Have you seen “One Man Yes”, “One Man Genesis” or “One Man Rush”? Hurry up and check them out, because here comes “One Man ELP”!
Antoine Baril is a musical monster on a mission to bring his progressive rock heroes to a brand new audience. He doesn’t just do covers, he weaves the listener through segments of songs joined together as a bespoke playlist. The accompanying videos take the viewer on a whirlwind journey that exhibits the songwriting talents of the masters and the levels of musicianship required to pull it off.
The project we were undertaking is a medley woven from more than twenty songs released by Emerson, Lake and Palmer throughout their long and fruitful career. Antoine doesn’t just stick to the hits (there are many), he selected segments of deep cuts that only the staunchest fan might recognize or recall.
Why is EMEAPP involved? We have the majority of Keith Emerson’s keyboards, Steinway grand pianos and his legendary Moog modular synthesizer. We approached Antoine a few years back because we loved his “One Man” idea and wanted to develop a project based on ELP. He eagerly jumped onboard.
It took the better part of two years to conceive and layout One Man ELP. Antoine had to lock himself in the studio to start building the tracks and line up timing, click tracks and guide segments and test them repeatedly for accuracy. The drums were painstakingly performed, assembled and edited and the recording system packed up for transport to EMEAPP.
Antoine arrived on a Sunday evening flanked by his videographer, Paul DiGiacomo and a pile of gear brought through customs at the Canadian border. The eleven-hour journey went well and they were eager to offload the gear and get to their hotel room nearby.
The next week was chock full of music with a focus on sound design and precision performance. Vince Jr. worked with Antoine to dial-in the perfect sounds on Keith Emerson’s modular Moog synth, Hammond C3 “Tarkus” organ customized by Goff Professional, split Minimoog and our rare and beautiful Yamaha GX-1, a favorite of Keiths.
Our piano tech, Jim Sivel, spent quality time preparing Keith’s Steinway Model D 9′ grand piano for the sessions. His Model B rosewood grand resides in our main workshop. Emerson did most of his composition work sitting at these pianos, they are a welcome addition and perfect for high-end studio use.
The recording process was tricky, but everything went well. Emerson’s Bag End loudspeakers were utilized for playback on much of the recording, but recording the Yamaha GX-1 took a different technique as it doesn’t have a ‘direct’ output. This means that we had to put multiple microphones on the GX-1’s speaker cabinets to capture the sound. Beyond that, the recording was done on an iMac running Cubase fed by 8 channels of API mic preamps into a Lynx Aurora converter.
Every now and then we would encourage Antoine to take a break and get involved in the greater circle of EMEAPP. Group phone calls and strategic planning Zoom meetings peppered their visit and formed some strong relationships.
Quebec City and Philly have something in common; a unique food treat that is best closest to its epicenter. The Philly Cheesesteak is at its purest within, say, a twenty-mile radius of the city. Outside of this circle, anything goes. I bravely ordered a “Philly Cheesesteak” on a road trip that took me through central Alabama. In no way was it even close. Was it delicious? Yup, but embarrassingly far from the real thing.
The Canadian lads decided to try out our local version of the Canadian staple, poutine. Poutine is a dish consisting of french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. Sounds simple, eh? The cheese curds apparently sucked and the gravy was gloppy and way too light in color. They knew the risk.
Antoine and Paul were lucky with their session timing as it was “HoagieFest” at our regional favorite sammich/gas/convenience store chain, Wawa. They discovered that Herr’s potato chips rule above all others and that their “WizWit” chips are strangely delicious, but only to a point.
We had a blast with Antoine and Paul and learned tons of Quebecquois phrases, many of which shall be reserved for life’s more special moments. Cheers, gentlemen, great work!
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s album, TRILOGY.
Back in early 1972 after the rapid-fire release of albums TARKUS and Pictures At an Exhibition, bandmates Emerson, Lake and Palmer again set their sights on Advision Studios in London to take on the production of their next album, Trilogy.
With longtime engineer Eddie Offord again at the console, the band embarked on their newest musical adventure with vocalist Greg Lake playing the role of producer, ultimately making the final production decisions.
The good news is that Advision Studios had recently upgraded their main studio to a whopping 16 tracks of recording, doubling the prior standard of 8 tracks. To best exemplify this, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper was produced at Abbey Road Studios using only 4 track machines! The Advision recording console was a custom desk designed by Dag Fjelner a few years prior.
ELP was a dynamic band whose bandmates fed upon the performance of the others; they had the ability to bring their material to extraordinary heights. What makes the album Trilogy unique is that the band chose to use the ‘overdubbing’ of parts to add depth to the recordings beyond their abilities to perform live with each other. This technique brought ELPs sound to a new level that was becoming quite popular within the progressive rock world.
Trilogy is a deeply involved production that offers something for everyone. The inexperienced listener will likely recognize ELPs interpretation of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown” or the moody delight, “From the Beginning”. But the song “Trilogy” is certain to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened, prog-loving ELP fan.
Happy anniversary, Trilogy!
We had a blast recording these guys! Keith’s modular Moog synth and customized Goff C3 with twin Leslie cabs are in full glory and Greg Lake’s famous Persian rug, MESA bass cab and Kemper head are in view on stage left. Rob Shepard (keys) has become a regular here at EMEAPP, you can learn more at www.manticoreny.com
Keith Turner and his band, TARKUS- A Tribute to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, was an early fan of what we were doing here at EMEAPP. They have grown along with us and we are always happy when they come by. In this video, Keith (on Emerson’s 1904 Steinway Model B grand piano) and Mike Ian stopped in for a visit and graced us with this performance of the intro to the song, “Trilogy”. Missing from the session was percussionist, John Cassidy. You can learn more about these guys at www.tarkusband.com
We love it when Keith comes to visit because he’s willing to throw down in an instant! Here is Keith performing “Fugue” from Trilogy on Keith Emerson’s 1972 Steinway Model D concert grand piano right after we got it set up. Thanks, Keith!
