples and now-ample processing power, has a decided edge. There are lots of good sampled pianos, but two products have really impressed me above the others: Synthogy’s Ivory and Pianoteq’s modeled instruments. After years of waiting, Ivory II is now here, and my friend and colleague Steve Fortner, at the helm of Keyboard …


Keyboard: The Minimoog at 40, and How A Legend Emerged from Spare Parts Bins

Minimoog, photo (CC-BY) Ricardo Hurtubia. The Moog Minimoog has turned 40 years old. I got to write the cover story for this month’s Keyboard Magazine, following the history of the keyboard. I chronicled the details of the original Minimoog’s evolution largely through the accounts of Bill Hemsath, the man who built the first prototype of a synth imagined and developed by Hemsath, Bob Moog, Jim Scott, and Chad Hunt. Whatever you make – music, hardware, software – the tale of the Minimoog’s birth through accident is especially compelling. Through Hemsath’s eyes, I revisited that genesis for Keyboard. The future of …