The Voltage-Controlled Synthesizer

Peter Manning

in Electronic and Computer Music

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195144840
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849802 | DOI:
The Voltage-Controlled Synthesizer

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The birth of the transistor in the late 1950s heralded a major turning point in the development of facilities for electronic music. One of the first engineers to grasp the significance of this technological revolution for electronic sound synthesis was Harald Bode, the inventor of the Melochord. In 1964, Robert Moog, an American engineer working in New York, constructed a transistor voltage-controlled oscillator and amplifier for the composer Herbert Deutsch. The first commercial versions of the Moog Synthesizer and the Buchla Electronic Music System were launched almost simultaneously in 1966. During 1964–5, a third engineer, Paul Ketoff, designed and built a portable voltage-controlled synthesizer, known as the Synket, for the composer John Eaton. By the end of the decade, two further manufacturers had entered the market, Tonus, marketing under the trade name ARP in America, and EMS Ltd., pioneered by Peter Zinovieff in England. In order to evaluate the musical characteristics of voltage-controlled systems it is advantageous to understand the general principles on which they operate. Although much of the original technology is now consigned to synthesizer museums, a growing interest in what has become known as “retro-synthesis,” where such characteristics are either reproduced using modern analog circuits or simulated digitally, requires a clear understanding of the underlying operational principles.

Keywords: Harald Bode; Melochord; Robert Moog; Herbert Deutsche; Oaul Ketoff; Synket; Tonus; Peter Zinovieff; transistors; synthesizers

Chapter.  11799 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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