TRILOGY SONG LIST
“The Endless Enigma (Part 1)”
“The Endless Enigma (Part 2)”
“From the Beginning”
Copland, Palmer, Lake, Emerson
Palmer, Lake, Emerson
Song list from Trilogy
If you’d like an opposing viewpoint, or if you’d like a good chuckle, here is Cameron Crowe’s review of Trilogy back in 1972:
Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Trilogy (Cotillion SD 9903)
Trilogy, following suit with the previous three Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums, will be the type of album insecure rock ‘n roll fans break out at a small get-together and pretend to really get into. Just as they did with Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition and the first one, they’ll sit around nod their heads, bite their lips, close their eyes and anxiously await the last cut’s end so they can exchange “far-outs” and dash home to purge themselves with Black Oak Arkansas.
I find ELP’s fourth album to be a colorless, mechanical, performance of listlessly complicated material. In short, buddy, it bores the f**k outta me.
For too long ELP has put themselves in an almost “untouchable” position. Critics and record-buyers alike have been afraid to criticize them for fear of losing musical face. For fear of being thought of as less than prestigious. So they veil their ambivalence in phrases like “swirling arrangements”, “dizzying riffs”, “mystical moods” and others.
Trilogy is painfully unsatisfying. Unaccessible at any level . . . it’s a sad fact that although the group has the musical talent to deserve their newly attained superstardom, their musical taste and knowledge is juvenile enough not to recognize that success based on awe is not only unhealthy, but temporary.
Courtesy of the Door (aka San Diego Door) – Cameron Crowe – October 23, 1972 – November 2, 1972
For decades, Éliane Radigue has created a great deal of slow, very minimal, mostly electronic music.
By Hugh Morris Feb. 4, 2022
Éliane Radigue lives and works in a second-floor apartment in the Montparnasse neighborhood of Paris. A weeping fig tree looms above her head; across the loft-like room are three large windows adorned with house plants. The windows face a school across the street which, she wrote in a recent email, “gives its rhythm to days, weeks and months.”
She has lived there for the past 50 years, steadfastly writing a great deal of slow, very minimal, mostly electronic music. The work of Radigue, who turned 90 on Jan. 24, often seems static on first hearing. Her most famous piece, the Buddhism-inspired “Trilogie de la Mort,” lasts three hours and seems vast and empty. Yet zoom in on the musical material and you will find that each line is inching its way along, however deliberately.
“Time, silence and space are the main factors constituting my music,” she wrote in an interview conducted over a series of emails. “Shivering space, like a soft breath, induces the vibrations of the silence slightly, becoming sound.”
She added that “this natural way of working — slowness — takes a long time, of course,” and that she works “inside of time.”
Her music, though, can feel less inside than outside time. In its commitment to letting its ideas grow organically, she often makes you forget that time exists.
Radigue was born in Paris in 1932. She studied the piano from an early age and remembers attending classical concerts on Saturday afternoons. But although the spirit of slow symphonic movements lingers in her work, only rarely does such a style explicitly appear; the opening of “Opus 17,” in which she gradually deconstructs a phrase from Chopin, is an outlier. Most of her other nods to the standard history of classical music — as in “Kyema,” from the “Trilogie,” and a half an hour into “L’Île Re-Sonante” — appear faintly, like a stranger down the road whose shouts are lost in the wind.
More than music per se, it was noise that spoke to Radigue. In the mid-1950s, she lived with her young family next to an airport in Nice. It was while listening to planes fly overhead that she first heard a radio broadcast of Pierre Schaeffer’s “Étude aux Chemins de Fer,” a noise collage based on recordings of trains that formed the first part of Schaeffer’s seminal “Cinq Études de Bruits.” This was among the earliest examples of musique concrète, which uses recorded sounds as base material, manipulating them using electronic techniques.
It was a moment of clarity for Radigue. “Of course it’s music,” she said in 2019. “Everything can become music. It depends on the way we listen to it.”
Radigue contacted Schaeffer, eventually securing a position at the Studio d’Essai in Paris, which he had founded as a Resistance center during World War II and which after the conflict became a kind of experimental music institute. There, she cut and spliced magnetic tape being used by Schaeffer and another composer, Pierre Henry. It was painstaking work, the financial and artistic recognition was negligible and men dominated.
“It was the way everywhere at that time,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t pay any attention to that. No time to waste at that. I just ignored it and made my path anyway.”
But, she added, “it was pleasant to discover a kind of different way in the U.S.A.” Radigue first traveled to the United States in 1964, for an extended stay with her husband at the time, Arman, a well-known painter. (Their son was named after Arman’s best friend, the artist Yves Klein.) She returned to America in the early 1970s, falling in with a bohemian crowd.
“I came to know all the richness of the American artists of this period, both from the Pop Art scene and musicians,” she said. “James Tenney was a close friend, and introduced me to the musicians at this period” — including John Cage, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, David Tudor and Laurie Spiegel. She took in the epically long SoHo loft performances of the era.
It was in America that Radigue began experimenting with synthesizers, having left behind Schaeffer and Henry, who didn’t approve of the “non-concrète” path their assistant’s music was taking. Rather than manipulating recorded sounds, Radigue was more intrigued by electronic feedback — a precarious and time-consuming process to capture, especially as she became focused on controlling minute changes. Radigue worked with various synthesizers, including the Moog and the Buchla 100, before settling on the ARP 2500, the modular device that would define her sound for the next 30 years.
Radigue even named her ARP: Jules. “What touched me the most was ‘his voice,’” she said in the interview. “It was so rich and expressive. Even though, when we disagreed …”
With Jules, there was an appealing ease of use, with sliding matrix switches enhancing her music’s tactile sensitivity, which she explored further once she returned to Paris, having divorced Arman in 1967. “Psi 847” and “Transamorem — Transmortem,” which both premiered in art galleries, have timbral shifts and intermittent rhythmic events that intensify already immersive atmospheres.
In the 1970s, she embraced Tibetan Buddhism, abandoning music entirely for three years. When she returned to composing, the incorporation of Buddhist ideas — as in the “Songs of Milarepa” and the sprawling “Trilogie,” influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead — only redoubled her work’s simple, seamless construction. “Kyema,” subtitled “Intermediate States,” is particularly evocative; following the Book of the Dead’s journey of existential continuity, it avoids finality, meandering slowly and sustained by throbs, overtone-like blemishes and grainy white noise.
