"Your Own Voice" Examples

This photo tour illustrates some of the principles laid out in the essay on Discovering, Cultivating, and Using Your Own Voice. Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures.

This is a flow chart, a patch diagram for one of 121 "instruments" I designed for the Moog Synthesizer that I was using at the University of Wisconsin in 1967 to compose and perform the score for a multimedia music drama. "Designing the instruments" is another way of saying "creating the voices" for the composition. The composition was one part of my dissertation project which also included the 121 "instrument" designs for the Moog, a book (An Electronic Studio Manual published by Ohio State University College of the Arts) which became the basic text for the Moog Synthesizer, and an audio tape of brief demonstrations of each of the 121 "instruments." At that early stage in the music synthesizer game, there was no such thing as a standard patch sheet. I had rubber stamps made of the faces of every module on the Moog so I could lay out and hand stamp each chart to make the logical flow relatively easy to remember and understand and to make the settings easy to duplicate. The chart looks a bit prehistoric because it is; the book was the first of its kind. Analog music synthesizers were being born at that time and the process was free of form. No instruction. No books. No standards. But plenty of excitement and room for invention.

This is a photo of an electronic music studio I designed and directed in the early to mid 70s at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. To rise above the signature sound or inherent voice of any particular synthesizer, I designed a system that integrated synthesizers from ARP, Moog, Buchla, EMS of London, and custom modules built in-house into an orchestra, a cross-synthesis structure that allowed for the exchange of communication signals (control voltages and timing triggers) as well as the mixing and processing of electronic and acoustic signals. People using the facility were encouraged to create and explore voices for live performance in concert and environmental settings. The entire synthesizer system as well as its subsystems were often moved around the Oberlin campus and beyond for performance events in various settings - chapels, concert and recital halls, theaters, and art galleries.

This is a photo of the Sal-Mar Construction, a unique electronic music synthesizer designed and constructed by composer Salvatore Martirano and a team he organized at the University of Illinois in the late 60s and early 70s. The Sal-Mar was divided into four distinct orchestras that could sound together or interact in various ways at different structural levels; the orchestras could exchange information, share common resources, and assume hierarchical relationships with each other. The interface between the composer/performer and the Sal-Mar was a control panel consisting of an arrangement of touch-sensitive switches, each equipped with a lamp to indicate its binary state; in the performance mode the control panel was alive with multiple sweeping waves of lighted lamps. The audio output of the Sal-Mar could be quadraphonic or it could whip around through the virtual space created by 24 loudspeakers. Martirano, a major force in 20th century music, toured the USA for years performing in a real-time compositional mode on his one-of-a-kind instrument that gave life to a completely original sound world. I had the rare pleasure of spending many hours playing synthesizer duets with Sal in public and in private. Major force that Sal...still think about him often.

This is a photo of my 1973 synthesizer road set - an ARP 2600, two Synthi AKSs, and a custom collection of Buchla 200 Series modules for audio mixing and processing, spectral shaping, and quad location modulation. From 1973-1983 I used this synthesizer set for hundreds of concerts in the USA and abroad. The set was portable (I was younger) and very flexible in a multimedia context. I also used it to generate slide images as well as animated imagery for the films and video in my events; even today in 1997 the Synthi AKS continues to be my favorite instrument for music-driven projected laser animations. All of my instrument designs for this synthesizer set involved a cross-synthesis structure for the exchange of control voltages and timing triggers as well as the mixing and processing of electronic and acoustic signals. The cross-synthesis integration technique creates voices that rise above the limitations of any single instrument.

This spacey photo is from a Real* Electric Symphony (R*ES) event at the Lawrence Hall of Science Plaza high atop the Berkeley hills overlooking the UC Berkeley campus and a 60 mile view of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay Area. The R*ES was my virtual band from 1973-77. The R*ES ranged in size from 3 to over 50 performers depending upon the conditions including the location, the performance space, and the available funds. Drawing internationally from acoustic and electronic musicians, light artists, dancers, filmmakers, video artists, poets and theater artists with an age range of from 18 to 80 years, we did well over 100 performances in the USA and abroad. No two events were alike. At this event we set up a double quad sound system around the Lawrence Hall of Science fountain and played free music all afternoon. The wind off the San Francisco Bay blew our sounds around the plaza and over the hillside creating a lovely puffy mix with the sounds of the birds, the playing kids, and the eucalyptus leaves. I remember the experience as a long unbroken reverie.

Also playing the Lawrence Hall Plaza gig that day were John Strawn, James Gillerman, and Peter Plonsky, the performer at the far left. Plonsky was a man of many original voices - he spoke in tongues of his own design. Using a vocal performance technique of his own invention - he called it Mind Emission - Plonsky used his voice like the most exquisite sound synthesizer capable of reaching expression levels only possible with a soul-filled body driving a human voice. In the early 70s, long before the urban pop musicians learned to play turntables, Plonsky had mastered the technique (did he invent it?) and had already integrated it into his solo performances. As you can see from the photo, he was also at home with traditional instruments.

This somewhat formal shot is a mid-80s publicity photo of one of my studios that integrated music synthesis techniques of the 70s and 80s - my 70s road set, an Apple IIe running the Decillionix (the first affordable sound sampler) and the alphaSyntauri (the first affordable digital synthesizer), a Mac Plus for recording and controlling a set of MIDI processors and synthesizers using the latest synthesis techniques, and an Amiga with a specially designed interface that would allow music to control and interact with animated graphics. This studio represented a further extension of my work designing cross-synthesis environments to achieve unique orchestral voicings.

This photo is one of the environments I designed in 1989 when, with funding from the California State University´s Chancellor´s Office, I led a week-long workshop for CSU music department chairs on the subject of a multimedia approach to the teaching of music theory, not the conventional music theory based on music history but the fundamental music theory based on the nature of sound, human hearing, music performance spaces, and the nature of music instruments for producing, recording and playing back sound. This is an approach that I have been developing and using in my own music theory and composition teaching since 1968 and in my physics of music teaching since 1983. The approach is based on building studios fleshed out with the latest in affordable audio synthesis, processing, and recording instruments in addition to whatever music visualization equipment one can lay hands on including oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, video cameras and monitors, computers, data and video projectors, laser projectors, etc.

It won´t be that long before the majority of academic music departments adopt this fundamental approach to the teaching of music theory, composition, and instrumental instruction. By 1997 most of them have already taken the first step which is adding a physics of music class to their curriculum. Habits are slow to change but soon there will be a critical mass of teaching and working musicians who will realize the importance of true music fundamentals and give the study its due in their programs.

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