J.J. Abrams, mega-nerd – not only is the Star Wars writer/director a scifi fan, but synth fan, too. No spoilers here, but his love of a certain synthesizer comes out in Rise of Skywalker‘s script.
Kijimi is the lush polysynth from Black Corporation, also makers of Deckard’s Dream (the Yamaha CS-80 homage) and assorted modules. The Star Wars boss is a known Black Corporation customer himself – you can spot him in a photo posing on the balcony of Black’s Shibuya, Tokyo offices with his new Kimiji – and it seems both the name and synth inspired him.
Here’s the next round of nerdy meta-references – hang on. So the Kijimi is based loosely on the rare 1970s polysynth, the RSF Polykobol. Fans of Battlestar Galactica will immediately recognize Kobol as the legendary ancestral home of humanity, sought by the exiled fleet of the surviving colonists. (Sadly, much like J.J. buying his Kijimi before you could, the Cylons got to Kobol first. Uh… spoilers, sorry. From 1978, though.) So the French synth makers named their synth after the planet.
J.J. just turned the tables. While synths have been named for spacecraft before – I believe including the Moog Voyager – now the space franchise takes a name from synths. Kijimi isn’t just a passing reference, either – it’s evidently (no spoilers) a prominent planetary setting in The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams is co-credited with the story and screenplay, so he gets both the synth and its placement forever enshrined in Star Wars canon.
A Reddit user potted the reference even before the film came out, let alone before Black Corp acknowledged the connection:
I would include a photo of the planet Kijimi, but I don’t have an official press pack for Star Wars, and Disney lawyers frighten me. I will be going to see the movie, though – John Williams inspired me as a kid that being a composer was cool, and Star Wars was possibly the first movie I ever saw, in greatly shortened form on my parents’ sound super 8 film projector.
All I want for Christmas, meanwhile, is a Kijimi – I visited Black in Tokyo this fall, and it’s just a splendid splurge instrument.
So none of this story makes me jealous, in regards to either synth or Star Wars. Why, does it make you jealous? No. We are cold, stoic unfeeling walls, definitely not in any way responding to any element of this story. Good.
Full-blown Kijimi costs US$3749, but if you’re willing to put together the (elaborate) kit, that drops the price way down to US$999. So basically, don’t subscribe to Disney+, and it’s yours. You can pirate th — mmm..–dskklsggggrrrh — mmmm, my throat — jeez, Disney lawyers can even do force chokes?! (As if I’m not going to the film and to Galaxy’s Edge and seeing twenty more Marvel things in theaters this year. Uh-huh.)
First sci-fi planet, yes – but Moog got the first spacecraft reference
PS – one other spacecraft/synth reference, sort of. American aerospace company Moog, Inc. is a major provider of spacecraft propulsion systems and components. They’re even headquartered in upstate New York, not far from where the legendary Minimoog manufacturer first operated.
Moog Inc. has no business relation to the Moog companies that made synthesizers, but the two companies are related – quite literally. Aerospace Moog, Bill Moog, was Dr. Robert Moog’s cousin. That means in addition to the Moog name being on the patent for the ladder filter, it’s also (via Bill) on the “Moog Valve,” a electrohydraulic servo valve with fine control of hydraulic pressure. And if you fly at all, you’ve definitely flown one with flight control systems made by Moog.
Relevant to this story, though, it means that many famous spacecraft – Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS included – had consulting by the company.
Servo-actuators on four Space Shuttles, plus propulsion and steering systems on the Voyager space probes, were made by Moog, too.
So you’ve got that right – both the Voyager synth and the Voyager spacecraft were made by one of the Moog family.
And you thought this story wasn’t going to go any deeper into nerddom.
Other J.J. synth, Star Wars references?
Shawn Shirey points out that the secret organization in Alias is named Prophet 5, so there’s one for Dave Smith. Anything else? Now I’ll be looking for easter eggs. (We all know that in the end of Lost, it turns out the whole thing with the island was just because someone fell asleep while patching Eurorack…)
The first synth-Star Wars connections came with the original 1977 movie. Sound designer Ben Burtt famously used the ARP 2600 to create the sounds R2-D2 makes along with other sound effects. (Here’s a story on trying to recreate those sounds.) And several people have pointed out to me that the Oberheim OB-1 (released in 1978) was a reference to the film from a year earlier – the character Obi Wan. I guess I was being pedantic about spelling and somehow missed that … my … entire life. Then again, many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.