It was only when Radigue was in her 60s that she began to receive recognition in France, and it was even later when she earned a living from her music. An unforeseen shift occurred in 2001. For years, Radigue’s sole collaborator had been her cat. Then, with some reluctance, she accepted her first acoustic commission — “Elemental II,” for the musician Kasper T. Toeplitz — and began collaborating more regularly with performers, including on a release with the laptop quartet the Lappetites. Over the past 20 years, collaboration has brought new works tumbling forth; a decade ago, a composition for solo harp, “Occam I,” initiated an enormous cycle of “Occam” works.
The huge “Occam” collection has brought a new philosophy to the fore in her work, derived from Occam’s razor, which declares that “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” That principle of parsimony is a useful way to understand how this defiantly slow recent music comes together: Instead of the piece enacting a process of distillation, it now starts with material that is already incredibly distilled.
For the listener, the newer work is still made of the same building blocks as her music has had for decades: slow-moving fundamentals, shimmering harmonics, microtones and long spans of material. The only real change is that a few more people now share the process of conception and realization.
In the interview, she said that this late-career blossoming was fading. “It’s difficult now,” she wrote. “I’m quite old, with some health troubles, and I have to reduce my activities.”
But any slowing in her output cannot diminish a career that epitomizes committed artistry: a composer who stumbled on a sound and has spent a lifetime nurturing it. A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 5, 2022, Section C, Page 6 of the New York edition with the headline: Éliane Radigue’s Sounds of Silence.
In 1958, a new type of echo unit was released and it changed the game overnight. EMEAPP Creative Contributor, Norm Leete, brought us this tasty article that looks back into the sweet spot of tape echo history. The accompanying photos are of three originals from our vast collection of electromagnetic echo units.
The Copicat: In Search of a Portable Echo
By Norm Leete
The vision for the Copicat evolved from a long history of recording experimentation. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw a flurry of effort to record the human voice. Initial successes involved the progressively advancing use of magnetized wire recording. This involved moving a linear magnetic medium, generally thin piano wire, past a recording head at a constant speed. However, the total game-changer came about in the late 1940s with 3M’s development of cellulose-backed tape that we use today. That, in turn, gave rise to tape recorders of the sort we see now.
The typical professional audio tape recorder of the early 1950’s used the new 1/4 inch wide tape on 10.5 inch reels that had the capacity to hold 2400 ft of tape. The speed was usually 15 ips which allowed for 30 minutes of recording time. Early professional machines used single-track heads, but half-track heads soon became popular. It was especially desirable for home use as it allowed the tape to be turned over and used in both directions. Tape reels were made from metal or transparent plastic. Standard tape speeds varied by factors of two. 15 and 30 ips were used for professional audio recording, while 7.5 ips and 3 and 3/4 ips were preferred for audiophile and consumer recordings. Typically 7 inch reels were used. 15/16 and 1 and 7/8 ips were the norm for dictation and other applications where lengthy recording times were needed, but lesser-quality was acceptable. Smaller-sized spools were often used in these situations.
Most machines of this era used separate record and playback heads so it was possible to monitor the recording in a slightly delayed fashion as it was being made. Different electrical routings and alternative placement of the record and playback heads would yield different sonic results. The most popular of these was artificial echo. This effect was first used by Les Paul who, with Bing Crosby’s financial support, created a system that became a key historical component of audio production that continues to this day.
The need arose to create a standalone unit that would be both portable and simple to use. The fifties saw various efforts to make this a reality. There were amplifiers that had the tape mechanism built-in and, in 1953, Binson’s first Echorec was developed. It used a magnetic disk to create a standalone echo machine.
In 1958, Watkins (a.k.a. WEM) created the Copicat. The inventor, Charlie Watkins, had a London music shop. He had noticed that a local studio was chaining together various tape echoes to create the desired effect. Watkins decided to create an effect unit that put everything into a single, easy-to-use box. He called it a Copicat. The Shadows used an early Copicat on a track called Apache. The song became a major hit and, suddenly, everyone wanted one. The urban legend is that the first 100 units sold out instantly with people queueing up down the street to get their hands on a Copicat.
The first version of the Copicat had a simple tape loop that was held in place by a spring-activated tension arm which eliminated the need for a pinch wheel. It had a record head and 3 playback heads that were controlled by a rotary switch to permit 3 different delay lengths. The unit had 2 inputs. There was no need for an erase head as a permanent magnet in the tension arm performed that function.
In 1960 the Copicat Mk1 officially went on sale and was soon followed by the Mk2. It had tubes, specifically the 6br8 and 2 ecc83’s. It had a tape loop, a record head, and 3 playback heads each of which had a selection switch and 2 inputs. The erase function remained the same. It was housed in a split top case in which the top part covered the tape loop, and the bottom half covered the controls. It came in a variety of color combinations.
In 1963 I got my first Copicat. It was black and cream. On this unit, the record valve finally died, and I searched everywhere for a replacement. In desperation, I finally rung WEM and ended up talking to Charlie Watkins himself. Not only did he promptly supply me with a replacement, but it came wrapped in a schematic for the model I had originally owned. Now that’s service!
In 1966 I got my second unit. This one had a new case, a removable single-piece lid, and still used tubes.
In 1969 I purchased the Mk3 which is my current Copicat. It had the same functionality, but it had become solid state. Despite having the addition of an erase head, this early example still had the magnet in the tension arm, and the bias oscillator was now on the main board.
The Mk4 arrived on the scene in the early to mid-1970s. It had various technical improvements which included moving the bias oscillator onto a separate PCB. There were other Copicats made after these which used digital delay lines rather than tape. These, however, are outside the scope of this article.
Using a Copicat is very simple. On most units, there are 4 rotary controls and 3 push-button switches. Starting from the left, there is a SWELL control that alters the volume of the repeat effect. The more clockwise the control is moved, the louder the echo effect becomes. Turning the rotary switch fully in the opposite direction shuts the unit off as the control also includes a mains switch. Moving to the right, we have the SUSTAIN control which determines how much of the delayed signal is fed back to the input. Turning it fully counterclockwise elicits a single repeat, while moving it fully clockwise causes the echoes to race off into a swirly, infinite feedback effect. The next two controls are GAIN1 and GAIN2. They control the relative volume of the 2 inputs as the unit can also be used as a simple two-channel mixer.
