I remember the first time like it was yesterday, being face to face with an ARP 2500 modular synthesizer at the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project near Philadelphia. Everything about the instrument was flat-out sexy, from the knob colors to the natural wood to the intriguing matrices. I had seen many pictures of a 2500, but it was so different in person.
The ARP 2500 was an analog modular synthesizer created by ARP Instruments, manufactured from 1970 through 1981. The units were costly and technically advanced challenging for the novice, only 100 or so units were created. They are truly unique and have a sound of their own.
You might be familiar with the dynamic intro to Elton John’s “Funeral For a Friend”. The epic piece was created by producer David Hentschel on an ARP 2500. You also hear it all over The Who’s album, “Who’s Next”. In addition to using it as a keyboard synth, Pete Towshend processed his guitars and keyboards through sets of modules on a number of songs.
French electronic music composer, Eliane Radigue used her ARP 2500 almost exclusively throughout her career. Synthesist Jean Michel Jarre considers the 2500 to be one of his favorite instruments. We share this in common.
Nowadays, I have the opportunity to be in the presence of this ARP 2500 on an almost daily basis as the Director of EMEAPP. With two wing cabinets on stands and fully-loaded with modules, this is truly a rare bird. Only 100 or so units were built and each was a custom order; there were no standard configurations.
We care for quite a few ARP instruments at EMEAPP. We always have a white Odyssey wired up near with a Pro Soloist, our Quadra is always at the ready. But, the ARP 2500is the Godfather of the collection and sits on a high pedestal, figuratively and literally.
Our ARP 2500 began with a single large cabinet synth. Years later, a second large cabinet rig was sourced, which sat atop the other for years. We lovingly called it our ARP 5000. Then our curator caught wind of an über-rare matched pair of wing cabinets with their original wooden stands. They were clean and good looking– cherry switch matrix heaven!
Then it was time to merge the beasts, to comingle the two wide-cabinets into a large center cabinet with a pair of wings. Tim Warneck was brought into the ring with the intention of assembling our beautiful monster. Our first goal was to make certain that the power supplies were in top-order, a requirement to prevent damage to the modules. Next Tim populated the wing cabinets with modules from the donor cabinet.
The good news about the 2500 is that the modules can be configured in almost any way we like. We discussed our module layout plans and Tim took action. Then, after a good clean out and inspection, the units were powered up and tested for basic function.
ARP 2500 SESSIONS
We have done quite a few sessions with our ARP 2500 in the last three years, beginning with the single-cabinet machine and then with the behemoth above. Some sessions were quite simple, but others were deep and complex. In any case, a lot of work goes into an ARP 2500 session, especially when it comes to planning.
Our first ARP 2500 session was with Scottish artist, Luke Fowler. We had quite a learning curve to get comfortable with matrix patching, for both audio and voltage. We had a blast getting a taste of each module, some are really unique! The session went very well, the instrument behaved nicely and was a joy to work with. Read up on Luke Fowler here.
VOICE OF THE CYLON
Our next sizeable ARP 2500 session was in support of a unique project indeed, to recreate the Cylon character’s voice from the TV series, Battlestar Galactica. Joe Grandberg and Chris Dexter came to EMEAPP to discover and recreate the original synth component, derived from an ARP 2500.
Joe brought a beautiful selection of vintage gear for the session to help determine the proper sound and operation of the 2500. It took quite a bit of effort, but the outcome was worth it! Check out the entire series of the process, it’s really cool!
One sunny Philadelphia afternoon, Dina Pearlman of the Alan R. Pearlman Foundation reached out to us. She spoke about a huge video project that was underway that could benefit from some resources that we might have at our facility. Alan R. Pearlman was A. R. P. of ARP. He, along with partner David Friend and a crew of talented folks created the 2500 and many other vital instruments. The Foundation has always been of importance to us, seeing as how Alan played such an important role in synthesizer development. He was a true pioneer.
Dina indicated that video producer, Alex Ball, was nearing completion of this full-length video that does a deep-dive into the history of ARP synthesizers. He needed pictures of some rare and unique instruments, many of which we have under our roof. It was quite an effort, but we sent him dozens of images and video demos for the project.
Check out the finished product called Electromotive: The Story of Arp Instruments. You’ll see many of the images, videos and sound samples that we provided. It was a great project for EMEAPP to take on as this video will have historical and informational value for decades to come.
Another great 2500 session series was with synth pioneer, Don Slepian, who spent some quality time with the instruments when they were still in manufacture. He also had the rare opportunity to create original compositions on the famed ALLES computer, built by Bell Labs in 1979. It was fascinating to watch Don utilize individual 2500 modules similar to Pete Townshend, using a series to modify an external audio source. In the videos below, Slepian used a wooden flute and an ARP Quadra run through a series of modules, proving that the black and white keyboard certainly isn’t necessary.
Don ended up creating an outstanding series of music and videos during his sessions at EMEAPP. Keep your eyes open for a future article about Don, he has an interesting history and a huge body of work.
