Pellegrino's Buchla 200 Series Box

Buchla Box of 200 Series Modules - Rare Gem

(See the photos below)
200 SERIES MODULES included in the system:
TOP ROW of the photo: Sequential Voltage Source - Model 245, Source of Uncertainty - Model 265, Quad Spatial Director - Model 204

BOTTOM ROW: Quad Envelope Generator - Model 280, Quad LoPass Gate - Model 292, 10 Channel Comb Filter - Model 295 (includes 2 5-jack sets of Paralleled Connectors), Power Supply for the full set of modules.


INCLUDED in the sale are a collection of 24 banana-to-banana plug patch cords for control signals and 15 mini-to-mini plug patch cords for audio signals plus a number of banana-to-phone plug patch cords that I used for cross-patching from the 200 Series to my ARP 2600 and Synthi AKS synths . Also included at the buyer's request and initiation is one month, starting from the payment date, of email coaching on how to make the most of the system. Additionally everything will be shipped in a case custom made for the box by an old world case maker in San Francisco. The metal case housing the modules has just been renovated with antistatic foam.


ONE OWNER. One player. From the studios of Ron Pellegrino, composer and pioneer in the electronic arts of sound and light - http://www.ronpellegrinoselectronicartsproductions.org/.

THIS BOX of 200 Series modules was initially configured for a composer who practices real time composition, a process similar to the North Indian approach to music composition. It was also configured for someone who wants to hear and learn about the sound world created by systems complex enough to seemingly have minds of their own. Nevertheless, this particular box is a generalized open system that can serve the purposes of any electronic music composer in a studio setting as well as a live performance context.

DURING THE SUMMER of 1973 when I was renting a house in the Oakland Hills from Buchla I asked him to configure and to fit into a portable case, a set of 200 Series modules that would meet my requirements for controlling, processing, and distributing audio and for serving as the heart of my touring performance system. That touring system also included 2 Synthi AKSes and an ARP 2600 (http://www.ronpellegrinoselectronicartsproductions.org/Pages/YourOwnVoiceB.html) plus a collection of acoustic percussion toys whose sounds could easily be mistaken as electronically generated especially when miked and patched into the preamps of the 2600 or AKSes so as to become part of the electronic fabric. My electronic MO was based on cross-patching the 4 synths to create a higher order instrument with all sound streams flowing through the Buchla 200 Series mixers while simultaneously being altered/processed and distributed into quadraphonic space by the 200 Series modules. In other words, 200 Series control signals from the sequencer, random voltage sources, and/or envelope generators were patched to the AKSes and 2600 to help drive frequency, amplitude, and spectral shaping. Then the resultant audio events were patched backed into 200 Series modules such as the 10 Channel Comb Filter, the Quad LoPass Gate, and the finally the Quad Spatial Director before going out to amplifiers and speakers.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE that the Quad LoPass Gate also functions as a 4-input mixer with each input having its own switchable low pass filter/gate/combination settings plus built-in amplitude envelope shaping at each of the four inputs. The Quad Spatial Director is also a 4-input mixer with each input having its own distribution pattern created either by joystick steering or by control voltages on its X and Y axes. Dynamic spectral shaping is achieved either manually by playing the sliders on the 10 Channel Comb Filter or automatically by patching the Comb Filter outputs found above each filter slider back into the Quad LoPass Gate for time variable mixing.

THIS IS A SYSTEM that integrates the electronic music past with the present and the future of the medium. The arts of sound or instrument design and total sound field development have their roots in the classical (mostly European) electronic music studios of the 50s and 60s yet continue growing in new ways today wherever people explore electronic music. This box of modules resonates with that perspective; it is not a keyboard instrument meant to create what people normally think of as melodies and harmonies. Instead it encourages systems thinking and algorithmic thinking, a kind of non-materialistic and somewhat more philosophical approach to making music. For an example of what I mean by the previous sentence check out the following URL - http://www.ronpellegrinoselectronicartsproductions.org/Pages/MetabiosisV.html. It takes you to the design of the last of a series of algorithmic installations I did at Ohio State University and then at Oberlin College in collaboration with light sculptor Toby Raetze just months before I put my road system together.