Below the rotary controls are 3 switches that are labeled 1, 2, and 3. They activate each of the 3 playback heads allowing them to be selected in any combination. The first one is the shortest delay, and the third is the longest. When activated simultaneously, a thick, multi-tap echo effect is generated. The output wire is fixed and terminated by a standard 1/4 inch jack, and there is a permanently attached foot-switch that allows the echo effect to be muted as needed.
On the rear of the unit is a very quaint warning label that says, “Always earth your amplifier.” This is somewhat alarming as the unit does not, as is customary, have a ground conductor! This means the shield of the output cable is being used as the protective ground.
I should conclude by saying that my unit now has a 3 core cable, a protective ground, and a new grounding scheme that prevents a ground loop. This means the unit now passes a modern PAT check!
Earlier this year, we had the rare opportunity to host an extended visit from storied synth designer, Jim Scott. It was a rare opportunity not just because he’s trying to quietly live his life, but that he quietly lives his life in rural Alaska and seldom dips down into the lower 48.
Jim was present and deeply involved during the heyday of the synthesizer. The Minimoog Model D, Memorymoog and Crumar Spirit all contain circuit design work by Scott. To top that, he was the creator and principal designer of the Micromoog.
He penned this article during his time in residence at EMEAPP, it is chock full of great details from the early and midlife of Moog including his time with Keith Emerson’s famous modular synthesizer. He even added a glossary to help folks unfamiliar with synth jargon.
My Beginning Days as Design Engineer for R A Moog Inc.
Origins of the Keith Emerson Monster Moog and the Minimoog
By Jim Scott, EMEAPP Technical Advisor
In the beginning
In the spring of 1969, I was a senior electronic engineering student at the University of California Berkeley, when I first became aware of the name Moog and the term “synthesizer.” A local FM station aired Switched on Bach “created on an Electronic Mood Synthesizer”. (Mood is not a typo, but never mind). I bought the album. I was hooked immediately and wrote asking for a job. I had gone into electrical engineering hoping to somehow parlay my degree into becoming a designer of musical instruments. Months went by and I figured Bob had tossed my letter when I got a call from the man himself. Tomorrow he had a few hours between flights. Could I meet him at the San Francisco Airport?
Is the Pope a Catholic? I cut classes for the day. I no longer recall our conversation, but he did invite me to meet him and his synthesizer at the 1969 Audio Engineering Society Convention in Los Angeles a few weeks hence. It was held at the Roosevelt Hotel where Bob had set up a couple of patch cord synthesizers and a prototype Moog MRS (McDonald Recording Systems) continuously variable-speed, electronic music tape recorder in a hotel room. He probably slept there too.
I got there early and listened to his first demo. Due to the publicity surrounding the Wendy Carlos recording, Bob found himself besieged by an ever-changing room full of media, potential customers, music industry professionals and the merely curious for the rest of the day. I got the basics on the first go, so I proceeded to show visitors how the instrument worked all morning and into the afternoon while Bob dealt with the other folks.
I think Bob may have been trying to avoid me because he did not want to hire another engineer. I demoed until about 3 PM. Then Bob called me aside. We went to the balcony outside the door and sat side by side on a couch looking into the dining room below. We continued looking straight ahead for perhaps a minute not knowing what to say. I remember our conversation exactly. Bob broke the silence with “How about 8000 a year?” I responded “Yes”. That was it. Starting salary for a graduating BSEE in 1969 was about 10 grand. No transportation costs were offered so when I graduated I gave my car to the next-door neighbor and borrowed airfare from my grandmother for myself and wife and two kids. My brother-in-law rescued an abandoned Ford Galaxy 500 from his collision yard in Massachusetts and gave it to us. We drove it to Trumansburg New York.I had a rather unique academic career at Berkeley both flunking out in 1961 and graduating with honors from the same university in 1969. How many people can claim that? When I got out of the Navy I was conditionally allowed back. But I had a two-semester D minus average I had to bring up to a 2.0 overall, or no diploma. I had to ace at least half my upper-division courses to raise my GPA high enough. Only junior and senior courses counted toward honors. I had no choice but to earn that ego inflator. I did this working half time and going to school 3/4 time.
First Days in Moogland
So, I arrived on the job 15 Sept 1969, just two weeks after the landmark Jazz in the Garden concert at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NY City. This was the first highly publicized pubic synthesizer concert in the Big Apple. It was performed by Chris Swansen, our resident composer, Herb Deutsch who instigated the design of the very first Moog Modular Synthesizer in 1964, Robert Moog and one other synthesist. Herbie Hancock was offered the opportunity to be the fourth Moog performer but he declined for fear of ending up with egg on his face early in his career. Four Modular System 1 synthesizers in console-style walnut veneer cabinets were modded for the event by the addition of an auxiliary preset box to each instrument that allowed for the instantaneous selection of one of up to a dozen different sounds. Each of the presets were programmed on a separate card. The active preset was selected by a lighted pushbutton on the front edge. The system was called the “1Ca”, “1” for System 1, “C” for console and “a” for programmable performance modification.
Note:Actually, the 1Ca was not quite the standard Model 1C as listed in the April 1969 price list. The 1Ca included an additional third 911 ADSR. Also, the three oscillators installed in the 1Ca consisted of three 901A VCO controllers paired with three 901B oscillators instead of the stock System 1C which had one 901 VCO plus a single 901A controlling two 901B slave oscillators. This yielded three oscillators that if desired could be operated completely independently of one another for the 1Ca. In contrast, the catalog System 1C had two of the oscillators paired to a common control module. The Mini followed the latter scheme, whereby the third VCO could be operated independently of the other two. (in practice, the actual 1Ca patch also followed this scheme.)