Don was even gracious enough to give the audience a general tour of the EMEAPP ARP 2500.
SONIC TEST DRIVE
Vince Jr and I have created quite a few episodes for our Sonic Test Drive series. Here is Vince taking our ARP 2500 for a spin. In this video, he added a Roland CR-78 CompuRhythm drum machine and an ARP 1613 sequencer. We ran the rig through our vintage ARP8 mixing board as we did with Don Slepian’s session. As you’ll hear, it sounded pretty huge!
I have certainly gained an immense amount of ARP 2500 knowledge over the last three years, I am a better synth guy for it. I also truly appreciate every day that I get to walk the halls of EMEAPP and be surrounded by such a rare and valuable collection of historically significant gear like the ARP 2500. I hope my access to this instrument continues for a long time, as it fascinates and intrigues me on a continuing basis. It lights me up when I see it, I can’t wait to makeamazing sounds at any opportunity in the future. Thanks, Alan R. Pearlman, David Friend and the rest of the ARP team, you did a great an amazing job.
Recently, we took delivery of a very rare and unique synth whose perspective on sound creating would be considered unique. The Technos Acxel was created in the late 1980s and holds a strong position in the hierarchy of digital synthesis. We asked Ryan Gaston of Perfect Circuit to give us an analysis of this unique machine.
The Technos Acxel is, with little doubt, one of the most peculiar instruments I have ever encountered. Living in 2019, it feels safe to say that an instrument with its combination of qualities would be highly unlikely to emerge in this day and age. It focuses on complex and obscure synthesis methods and has a strikingly peculiar design: a design which, while quite well-suited to its rich (albeit quirky) internal architecture, would no doubt have been quite expensive to develop/produce…and thus, quite expensive for the end user. Technos was clearly driven and ambitious, sparing no expense to pursue their vision of what making music could be like—and this ambition led them to take significant risks.
The Acxel was one such risk, and one that sadly did not end with fame or fortune: approximately 35 of these instruments were produced before the company closed its doors in 1992. The name “Technos” faded into obscurity and, aside from occasional mention in historical texts (such as Mark Vail’s Vintage Synthesizers), garnered little or no continued attention. To my knowledge, the Acxel as of yet has produced no Minimoog- or OB-Xa-style chart-topping hits; it didn’t appear on stage among elaborate prog rock or synth pop groups; it didn’t find a home in any giant, acclaimed Hollywood studios. Instead, it found its way into the homes of experimental synthesists and/or collectors, and few seem to have publicly surfaced since.
Personal History with the Acxel
I was working at Perfect Circuit in Burbank, CA when I first encountered the Acxel. At that exact time, we had a host of odd and uncommon synths: a Yamaha CS-80, a Synton Fenix 1, a Waldorf Wave…all exciting things for any synth enthusiast. Among the pile of things on our testing bench, though, was an Acxel. I had never seen or heard of it before, and at first glance was not even sure that it was a musical instrument. I was tasked with learning how it worked, so as to be able to determine whether or not it was actually in functional condition.
After several days poring through manuals and testing features one by one, I gained a profound respect for the instrument. I maintain that I have yet to encounter an instrument with such a singular workflow—evidence that its creators at Technos had a very complete and sophisticated way of conceptualizing sound. It is completely distinct from the then-mainstream approaches of subtractive synthesis, sampling, and digital methods such as FM or PD, instead borrowing bits of each approach to create something unique. It quickly became one of my favorite instruments, both due to its bold vision of how sound can work, and due to its clever interface—but more on that soon.
That instrument eventually found a home with a private collector, and I accepted the fact that I would likely never see one again. But, two years later, another found its way to our shop. Happily, this instrument eventually wound up with EMEAPP: a perfect fate for something so peculiar. All too often, rare instruments such as this circulate within closed networks of collectors and eventually fade from public visibility altogether, resulting in an unintentional erasure of the fringe areas of historical instrument design. And while these boundary-pushing instruments may not be the most influential when considered in terms of widespread use, they often have powerful, unique potential to challenge the way that we think about instrument design, sound design, and music-making altogether.
The Technos Acxel Itself
The Acxel is comprised of two pieces. The Solitary, a large, rack-mountable chassis, houses the instrument’s signal processing and audio/MIDI I/O boards. In practice, the user does not interact much with the Solitary, aside from loading the OS or timbres from a 3.5″ floppy disk. Perhaps comically large by modern standards, the Solitary houses an astounding array of electronics: including basic I/O boards, the Syncards (voice cards), and depending on the exact model/configuration, the Acxelizer board itself.
The second piece, the Grapher, is the actual user interface…which is to credit for most of the Acxel’s cult reputation. The Grapher is a tablet-like control surface that allows simultaneous display and editing of all of the Acxel’s internal parameters via a series of over 2000 small LED-embedded capacitive touch plates. The Grapher’s Matrix of touch plates changes in function depending on what parameters have been selected for editing: so the Grapher is at once a menu/page-based display and a means of changing values at the touch of a finger. One can think of this as being somewhat like the Fairlight’s light pen—but it is activated simply by touch. Again, this is the way that all internal parameters are edited: envelopes, wave shapes, signal levels, and much more are all created and displayed through this absolutely sci-fi-level touch interface.
