The Buchla 500 at CalArts

Barry Schrader, Morton SubotnickA little bit of Buchla synth history via Peter Grenader of Plan b. That giant modular in the background is the Buchla 500, the rarest of the rare in the modular synth world. It is possible there were only three ever in existence. “The following flckr stream [link] was from CalArts studio B-304 taken in the fall of 1976 featuring Barry Schrader, Morton Subotnick and John Payne and a whole lotta Buchla 500. John as you may remember came up a couple of months ago on Matrixsynth in the posting regarding Mort’s use of the 300 at Ircam [link]. He went on in later years to become the Assistant Dean of the CIA School of Music and founder of it’s Music Tech department. Photo b_304.2 has a good view of the entire studio, save the three other JBL’s which are out of frame (it was a quad studio – there was one in each corner).

There are two more 500’s that I know off – at Evergreen and another somewhere in Europe (pardon the senior moment, i don’t remember where exactly). This is not to say there aren’t others…I’m just not aware of any. The one in the photo here was the first – the development system Don constructed while on staff at CalArts. I do know the 500 was adondoned quickly and resurfaced as the 300 series which included direct routing of computer control the various modules (259 VCO and 292C Gate for example) -and- the digital VCOs.”

“The box screwed into the side of the main cabinet is a speaker selector which if I remember correctly wasn’t on line. Another bit of trivia – this was taken about the time of Mort’s Game Room project that Gary Chang, Jill Frazer, Darrell Johansen, Sue Harvey and I worked on. The room next to 304 (other side of the wall which is shown behind the Buchla) was 305. It had a large 100 system (three cabinets) and for the Game Room we cut a hole in the base of that wall to run audio cables out from the tape machines to play quad audio snippets into the game area. This also took signals directly from the game board in 305 where signals were decoded and sent to the various controllers (audio, film, Buchla-controlled OCR light dimmers, etc.).

Against the other wall – opposite the one behind the 500 – was studi oB-303, which was pretty much a duplicate of this one sans the computer control – so it was a 200 studio, not a 500 studio. It also had the huge JBL monitors which were hung form the ceiling on metal brackets made by Chas Smith (which are still in place today). There’s a photo of 303 at Barry’s Schrader’s website: link

Most people preferred working in 303, mainly because the 258’s were easier to get to. On the 500 system they were all on the top row, which was a pain for most. The upside – studio time was easy to book in 304 for this reason I spent a lot of the early mornings here – tarting usually at 4AM and going until classes began around 9.”

Click here for the rest of the shots. You can find more in the comments of this Matrixsynth post.

buchla 200e rock n roll

The above is a video of the new Buchla modular, the 200e.
The demo is by Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails.

ARP 2500

ARP 2500 Noodle

Click here for an mp3 of the ARP 2500, another of the rarest of the rare in the modular synth world. A little bit of trivia: the ARP 2500 was the synth used to communicate with the aliens in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was played in the movie by head ARP engineer Phillip Dodds.

The demo was sent my way via ben who had the following to say:

“I thought you might like to hear a little “ARP 2500 NOODLE” i did yesterday [actually its nearly 7 mins long]. It’s an arp going through an ibanez AD-80 delay pedal. It’s in mono. The arp is set up to play a simple sequence [notice it is 10 steps long] and I tweak the pitch etc as it goes. I also tweak the delay repeat/time/blend knobs. Note that this is an analog delay pedal from the 70s, using the amazing Panasonic MN3005 bucket brigade delay circuit”

ARP 2600 Repair

Ever wonder what it might look like at a techs office repairing a vintage analog synth? The above is a video of Fredrik Segerfalk’s ARP 2600 being repaired. “This is how a tech should do it. Fix the stuff and keep you amused. This is one of many videos I got from my tech when he fixed my ARP 2600”

Have a great weekend everyone!
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