The 1Ca operated using a fixed patch for all the presets. See Fig 3. Each preset card was manually programmed in advance to override the same group of synthesizer control settings, (16 potentiometers and four switches located within the modules). The performer could instantly change the sound of the instrument radically without touching a single knob or patch cord. This fixed patch in fact incorporated a suite of functions patched in a way nearly identical to what would become the architecture of the Minimoog. The Mini would have three oscillators, one of which could serve as a fixed frequency LFO, a noise source, two contour generators, a mixer, one lowpass VCF and two VCAs. (Yes, the Mini has two VCAs, one hidden away and rarely used, dedicated to foot pedal volume control). The System 1Ca Reverb and Fixed Filter Bank did not become part of the Mini but the Ribbon Controller reappeared as the left-hand pitch wheel. As shipped, the Emerson “starter” synthesizer functioned as a Minimoog – with the addition of a limited preprogrammed preset capability to facilitate live performance. In this respect, the 1Ca was the primitive ancestor of the Minimoog Voyager introduced by Bob Moog in 2002.
My first project at Moog as the new hire was to get four more of Bill Hemsath’s preset boxes upgraded and built for the Gershon Kingsley First Moog Quartet debut upcoming 30 Jan 1970 at Carnegie Hall. The group had ordered four synthesizers, basically the 1Ca packaged into Tolex road cases. The synthesizer portion, in non-preset, single-cabinet form, became known as the Moog System 10 (now the modern System 15 with different VCOs). So, I got the presets integrated with the synthesizers. The First Moog Quartet had a degree of success on tour performing with the likes of the Boston Pops orchestra and releasing an album. Bob Moog’s idea was to sell this machine or a variant thereof as a standard product for live performance, but this never happened. To this end, I designed another upgraded preset card, and it was this second version which eventually went to Keith.
Bob Moog’s Vision
Bob was not in favor of developing an instrument like the Mini, thinking there was no market for it, and anyway, he did not want to take his “shop” in the direction of mass production. He preferred instead to remain in the pioneering forefront of creating new electronic tools to advance the art of music by working with customers one-on-one to create innovative products.
Moog was put on the path to developing the modern synthesizer by avant-garde composers who wanted devices to create novel musical effects that were difficult or impossible to achieve with available technology. He designed the basic “instruments” in response to requests for controllable tone sources, tone modifiers, articulators, effects, playing controls and the like. Thus were born the VCO, the VCF, the ADSR, the Fixed Filter Bank, the triggering one-volt per octave Keyboard and the Ribbon slide control (in addition to other devices) – as first suggested by folks like Herb Deutsch, Vladimir Ussachevsky and Wendy Carlos. By 1969 the “instruments” had been renamed “modules” and collections of them organized into a system had been dubbed “synthesizers”. A powerful unifying feature of the Moog synthesizer was the extensive use of control voltages to set operating parameters. This may have Dr. Moog’s most significant innovation for the music world, as it allowed one module to profoundly affect the sonic character of another. A simple example would be the use of an LFO to introduce a variable depth vibrato to a VCO.
The central theme in Moog’s career was this collaboration with artists. It necessarily was his greatest strength in his life’s creative work. But it also was a source of much financial distress in the early days 1965 until 1971, whereby he was forced to sell a controlling interest in his company to get out of a near-fatal debt load. He often accepted orders for one-offs that may or may not have had the potential to put into production. By the time I came on the scene he had amassed a rather daunting backlog of orders for which he had taken substantial down payments. Lawsuits were being threatened. Most of the projects were guaranteed to be money losers as Bob, in the goodness of his heart, had agreed to a low price as a favor to the customer, optimistically thinking he could make good on the promises and still stay in business. In 1969, while things were still looking rather rosy due to the large volume of recent modular sales, he added to his engineering staff. This was both to develop new products and to whittle down the pile of unfilled specials orders, which had become impossible for him to fulfill on his own. I, Bill Hemsath and Bob Shen came aboard during the summer and fall of 1969 to supplement his first engineer, Gene Zumchak. I do not know when part-timer engineering grad student Chad Hunt came aboard, probably mid-1969.
The 1Ca That Went to Emerson
Of the four 1Ca Systems built, only one was ever sold – to a Brit we had never heard of named Keith Emerson. I did the final checkout of the instrument before it went out the door. I sent with it with a drawing showing the standard “Mini-type” patch diagram. All presets were factory programmed to produce usable demo sounds using that patch. I also sent a brief three-page set of instructions. The pen and paper original documents in my handwriting still exist in the Moog Collection, Kroch Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University, where I found and scanned them last year.
See Fig 2. A frequency counter for tuning sits at center in front of a blank lower-tier panel. Left to right the upper tier has a three-901A/three-901B oscillator bank, a passive highpass/lowpass tone control and output attenuator panel, a 903 Noise Source, a 905 Reverb, a 907 Fixed Filter Bank, a 904A Lowpass VCF, two 902 VCAs, three 911 ADSRs and a double Multiple module. The lower tier consists of non-modular panels (they are hard-wired and non-removable). On the left, we see two VCO Control Voltage Routing panels and two Four-Channel Mixers with Multiples. The photo shows an unreadable mystery panel left of center. The panel right of center selects which oscillator to route to the frequency counter. Then comes another Control Voltage Routing panel, this one for the VCF. After that we see another Routing Panel connecting the keyboard triggers to the ADSRs and connecting ADSR outputs to VCAs. The second to last panel provides direct patch cord access to Keyboard and Ribbon control voltage and trigger outputs. Finally, the Power Supply panel fills the last space. A Ribbon controller rests atop the keyboard. This synthesizer however is more than a Mini even when you take away the 905 and the 907 in that it has two mixers and three contour generators.
Note that many control connections are made without patch cords, reducing the jungle of wires. These hard-wired, patch-cordless connections had become standard features of all the modular synthesizers in the nineteen sixties. This feature naturally facilitated adaptation of the System 1 for live performance. The Minimoog carried this concept further by eliminating all patch cords. The Mini project began a few months or so after the1Ca came into being. The initial impetus came from Gene Zumchak, but Bob Moog was not buying the idea. Bill Hemsath then on his own initiative created the Mini A Model in Nov 1969. The Minimoog Model D followed a year later as a direct descendant of the 1Ca.
The 1Ca stands as a pioneering synthesizer, taking the first steps along the path out of the studio and onto the popular music stage. Moog and the music industry were fortunate that one of them at least came into the hands of a performer who brought the synthesizer to worldwide attention.