The Acxel does not provide a dedicated playing interface, though: it must be paired with a MIDI controller. This was a departure from Technos’s prior design, the 16pi, which was itself not dissimilar to an Acxel with a keyboard. Instead, users were to determine their own means of interacting with the instrument.
What is Additive Synthesis?
But the user interface is not the only peculiar thing about the Acxel: its means of sound production is also markedly uncommon. The 1980s were a bold time in instrument design; designers’ increasing reliance on digital technology for sound generation and control meant that, theoretically, almost any musical concept could be turned into an instrument. As such, some designers turned to theoretical techniques that previously might have seemed impractical—including additive synthesis.
Mainstream analog synthesizers primarily rely on subtractive synthesis—that is to say, they rely on harmonically rich oscillators (saw waves, square waves, etc.) as a sound source, then using filters to remove harmonics and emphasize certain parts of the sound spectrum in order to create interesting sounds. This is the realm of the Minimoog, ARP 2600, Oberheim SEM, and countless other classic analog synths. Additive synthesis, however, works differently: rather than using a small number of harmonically rich oscillators and a filter as building blocks, it instead typically uses a large array of sine oscillators carefully tuned to specific intervals and set to specific volumes in order to construct a sound from the ground up. This is a somewhat more atomic/elemental approach; and because a convincing additive “voice” might require dozens of oscillators and amplifiers, additive synthesis was too impractical to implement and too tedious to program in an analog context. However, when designers began to rely on digital sound generation and digital control, such a feat was suddenly within reach.
This is the fundamental approach of the Acxel. This LED-laden oddity has a whopping 32 oscillators per voice, each with their own amplifiers. Each voice is rounded out with two-operator FM capability, two filters, and a master amplifier for voice-level volume control. Moreover, there are 64-stage envelope generators for practically every sensible destination—each oscillator in each voice has its own pitch and volume envelopes, and several voice-level envelopes control FM index, filter cutoff frequency, and overall voice amplitude. Yes—there are literally dozens of envelopes for every single voice (and the basic configuration has eight voices in total).
Of course, having this sheer number of sonic resources in one instrument is pretty jaw-dropping…but one of the most fascinating aspects of the Acxel lies in how all of these resources are controlled.
Additive Synthesis in the Acxel: the Spectrum Concept
Technos cleverly organizes the key parameters of additive synthesis into spectra in order to be able to understand the relationship between settings for each of a voice’s internal oscillators. There are several spectra: the amplitude spectrum, phase spectrum, integer spectrum, and beating spectrum. When navigating to any of the pages for editing these spectra, the touch plate LEDs illuminate in order to reflect the current settings for each oscillator in order, basically creating a touchable bar graph representing all of the settings for the selected spectrum parameter. One needs only to swipe their fingers across the Grapher’s touch plate matrix in order to alter these settings, as if it were a set of sliders or drawbars.
The amplitude spectrum defines the relative loudness of each oscillator, allowing users to emphasize or de-emphasize any overtone they desire. The phase spectrum determines the phase offset between each oscillator: the effect of the phase spectrum is more pronounced when several oscillators are tuned to the same pitch, so the effect of the phase spectrum is generally quite subtle in more complex sounds.
The integer and beating spectra work together to define the pitch of each oscillator. The integer spectrum can be thought of as a more coarse tuning value, with the beating spectrum providing finer control. The integer spectrum multiplies the base MIDI pitch by integer values from 1–32 as a means of easily tuning oscillators to precise harmonic ratios; this makes it easy to create harmonically pure, stable sounds. The beating spectrum, on the other hand, is a detuning control: it allows users to offset any oscillators’ pitches from their current “integer” values in order to access all of the inharmonic pitches between ideal overtones. This allows for much more complex, nuanced, evolving sounds…and even using these four spectra alone, a wide range of peculiar and novel sounds is available.
Dynamic Additive Synthesis
But there’s more to it than that—as I mentioned before, the Acxel is overridden with envelopes. And these aren’t your garden-variety ADSRs: they are 64-stage envelopes, each with user-definable hold and loop regions. As mentioned above, there are voice-level envelopes for controlling filter cutoff, FM index, amplitude, etc…but there are also per-oscillator envelopes specifically for controlling pitch and amplitude. Yes—there are roughly 70 envelopes per voice. Ordinarily, handling 70 envelopes would be an overwhelming and tedious feat; but as with the clever organization of spectra, Technos came up with a relatively efficient (and dare I say, almost intuitive) way of handling envelope settings.
Amplitude and pitch control in the Acxel can operate in one of two high-level modes: Fixed Additive Synthesis (FAS) and Dynamic Additive Synthesis (DAS). In FAS mode, amplitude and pitch values are determined by the spectrum values alone, but in DAS mode, the envelopes come into play. Users can switch additive synthesis modes and access envelope editing pages using the ISC (Intelligent Synthesis Cell) menu touch plates on the left of the Grapher’s touch plate matrix.
