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Watch the Clavilux, an ethereal light organ from 100 years ago

Long before trippy visualizers and computer animation, before liquid light shows or laser parties, Thomas Wilfred was building organs for visuals. He called the art they produced Lumia, and the instrument Clavilux – a keyboard for light. That first instrument was built all the way back in 1919. But unlike a lot of the spectacles of the era, this one is still hypnotic today, even after all the advances of cinema and computing. Drawing on a tradition that included displays of fire and fireworks, and the ability to place sound “at the command of a skilled player at a piano,” …

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roltr808ad

Celebrate 808 day by building a beat live with Egyptian Lover

Happy 8th of August, everybody – that means it’s 808 day, of course. So, to celebrate, let’s flash back to a 2012 video of Egyptian Lover assembling a beat in his hotel room. The LA rapper/producer was a big part of the early hip hop and electro roots of 808 use. There’s something that still resonates in the beautiful simplicity of this Roland box. I’m struck when I hear it and watch in use that there’s something that seems futuristic – cold, even, but in a Stanley Kubrick 2001 sort of way. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to …

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vintagedrumelements

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 …

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‘R is for Roland’ is Coffee Table Pr0n For Synth Lovers

Blah, blah, the influence of the Roland drum machines, their musical/cultural significance… I’ve actually written those words before, so I’ll skip doing it this time. In case the YouTube subtitles aren’t working, let me translate the German from the making-of video below: “We decided to make a giant bit of pr0n for you because these old Roland boxes are so beautiful. Try to keep our finely-printed pages from sticking together.” Actually, the still above looks like something out of Blow-Up< – Antonioni for the studio set?

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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 …

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Car Stereo Done Right: with a 303 and a 606 Playing Acid

Remember the days when we had “car phones” permanently mounted in our automobiles, and we listened to cassette tapes? Ha – how dated. Now, we do things properly: adding a Roland TR-606 and TB-303 to the dashboard so we can make acid while we drive. No, I’m not entirely certain you want your insurance company to know about this. (Even less so if they’re unfamiliar of the usage of the word “acid” in this context.) Via the Facebook page of muno.pl, the excellent Polish electronic music/club site. Totally obligatory: Update – there’s more!

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Stereoping Adds Knobs, Programming to Vintage Gear Missing Them [Video]

The electronic musical instrument world is littered with cases of one person, individually solving a problem. This one gets even more specific. There’s some beloved MIDI gear out there that’s just a bear to program. Yes, you can use various knob boxes – but because some of the programming requires archaic System Exclusive messages, prepare yourself for some work. The Stereoping device adds knobs and custom firmware for that hardware. Amusingly, the product is available as a kit, but maybe that’s perfect – you spend a bit of cash and devote that time to the soothing task of soldering rather …

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yamaha

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 …

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Roland Digs Into Original 707, 727 to Expand AIRA

Because it’s packed with digital models rather than analog circuits, Roland’s AIRA TR-8 can be more than just a drum machine. It’s a platform for expansion. And today, as expected, Roland has gone further into their back catalog of genre-shaping drum sounds to expand on its hit TR-8. The 7X7-TR8 Drum Machine Expansion brings TR-707 and TR-727 sounds to the AIRA box and even builds on the 808 and 909 models included so far. The only bad news here is that it’s a paid update. What’s new: 30 original sounds from the TR-707 and TR-727 (by original, that means the …

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Groovy, Moody Songs, Flea Market Sound Design Finds: Meet Sofia Kourtesis

Half Greek, half Peruvian, born in Lima but raised between Germany and New York, Sofia Kourtesis is a fresh, emerging voice. Her music interweaves shadows and introspection with smart grooves – seductive melancholy. Her mixes, too, cross similar territory, aided by her broad knowledge of music as a globe-trotting DJ and booker. So, it’s a perfect start to our week this week, with some listening and a peek inside a studio. This is what’s so exciting about being in music now: we get to hear those new artists find original paths. Apart from being a sci-fi movie addict and teenage …

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