The Preset Box for the 1Ca rests on top of the cabinet. It was preprogrammed with sounds according to the patch diagram, Fig 3. The photo shows only 6 cards installed, with the leftmost being the clear card to cancel the preset function. There is room for 7 more preset cards. A 1974 concert photo shows this same preset box atop Keith’s rig with ten preset cards installed and space for two more.
Keith claims on his web site that we never sent any documentation whatsoever. This is not true. Either he had forgotten getting what I had sent, or British customs failed to put it back in the box, or someone lost it upon unpacking.
A number of authoritative sources – including the book “Classic Keyboards” (page 351), information on Keith’s website and statements by Greg Lake and Carl Palmer, tell us that Keith’s improvised solo at the end of the great ELP hit Lucky Man was performed on the 1Ca instrument. These accounts, unfortunately, appear to be based on incorrect recollections recorded decades after the events. The story had it that it had arrived at the recording venue, Advision Studios in London, the day before completion of the album. This was in July 1970. On the last day, the band hastily had to concoct a filler number to complete contractual requirements for the number of minutes on the album. They already had recorded their entire repertoire. So Lake and Palmer laid down all the tracks for a new number based on the first song Lake ever wrote (at age twelve) called Lucky Man while Keith was out visiting a pub. Keith returned and the band decided that Keith needed to add a keyboard presence to the song. According to the legend, the brand-new Moog was brought into the studio to see if a synthesizer solo would do for the purpose. Keith had no idea how a synthesizer worked at that point by his own admission. He played an experimental line at the end of the recording that replaced a Greg Lake guitar track. He did not know that the tape machine was running. To Keith’s eternal dismay, it was a one-take “keeper” because there were no more tape tracks remaining for a second recording to “get it right”. The crew did not want to risk overwriting the first take, which everyone liked (except Keith). For the next nearly 50 years I have been taking some credit for Lucky Man because I assumed Keith had to have used one of the presets I had programmed back in Trumansburg in order to produce a useful sound on an unfamiliar instrument. Alas! My claim to be a footnote to progressive rock history turns out to be untrue. Brian Kehew (keyboard tech and backup performer with The Who for some 20 years) has researched the matter thoroughly. Here is the real story:
In fact, that Lucky Man instrument was a large modular system, equivalent to the modern-day Moog System 55, owned and well understood by Mike Vickers of the group Manfred Mann. It was the first Moog synthesizer in England. He kept it at Advision and made it available by the hour for recording sessions. It was either Vickers or producer Eddie Offord who set up the synthesizer for Keith to play. Once the band had created Lucky Man, they realized they must have their own synthesizer for a series of upcoming performances happening before the release of their first album, the eponymous Emerson Lake and Palmer. They located the Garden Concert 1Ca for sale by our sales representative Walter Sear in NY City. He had been trying to sell it for a year. It was ideal for Keith, as it had been configured specifically for stage performance for use by non-technical musicians. The Vickers instrument was not only non-programmable but also was not always available. And the Minimoog was still a half year in the future.
Accordingly, arrangements were made for its purchase through our British representative, Feldon Recording. Apparently, it took a couple of months to clear customs. We know for sure that ELP possessed it by 29 Aug 1970 because it clearly shows up on stage (although barely used) in video footage of the ELP performance at the Isle of Wight festival. This was 364 days after it was first used in the MOMA concert, almost exactly one year previously. It was also in August 1970 that the album was mixed down for release in November.
The afterthought Lucky Man went on eventually to become arguably ELP’s best-known song. It almost did not happen.
The original 1Ca was subsequently added onto to become the present-day Emerson Monster Moog, now owned by EMEAPP. The entire Emerson Moog has been replicated by Moog Music Inc in Asheville NC in recent years (five sold at $150,000 a crack). It had grown to something like its present size by 1973 or 1974 when last I had my hands on it for servicing by Moog Music Incorporated in Buffalo NY. The original 1Ca cabinet from the 1969 Concert at the Garden to this day still exists as the slope-faced portion near the bottom of the stack of cabinets, albeit with many of the original modules swapped out or moved, but also with about half the original complement still in or near their original locations. The original bank of drifty 901A/B VCOs has been replaced with pitch-stable 921A/B VCOs.
The separate preset box with internal trim pot programming knobs is now gone. The ten preset circuit functions are now incorporated into the five vertical-faced modules in the cabinet at the bottom of the Monster Moog stack, below the 1Ca. The original circuit boards have been junked for a new design. The programming settings for each preset are accessible by removing the blank panel beside each of the modules. The three-tone oscillators for each preset are screwdriver fine-tuned from the front panels.
Dodging the Bullet
In late 69 or early 70, as a consequence of staffing up the engineering department at the time that the market for large expensive modular synthesizers had been saturated and sales were drastically declining, our General Manager John Huzar was faced with a cash flow crunch. This necessitated reducing the number of engineers on the payroll. First to go was Gene Zumchak who was not an analog designer and who personally did not get along with Bob Moog. Next in the crosshairs was either Bob Shen or Jim Scott.
I was straight out of school and fresh on theory and mathematical techniques. Although I had taken courses on circuit design, I had never designed a real, honest-to-goodness practical circuit of any sort in my life. Moog, Hemsath and Hunt had years or decades of experience. Here I was, plunged into the deep end to do or die. Bob expected his engineers to produce results without needing too much babysitting from him. By pure luck, shortly before I came on board in late 1969, Shen had been handed the difficult job of replacing the pitch-unstable 901 VCO with a new-design stable 921 VCO. This new oscillator was slated to be installed in the programmable preset synthesizers being developed for the First Moog Quartet. His design failed and was discarded, since the stable exponentiator that produces an accurate equally tempered scale had yet to be discovered by me, Bill and Bob the following year. First Moog Quartet players had to make do with drifty and inaccurate 901 VCOs, although not without a lot of grousing. Best I could do was to advise them to keep a finger on the Ribbon to bend the notes onto pitch – not an accustomed practice of keyboard players. Jazz musician Chris Swansen never had a problem in this regard, as he naturally had adjusted pitch constantly when he played brass instruments.