Envelopes are assigned to individual ISCs (the combination of one oscillator and amplifier) by using the Numeraline, the row of 32 touch plates immediately below the Grapher’s matrix. Once a cell has been selected for editing, its current envelope shape is displayed via the matrix LEDs: it can be re-shaped simply by swiping one’s fingers across the matrix surface. What is particularly interesting is that multiple ISCs can be selected for editing all at once—by selecting multiple ISCs via the Numeraline, it becomes easy to make broad changes in several cells at the same time. This removes much of the tedium in different implementations of additive synthesis, and makes it fairly quick to achieve complex, dynamic results.
DAS control of amplitude is fairly straightforward: it allows evolving changes in the concentration of particular overtones, providing easy access to continuously shifting spectral focus. There are two separate DAS modes related to pitch, only one of which may be used at a time: DAS-I, in which envelopes modulate the current Integer Spectrum values, and DAS-P, in which envelopes modulate the current Beating Spectrum values. DAS-I produces considerably more coarse pitch changes locked to harmonic ratios, often resulting in peculiar harmonic arpeggio-like effects. DAS-P, on the other hand, is an excellent way of introducing dynamic detuning, twisting overtones into constantly changing inharmonic ratios for sounds that shift from stable to clangorous and back again. By using intentionally-devised combinations of pitch and amplitude envelopes, the Acxel can produce remarkable variation across the course of a single note. (As a side note: in my personal experience, the Acxel excels at drawn-out, atmospheric/textural sounds…there’s simply so much possible within a single note that can too easily go unnoticed with shorter, more idiomatic “keyboard” sounds.)
As mentioned before, there are also per-voice envelopes for volume, filter cutoff, and FM index. All envelopes in the Acxel are 64 steps long, can range from hundredths of a second to half a minute, and allow the user to define a region of segments to loop when a key is held (using the Alphaline, a line of touch plates above the Matrix). What’s more, all envelopes utilize what Technos calls the Dual Envelope Concept: meaning that each envelope can continuously interpolate between two different, user-definable shapes. By using key velocity to perform this interpolation, for instance, the Acxel can be made to produce highly dynamic results which, in the best situations, can lead to combinations of character entirely impossible to predict.
The Tandem Problem & Resynthesis
The use of Spectra and the Acxel’s clever interface for editing envelopes does make for an uncommonly smooth and immediate additive synthesis experience—but it’s no secret that even this implementation is far from the ease of use of a Minimoog, for instance. Making good sounds from scratch can still take a considerable amount of time, cleverness notwithstanding.
Happily, the Acxel does offer another way of defining sounds: resynthesis. In many ways, resynthesis is the Acxel’s primary intended use case—or at least, that is what sales literature would leave one to believe. Technos saw this technique as a solution to some of the issues inherent in the then-still-maturing technique of sampling: namely, the issue they describe as The Tandem Problem.
The Tandem Problem is no doubt familiar to anyone who has used a traditional sampler. In samplers, pitch changes are often achieved by using playback rates different than the audio’s sampling rate. By playing back at rates slower than the sample rate, output sounds appear lower than the original sampled sound; by playing back at faster rates, the sound appears higher in pitch. This is great (and useful in a lot of situations!), but comes with an intrinsic, unintentional consequence: it also results in the sound being shorter as it increases in pitch, and longer as it decreases in pitch. This is the Tandem Problem.
Resynthesis is related to sampling, but a bit more complex in execution. In resynthesis, a source sound is recorded into a buffer and then analyzed (often via FFT or similar methods). The result of this analysis is a mass of information about the sound’s harmonic structure and how the loudness and pitch of its overtones change over time. The resynthesizer’s internal synthesis engine, usually comprised of a huge number of sine generators and amplifiers, interprets this analysis and utilizes it as control information, resynthesizing the sound through additive synthesis. The end result is a sound ideally quite similar to the input analyzed sound.
This has a huge number of advantages over sampling. The first is that the Tandem Problem is no longer a concern: since sounds are constructed out of banks of variable-frequency sine waves with pitch and volume contours defined by variable-duration envelopes, changing pitch doesn’t have to mean changing the duration of a sound (and vice versa). Changing pitch is instead just a matter of shifting all of the overtones by an identical musical interval (maintaining their harmonic relationship). Similarly, changing duration is just a matter of expanding or compressing all of the envelopes within a sound…pitch doesn’t have to change at all. This means that pitch and duration changes are both possible, and entirely independent of one another.
The Acxel achieves this process via the Acxelizer: a processor based on a simple AI that performs the analysis described above and assigns all of the most pertinent information within the analyzed sound to the voices’ Intelligent Synthesis Cells—ISCs, the combination of an Intelligent Digital Oscillator (IDO), Intelligent Digital Amplifier (IDA), Intelligent Pitch Envelope Generator (IPEG), and Intelligent Volume Envelope Generator (IVEG). The Acxelizer can even determine how many overtones are required to adequately reproduce a sound and “steal” resources from multiple voices to construct a single sound…which ultimately reduces polyphony, but enables the resynthesis of considerably more complex spectra, even including highly effective resynthesis of the human voice. Another interesting implication of resynthesis in this fashion is that it permits extensive manipulation of the sound, down to a much more atomic level than with pure sampling.