WHAT DISTINGUISHES the 200 Series from other analog synths is the high functional density of every module and what can be considered the West Coast sound it produces; and that's due more to Buchla's entire bag of tricks and not just one or more synthesizer functions. The analog sound world of the late 60s/early 70s was clearly divided into four parts - the classical studio sound (radio and physics lab gear and recording equipment), the West Coast (first mainly Buchla gear and then joined by that of Serge Tcherepnin), the East Coast/European (Moog, ARP, Synthi) and a few assorted mavericks (Sal Martirano, being a prime example, created his personal hybrid sound world). As a composer working in that period I enjoyed experiencing all those sound worlds but I did not want my work to be identified with any of them in particular.

A PRINCIPLE that I was practicing and teaching at that time was that it was possible to create your own sound world based on a creative attitude toward affordable off-the-shelf gear. All the studios I've designed over the decades have been based on that principle and so was my road system with the 200 Series modules at the heart of it. Cross-patching off-the-shelf units is the key to designing your own sound world unless you're willing to start from square one and build your own gear.

IN THE ANALOG WORLD high functional density implies high component density and that's exactly what you'll see when you pop the backs of these 200 Series boxes. Inside the box what you'll see is clearly not the output of a mass production manufacturing process. Instead you'll see a form of electronic art. The art is not only in the design of the modules but in their assembly. The assembly elves took such great pride in their work that they signed the circuit boards; I recognize names of associates from that period. During the early 70s when I walked into Buchla's workshop what I found were San Francisco Bay Area composers, performers, dancers, and other artists supporting their art habits by assembling 200 Series modules.

THIS SYSTEM is 35 years old. It's in great condition but it has a few wrinkles. One of the superficial charms of the 200 Series is that it produces a little light show (remember this gear has its roots in the 1960s) as it goes through its paces. Presently 4 of its 19 lamps are dark. 2 of those dark lamps are on the Quad LoPass Gate yet that has absolutely no negative effect on the functioning of their associated envelope generators; in other words no light changes track the outputs of two of the envelope generators that otherwise work perfectly. The other 2 dark lamps are associated with 2 of the 4 joysticks on the Quad Spatial Director. The standard approach to designing joysticks is to use two pots, one for the X axis and the other for the Y axis. The Quad Spatial Director uses a non-standard approach. The underside of each joystick is a concave reflector. Below it on a circuit board is a lamp surrounded by 4 photo-resistors. As the joystick moves through its field of motion it reflects the lamp's light onto the photo resistors thereby producing voltages that can be applied to the XY inputs of the Location Control jacks. Therefore the joysticks can be used to steer sound manually in quad space. This unit has 4 joysticks; 2 work exactly as designed - one for the right hand, one for the left hand.

How do you move sound in the 2 sections with the dark lamps? Simple. Patch control voltages from the sequencer, random voltage sources, or envelope generators to the Location Control jacks. Personally I always thought the joysticks were very pretty but I never used them because my hands were always busy playing other parts of my road system. I always used control voltages at the Location Control jacks. Another wrinkle has to do with the Sequential Voltage Source. In a nutshell if you connect the Pulse Out to the Advance In, this sequencer does not step 1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4.5,1...... Depending upon the switch settings it'll break into two stages so you can get 1,2 to repeat and 3,4,5, to repeat. Here's where 200 Series functional density and redundancy come into play. There's an analog input available on the sequencer so you can get 1,2,3,4,5 repeatedly by using control voltages from an envelope generator or one axis of a joystick. Far more interesting is to use continuous random voltages to swing from 1 through 5 in unpredictable patterns with predictable or unpredictable timings. Or to use the fixed random voltages to jump around discretely from 1 to 5. If you're an electronic music composer who steers clear of the obvious you will not miss those four dark lamps and you will find the sequencer as well as the rest of the system a delight.


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