I was handed a problem I had no idea how to design to satisfy a one-off special order on backlog. This was to deliver a module with two knobs to control a tunable frequency, variable width, bandpass filter. Bob did not have a circuit in mind when he had taken the order so I was not going to get much help from that direction. But I had cut classes to attend an electronics trade show in San Francisco before graduation. There I was shown a potted module a salesman had previously tried to sell to, guess who, the R A Moog company in Trumansburg, that exactly met specifications for our order. So, I ended up with the easiest project imaginable – entailing putting the purchased epoxy encapsulated module behind a panel and wiring it to two front panel potentiometers. Slam dunk. Brian Kehew tells me it was the only example of this product ever sold by the manufacturer. General Manager John Huzar, having no technical smarts whatsoever, sees that Scott succeeded in his design project and Shen failed. So quite unfairly the guy with seniority and a more advanced degree is sent packing and I am kept on, giving me some breathing space to get up to speed as a circuit designer. I learned in a hurry in large part by studying Moog Modular schematic diagrams.
As has been mentioned earlier, the First Moog Quartet preset modular synthesizer was supposed to be followed by a production version with a more capable preset box that worked on the same principle – that of using remote photoresistors on the cards to parallel control panel potentiometers in the modules. This was my first production device design project. The programmable modular synthesizer was Bob’s concept of the way forward to bolster lagging sales by getting the patch cord synthesizer onto the live performance stage, opening a new market. To that end I designed a fancier preset box that had the added feature of programmable mixers, which for one thing, could blend together different sound sources to yield a sort of a rudimentary patching capability. Work on this project ended when it was decided around 1 July 1970 to go forward on the Minimoog design effort from the B Model concept prototype to the preproduction C Model prototype. The redesigned preset box with programmable mixers did make it to market at least once – as part of the Keith Emerson Moog.
This also was around the time my one-off vocoder was delivered to State University of New York to stave off legal action for non-fulfillment of a contract two years prior. The difficult part of this project was the design of two 22-band comb filters (similar to the Moog 907 and 914 Fixed Filters) with extremely stringent requirements for sharp rejection of out-of-band frequencies. Bob had no circuit implementation ideas for this design either, so I was left to my own devices. Simple textbook designs were not adequate, nor were commercially available, custom-designed, ready-to-use filters. Starting from scratch, I finally hit on a type of filter that was of sufficient selectivity, accuracy, and manufacturability. Chad Hunt pirated a computer design program for this type of filter, and he snuck in some midnight computer time at Cornell University to calculate the component values. The filter worked like a champ – and was very easy to calibrate in test. Rumor has it that this vocoder is still in operation in Europe somewhere. The Moog Foundation home web page credits Bob Moog with the design of this filter as one of his eight great achievements. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the proof is in my logbooks and the Moog Archives at the Cornell Kroch Library, where the detailed design is archived in my handwriting. R A Moog Inc lost a bundle on this project, I doubt the $4000 we got even covered the cost of the parts, and I always felt bad that I was responsible for a severe cost overrun. But we did not get sued by the State of New York at least.
Enter the Minimoog
Subsequent to the departure of Gene Zumchak, Bill Hemsath, on his own initiative, created the first Minimoog prototype, the A Model, along the lines Zumchak had campaigned for. With Bob, he also created the two B Models. These instruments were so whole-heartily accepted by the few musicians who had access to them that the decision was made to move forward to develop a production Model, despite Bob Moog’s strong reservations about the sales potential of such an instrument. Bob, I think, relented and allowed his staff to proceed because of the possibility of attracting a sorely needed investor to put some capital into the company. It is his to his credit that Bob also enthusiastically participated in the design of the prototype Mini C, which with little change became the production Mini D.
Meanwhile back at the ranch ….
Zumchak, who had failed to impress on Bob Moog the need for an all-in-one live performance synthesizer, prevailed on fellow Ukrainian and entrepreneur Bill Waytena to found Musonics Inc near Buffalo to develop his ideas. With the consultation of a moonlighting circuit designer named Fred Reinagel, he designed an instrument called the Sonic Five, built into a wooden cabinet and aimed at the educational market. This instrument was subsequently repackaged in a more portable suitcase-type enclosure to appeal to the live performance market and renamed the Sonic Six.
After Moog sold control of R A Moog Inc to Musonics, the two companies were merged as Moog Musonics Inc. Moog Musonics produced both instruments for a while, but the Mini outsold the Sonic to the extent that the latter had to be retired from production. Bob was amazed at how the Mini sold. He told me, rather ruefully, in Trumansburg after the first 10 D Models were completed, “I doubt we will ever sell 200 of these”. When the Mini proved to be the salvation of the company, Bob had totally forgotten the memo I wrote in Trumansburg predicting the Mini would become a classic musical instrument. No copy of that memo has ever been found.
To supplement the big Emerson Modular, Keith also later added a Mini D to his rig, often employing it for bass. Thus, his setup included the ancestor 1Ca and the offspring Mini D on the same stage, and he was able to play both simultaneously live in front of major audiences.
Afternote:The matter of which synthesizer was used in the recording of Lucky Man deserves more attention, but this is better handled in a separate document, as the detailed story is beyond the scope of this article. EMEAPP has more evidence in hand and is expecting more, which we believe will prove that the Vickers synthesizer produced the ground-breaking Lucky Man track.
For synthesizer newbies, here are the definitions of some of the terms used in this article:
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator, often used as a musically-pitched tone source. The 901A Oscillator Controller operated one or more slave 901 B Oscillators. The 901 VCO consisted of a 901A and a 901B housed in a single module.
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator, often sub-sonic, which, for example, can introduce vibrato or tremolo.
VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier. A pass-thru device that varies the loudness of a steady sound, such as the unvarnished output of a VCO, in response to a control voltage.
ADSR Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release controller. The main function is to generate a one-time transient voltage in response to a trigger, such as derived from a keyboard. Typically, the contour (or envelope) that it produces is patched as a control input to a VCA to articulate notes in response to triggers produced from the keyboard.