The Acxel maintains the same level of editing potential with resynthesized sounds as it does with purely synthesized sounds…so users can reach within a sound and modify the spectral profile, and the way it evolves over time. This is excellent for creating alien sounds from familiar sources, allowing the cadence of natural tones to influence the unfolding of otherwise impossible textures. You can quantize the natural inharmonicities in a sound to harmonic intervals; you can frequency modulate resynthesized sounds; you can accentuate weak overtones and de-emphasize strong ones. Being able to reach down to this level of detail in recorded sound is all but impossible…and this is what is meant by “Acxel”: it is an auditory pixel, the smallest unit of digital sound to which Technos provides you access.
The Acxel came with several 3.5″ floppy disks of presets: a host of synthesized and resynthesized sounds ranging from Moog-style bass to harp glissandi and loon calls. Some of these sounds are far more compelling/interesting than others…and while they are remarkable given the age of the instrument, some have “held up” better than others. Regardless, the instrument’s capabilities to synthesize complex sounds from the ground up are remarkable…and only otherwise possible at the time through similarly complex/valuable instruments such as the Synclavier.
Note: despite the name, not every Acxel necessarily contains an Acxelizer: the most affordable model at the time of production was the Acxel Stage, which could synthesize sounds from scratch or use preset “Acxelized” sounds created with another Acxel. British magazine Music Technology reported in their March 1988 issue that the Acxel Stage cost 8500GBP at that time. The Starter Studio, a basic system with Acxelizer, cost 14,545GBP; and the “top of range” system, complete with Acxelizer and maximum number of voices ran for 37,930GBP. EMEAPP’s Acxel is what, according to sales literature, was called the Pro Studio model, containing an Acxelizer and one Syncard (for a maximum of eight voice polyphony), with both a mixed signal output and individual outputs for each voice.
There is so much more to the Acxel. It is multitimbral—individual voices can be split, layered, or operate on completely separate MIDI channels. It has an analog lowpass filter for each voice, and a Variable Integer Pass (VIP) digital filter which allows you to hone in on specific Integers; there are LFOs (including an Intelligent LFO for translating vibrato in resynthesized sounds); you can even change the wave shape of the oscillators used for resynthesis…the list goes on.
But after getting to know the Acxel, it becomes apparent that it was never quite finished. Several front-panel controls do nothing; several sections of the user manual refer to “reserved,” incomplete functions; redundant editing pages make it feel as if features were planned, but never quite made it into existence. It is clear that Technos had big plans for where the Acxel was heading…and despite all they accomplished, it doesn’t seem as if it ever got as far as they might have liked. Later iterations were planned, but sadly none ever came to fruition.
Despite this, working with the Acxel is an amazing and rare treat…one that I hope I’ll have again in the future. It is a true rarity, and an ideal packaging of what was great about instrument design in the 1980s: designers were bold, and truly sought to create instruments unlike anything else that had ever existed. And, in this case more so than many, they succeeded.
One way for EMEAPP to advance its mission is to offer assistance and encouragement to others who share our goals. So, we’re proud to have played a role in the birth of a big, beautiful new book about vintage keyboards: Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music, by Alan Lenhoff and David Robertson. You can learn about this book here: ClassicKeysBook.com.
This is the keepsake book many of us have dreamed about: A beautifully photographed and authoritative book that celebrates the great rock keyboards of the 1950s through the early 1980s: Hammond organs, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, the Hohner Clavinet and Pianet, the Mellotron, the Yamaha CP70, Vox and Farfisa combo organs, Moog synthesizers and many more. It’s great “eye candy,” but also tells a deep story, putting these instruments in the context of the technological, social and musical trends that made them possible, and made these instruments the centerpiece of so many great bands. It follows the path from the time when a rock keyboard was whatever down-on-its-luck piano a band found waiting for them in a music venue to its evolution into a portable digital orchestra.
We helped make Classic Keys happen in two ways: We provided a grant to help offset the considerable publishing costs of such an ambitious book. We also provided the authors with studio photographs of instruments in our collection. As Lenhoff says, “The economics of publishing make it extremely difficult to publish a large-format, hardcover book of more than 400 pages when it’s aimed at a niche market. The grant we got from EMEAPP helped ensure that we never had to compromise on the quality of the book. It’s a first-class gift book in every way.”
Almost all of the beautiful studio photography of instruments in the book was done by Robertson, who is an Australian industrial designer, commercial photographer and design historian. That created a challenge. “Some of the instruments that were photographed for us by EMEAPP were either rare or otherwise difficult for me to find in Australia—especially in the fine condition we needed so the instruments would look like they did when they were new,” Robertson says. “EMEAPP’s photos helped us fill in some important holes in the book.”
Lenhoff, an American journalist and media executive, and EMEAPP founder Vince Pupillo Sr. began talking about the book about five years ago, when Lenhoff interviewed Vince to capture the story of EMEAPP for the book. Several years later, they began discussing how EMEAPP might participate in the project. “EMEAPP’s support has been a real difference-maker for us, and for the readers,” Lenhoff says. “We couldn’t have had a more appropriate partner.”
The book has attracted enthusiastic praise from such A-list players as Rick Wakeman (Yes), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers and musical director of The Rolling Stones) and Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello). As Wakeman says: “The story of keyboard development, the people who built them, and the part they played in our musical history has never been fully told up until now. This book is a must for all who love keyboards and their history and indeed, music in general. It should be on every music lover’s bookshelf.”
50 years ago from the day of this writing, Herb Deutsch, Chris Swansen along with a handful of other dedicated performers and synth-minded people, assembled a concert on Moog synthesizers in front of 4,000 thrilled fans at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Bob Moog and his team created four modular synthesizers for this very well received, unique and innovative performance.
Keith Emerson, who played keys in The Nice at the time, reached out to Bob Moog and was able to acquire one of these modular synths for his own musical explorations. This began a lifelong relationship that ran deep on so many levels.
Over the decades, the gigantic sound of this iconic instrument found its way into the hands of eager fans on ELP songs like From The Beginning, Tarkus, Toccata, Tank, Karn Evil 9 and the favorite of so many, Lucky Man.
Keith’s Moog synth traveled the globe with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith worked with Bob and his team to update and upgrade the instrument to meet Keith’s on-stage and studio requirements. The synth would get hammered from the touring and Keith’s techs and the Moog crew chipped in to keep it working the best they could.
In 2011, as the instrument fell into disrepair, Keith decided to have this highly customized instrument rebuilt. Technicians Gene Stopp and Brian Kehew worked on it feverishly, the result was a stable and fully-working synth, capable of handling anything that Keith could throw at it.
After Keith’s untimely passing, his extended family determined that “the world’s most famous synthesizer” should end up in the hands of the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project. Through the guidance of Michelle Moog-Koussa of the Bob Moog Foundation, they understood that our stewardship would harvest great substance from this instrument and that we would share it with the whole world, judiciously and with sensitivity. They also understood that what is most important to us is Keith Emerson’s musical legacy and that his Moog synthesizer is really a living and breathing symbolic object of this legacy.
In April of 2019, we brought Keith’s Moog synth to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to play a part in their “Instruments That Rock” exhibit. At the time of this writing, more than half a million visitors and fans got a close-up view of the Moog and two of Keith’s Hammond organs.
As his beloved instrument turns 50 years old, we celebrate the Jazz In the Garden concert where it all began. We tip our hats to Bob Moog, Herb Deutsch, Chris Swansen and the whole crew who made this milestone performance happen. We also tip our hats to Gene Stopp, Brian Kehew and all the folks involved in getting this iconic instrument back on its feet.
We look forward to its homecoming with great anticipation. 🙂
Here is a wonderful article written by Lauren Rosati of the Museum of Modern Art that tells the story of this very important performance.
Originally posted by Lauren Rosati, Museum Research Consortium Fellow, Department of Photography
The exhibition Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye explores the ways in which sound technologies have shaped the way we listen to musical culture. Highlighting both technical innovation and design aesthetics, the exhibition includes a number of modern instruments, including a Yamaha Portatone Keyboard and a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. While MoMA was the first museum in the world to collect such objects, beginning in 1932, it also pioneered the live presentation of some new music technologies. For instance, Russian émigré Vladimir Ussachevsky performed the first tape-music concert in the United States at MoMA in October 1952. And though the Museum’s collection does not include a synthesizer, it presented the famed Moog synthesizer as a live performance instrument for the very first time on August 28, 1969, changing the course of music history and influencing decades of future instrument design.
Described by the press as “alien” and like “a fox let loose in a chicken shack,” the sounds of the Moog synthesizer filled MoMA’s Sculpture Garden during the final event of the 1969 Jazz in the Garden concert series. Critic Greer Johnson wrote that “the ‘demonstration’ of Robert Moog’s synthesizer at MoMA…had all the musical persuasiveness of lobotomized Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey singing ‘On A Bicycle Built For Two.’” Bob Moog was surely an unlikely act to close out the series, which also included performances by the Muddy Waters Blues Band and the Bob Patterson Gospel Singers, as well as a variety of more traditional blues and jazz groups.Unwieldy, complicated to operate, and capable of playing only one note at a time, the Moog Modular Synthesizer was initially relegated to the recording studio. It consisted of oscillators, filter banks, reverb units, voltage control, mixers, and other modules in a single console connected by patch cords and controlled by an organ-like keyboard. A prototype was released in August 1964 and first appeared on a musical track later that year, when Herb Deutsch composed “Jazz Images: A Worksong and Blues.” Songs by the Rolling Stones, Monkees, Beatles, and Byrds helped to popularize the instrument, and by 1969 “Moog” was synonymous with “synthesizer.” Yet, despite demands from his sales representatives and session musicians, Moog had not yet devised a synthesizer for live concert events. An invitation from MoMA provided the push he needed. Impelled to produce an ensemble of real-time, portable systems for the event, Moog designed four modular synthesizers that operated from a new pre-set box, which allowed the musicians to activate six basic sounds at the push of a button and adjust settings in advance. The instruments—a basic Moog, a bass synthesizer, a polyphonic keyboard synthesizer, and a percussion synthesizer—were completed the day before the event.