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter. This is a pass-thru electronic tone control that typically may modify the timbre of an oscillator. The most commonly used type, the lowpass filter, progressively brightens the sound as the control voltage increases, and vice versa, such as in response to a foot pedal or a dedicated ADSR.
Mixer Combines several audio signals or control voltages. One common use is to add together the sounds of a bank of VCOs tuned to a musical interval such as unison, octaves or a triad.
Multiple This refers to a group of phone cord jacks wired together so that a single output signal (audio or control voltage) can be fanned out to several destinations. For example, one may wish to split the pitched output of an oscillator to connect the signal to the audio input of a VCF and/or VCA, while at the same time applying the same signal to the control input(s). This self-modulation technique leads to special tonal effects.
Modular Synthesizer This refers to a construction whereby one may choose a set of individual patch cord modules (such as VCO, VCF, VCA) to plug into a cabinet, and to have the freedom to reposition them or swap in different functions. Nowadays the meaning has changed to refer to patch cord synthesizers which in fact are not reconfigurable owing to having a single unified front panel. In this article we use the term in its original sense.
Reverb This refers to a spring reverberation module. This compact electromechanical device emulates an echo chamber to add presence to sounds.
Fixed Filter Bank A bank of bandpass filters featuring a sequence of center frequencies similar to a hi fi equalizer. However, unlike an equalizer, the overall effect with all channels set to max results in a very “lumpy” response curve to color the sound. One use was to impose formants on the output of a synthesizer.
It was fun giving FOX 29 reporter, Bill Rohrer, the full run of the EMEAPP house, and he had a blast! We spent a day with him doing interviews and shooting footage of vintage synthesizers, amplifiers and effects.
Check out this great report on how Vince Pupillo, Sr. gave birth to this unique collection, and learn how it is becoming one of the world’s greatest accumulations of historically significant musical equipment.
EMEAPP’s Executive Director, Drew Raison, walks you through sections of the huge 30,000 square foot facility and explains how EMEAPP works. A highlight is getting to see (and hear) the sounds of Keith Emerson’s famous Moog modular synthesizer, demoed by Vince Pupillo, Jr.
Care to see a long-form tour of EMEAPP? Check out this online tour we did for a partner back in January of 2021. Quite a few things have changed since then, but it’ll give you a good idea of what EMEAPP is about.
We have a few Mutron Bi-Phase phase shifters at EMEAPP, we adore them and their unique sound. While the majority of gear we have is in prime condition, Frank Zappa’s Bi-Phase has been ridden hard and put away wet. Saying that it was well-loved might be an understatement, it is clear that the Maestro and his techs spent many years disassembling and modifying this beloved unit.
If every piece of gear has a story to tell, Zappa’s Mutron can probably write a book. This is why it makes us so happy to see it make an appearance in this month’s GUITAR WORLD magazine. Dweezil Zappa even got involved to give the reader some insider info on this very special piece that was a critical part of his father’s sound.
The eagerly-awaited video release of the 2016 Keith Emerson tribute concert is upon us! It is appropriately titled “FANFARE FOR THE UNCOMMON MAN”.
We were asked to create a quick tour of Keith Emerson’s stage and studio gear for their pre-release event and we were glad to oblige. The online reunion ran on March 5th and was a blast!
Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Marc Bonilla and others got back together to announce the release of the tribute concert video that is loaded with top-notch performances from many of Keith’s friends and compadres.
You can find the tribute concert for sale below, it is worth having! The best part is that all proceeds benefit the focal dystonia research, the disease that attacked Keith Emerson.
From the Cherry Red Records website:
A new concert film and album documenting the May 2016 tribute show honouring the late Keith Emerson.
The Official Keith Emerson Tribute Concert will be available as a four-disc set featuring DVD and two CDs capturing the entire two-and-a-half-hour event and a disc of Bonus interviews.
The show featured a roster of rockers including Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro, Eddie Jobson, Jordan Rudess, Brian Auger, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Vinnie Colaiuta, Marc Bonilla, Gregg Bissonnette, CJ Vanston, Troy Luccketta, Rachel Flowers, Terje Mikkelsen, Philippe Saisse, Travis Davis, Ed Roth, Mike Wallace, Mick Mahan, Karma Auger, Rick Livingstone, Jonathan Sindelman, Joe Travers, Kae Matsumoto, Aaron Emerson, Dan Lutz, and Michael Fitzpatrick.The event also featured Emerson’s son Aaron, and members of his solo band and his Three Fates Project group.
The show, which was held at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, offered a career-spanning celebration of Keith’s work, including music from ELP, The Nice, Three Fates Project and the Keith Emerson Band.
The DVD also features artist interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, tribute speeches and a gallery of rare photos provided by the Emerson estate.
Today is a year since George Secor passed on at 76 years of age, what a great opportunity to look back on his visit to EMEAPP back in 2018.
Yes, he was a focused and precise musician and mathematician, his academic work led him to discover the microtonal miracle temperament and even have a microtonal interval named after him. But face to face, George was a jovial and kind individual who really enjoyed the excitement of composing and performing music on unique instruments.
He was an accordionist, but he favored the Moschino Free Bass instruments rather than the traditional type. This allowed him more flexibility in chord structure and allowed for more comprehensive musical figures.
But for us, the payoff was time spent with George on our vintage Motorola Scalatron, a synthesizer that allows the user to “play between the cracks” of the standard western 12-note octave. In fact, it is capable of dividing an octave into 1,056 notes!
When George passed, he graciously donated his personal Motorola Scalatron to EMEAPP knowing that it will be viewed and used by many for generations, rather then ending up in a dumpster in Southern Illinois (this almost happened!).
It was our honor to present George with a posthumous EMEAPPP Lifetime Achievement Award in late 2020 to acknowledge his efforts in the world of microtonal research, scale design and notation.
Enjoy this video and take some time to research George and all of his musical doings. He was a great family man and we are proud to have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with him.
We had the opportunity to share a tour of EMEAPP with the Combo Organ Forum on January 28th, 2020. Enjoy this informal walkthrough of our facility, including a stop off to see and hear some of Keith Emerson’s stage gear, including his legendary Moog modular synthesizer.
But wait, have you joined us as a member yet? Please do! Click on the link above and get on board!