On the night of the concert, roughly 4,000 people—quadruple the attendance of previous events—jammed into MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, climbing onto sculptures and into trees to get a better view. A quartet led by Herb Deutsch opened the concert with a performance of electronic bebop jazz that sounded “wavery and hollow, as though coming from outer space.” According to a review in Audio magazine, “Following a few preparatory bleeps, hoots, and grunts, the musicians swung into a pleasantly melodic four-movement suite…. At various times, sounds were reminiscent of trumpet, flute, saxophone, harpsichord, accordion and several varieties of drum, but, in general, one was content to listen to the music on its own terms, without trying to draw any comparisons with conventional instrumentation.” Pianist Chris Swansen next led his quartet in a thickly orchestrated rendition of “Ooh Baby” by the Free Spirits, until a fuse blew and a reveler inadvertently pulled the power plug for the sound system, abruptly stopping the performance. Despite these technical difficulties, the significance of the event was not lost on critics, who praised this historic concert at MoMA for launching the use of the synthesizer as a live performance instrument, for popularizing the Moog Modular system, and for “making music modern.”
The author wishes to thank curator Juliet Kinchin and Albert Glinsky, whose book Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage provided source material for this post.
Frank Zappa was many things to many people: an outspoken critic, a cunning songwriter, a skilled performer, a voice for free speech in music, a family member. Our focus today is on Frank Zappa, the guitarist and sculptor of some amazing guitar tones across his storied career.
Image courtesy of Zappa Family Trust
Frank knew a lot about guitar tone, he had a sharp focus on how to achieve the sound he was seeking. From his days with Captain Beefheart and the Mothers of Invention through decades of albums and touring, his guitar tones were always bespoke and articulate. His effects and amplifier system grew and changed over the years to accommodate his broad musical landscape and thirst for the perfect sound. His application of studio effects was also ever-changing, his “Ma Bell” effects rack was refrigerator-sized and loaded with tons of studio-grade gear that he would use to create his unique sound palette.
Frank Zappa’s Vox and Marshall amplifiers
He used a lot of gear, but one thing stayed true from the mid-1970s onward: Frank loved his Vox Super Beatle system tied-in with two Marshall half-stacks. One head was a Marshall Major, the other was a 100 watt JMP. Frank used the Vox Super Beatle in his earlier years, the Marshalls began their duty beginning in the early 1970s. You can see this rig in action in the video below, shot at The Palladium in New York in 1977.
We had to make certain that this rig was operating properly for upcoming recording session, so we removed this venerable artifact from exhibit and rolled it into the workshop for a good look and road test. The goal of the recording session was to collect impulse responses through Frank Zappa’s rig, giving his son, Dweezil, the opportunity to recreate Frank’s tone live on stage. This Vox and Marshall rig was a huge part of his sound and Dweezil wanted to bring it to the world.
Frank Zappa’s rig in our workshop
We determined that the whole rig was in very good condition considering its age and touring history. A few of the JBL K120 12” alnico drivers were blown, so we replaced them with other K120s from our Zappa collection, tightened up some screws, and the cabinets were good to go. The heads required some special focus, but we safely fired them up and looked forward to hearing the outcome.
Aaaaand the outcome was freaking awesome!
Dweezil stepped up and took each of the amp rigs for a spin, the wall of sound they created sent an off-the-charts energy through our live room. Each amp sounded totally different but equally awesome, Frank’s guitar sound must’ve been epic in a live scenario. Check out the video clip below, you can get a good idea of how it sounded!
The recording session went off without a hitch, it was a top-shelf studio geekfest. Fractal Audio Systems was in the house to help dial-in the tones and collect the impulse responses. We ended up using Freddie Mercury’s Neumann U67 tube mic through a Helios mic pre/eq from the early Rollings Stones Mobile Studio. The session went so well that Dweezil was able to use the impulse responses to bring Frank’s “Hot Rats” album to his live audiences, complete with a tone befitting Frank himself.
We invited amp-guy Bryan Parnell of Retro Sound Works to take a deep dive inside Frank’s guitar system and give us a technical analysis. He took a good look at the gear and submitted this report.
Zappa’s unique live tone consisted of a combination of speakers, amplifiers, unconventional settings, and ultimately skill. Taking a somewhat deeper technical look into his amplification, we can see a few things that might have contributed to this.
For starters, we cannot help but gravitate towards the Marshall Major. This amp, with the 200 Watt Lead “Canada” circuit, has a test date of December 9th, 1972. Interestingly enough, the amp has newer Marshall 100 watt JMP spec transformers installed with new mounts, while retaining its massive GE 6550A output tubes, just as later US-spec 100 Watt JMP’s would have had. This may have been due to failure of the notoriously fragile original transformers, or in an effort to better match the sound output of his 1971 100 Watt JMP. The preamp was fitted with Ruby 12AX7A’s, known for low-microphonics. Marked settings can be seen on the faceplate in red marker, showing some unconventional choices such as the Bass control being set to 10, along with conservative volume settings of 3 and 4 for each respective control.
The large original power supply choke was retained, as was the original impedance selector switch. Some of the filter capacitors have been changed. All tube sockets are US-made ceramic units, possibly to prevent arcing. One externally visible mod is what appears to be a pre-phase-inverter “master gain”, functioning as a somewhat crude master-volume, allowing for strictly preamp distortion, without driving the phase inverter. This results in a sharper breakup, with less warmth, and less even-order harmonics, unlike the sound of cranked up power tubes. If you have played a mid-70’s master-volume equipped Fender, you are familiar with pre-phase-inverter master-volume circuits.
Accompanying the Major, we find an early 1971 Marshall JMP MK2 100W Lead amp. This amp is mostly original, with the exception of Czech (JJ or Tesla produced) Ruby EL34 power tubes, Ruby 12AX7A, and a “Master Gain” installed in 1978, as noted on the service tag on top of the amp. The amp appears to retain its original filter capacitors, and also shows two sets of settings marked on the faceplate. One of these shows once again the Bass control set to 10, and a high setting of 8 on the Volume I control.
Both of these heads were run through a variety of cabinets, including two pre-1969 Marshall 1960 cabinets front-clip-loaded with high-efficiency alnico-magnet JBL K120 drivers. Not to mention the cabinets were recovered with iconic red carpet, with the grills replaced with expanded mesh, likely to protect the speakers, as the cabinets were never cased. The JBL K120 was one of the loudest musical instrument speakers available in its day, and had extended frequency response. They also were easily capable of handling the hundreds of watts a cranked JMP can put out.
Finally, we encounter the oddball in the room, a solid-state Vox Super Reverb Beatle amplifier, with its accompanying 4×12. This amplifier shows no signs of modification, besides a quarter-inch input jack located on the right side of the control panel, with no indicated function. The amplifier has relatively conventional control settings, and features various affects, blendable reverb which is channel assignable, and a frequency generator for tuning use.
Its accompanying cabinet features four more JBL J120’s, in two ported 2×12 sections. Each section is relatively large for a 2×12, and the rectangular port is formed by where a tweeter would have once sat. The rear of the cabinets are lined with 1 inch dense insulation. I can only imagine this cabinet has a deep percussive tone, with plenty of bass and treble to spare. It has its original trolly cart, and is also covered in red carpet.
We had the rare opportunity to get involved with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the United States. Normally, their focus is on classical antiquities, historical paintings and ancient statuary, so why would they be interested in EMEAPP?
It ends up that The MET had an unusual idea in mind: A retrospective exhibit chock full of historical rock and roll guitars, keyboards, amps, posters and more. It was to be a perfect fit for us, because that’s our thing.
The museum was interested in gaining access to Keith Emerson’s famous modular Moog synthesizer to be put under the spotlight as a part of this amazing exhibit. We were apprehensive about making the commitment, but after much discussion we decided to begin negotiations to hash out an agreement.
After many phone conversations and emails, we invited the curator of the Musical Instrument department down to EMEAPP for a tour, thinking it would make us feel more comfortable about shipping this epic monster to New York and making it disappear for eight months. This was a frustrating idea for us, as we would only have the Moog in-house for a few weeks before sending it off for an extended period of time. This visit also gave us the opportunity to convince them to display Keith’s custom Hammond “Tarkus” C3 organ, which is just as epic as his Moog synth.
With the meeting going well, we agreed to loan The MET Keith’s Moog and Tarkus C3 organ for the run of the NYC show. We did not agree, however, to allow Keith’s gear to go to the final location for this exhibit, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. It may sound ridiculous, but the RRHoF never inducted Keith or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or shown the appreciation of progressive rock in general, so we did not feel it appropriate to support their exhibit.
A few weeks later, we read that The MET might be adding instruments that had been destroyed by musical artists on stage. We certainly know something about this as well, so we re-approached The MET indicating that we also had one of Keith’s Hammond L-100 organs. Ever the showman, Keith would toss these organs around onstage, pull it on top of himself and stab it with daggers. Our Emerson L-100 even caught fire on stage in Boston. The audience thought that is was part of the show, but it actually wasn’t. (Nevertheless, it was awesome.) The MET agreed to display Keith’s L-100 right next to his synth, daggers and all. Smart move on their part, it was icing on the prog rock cake! To learn more about what happened to this L-100, and the history of Keith’s L-100 organs in general, see our Interview with Al Goff (requires website membership).
In honor of this opportunity to bring his instruments into the public eye, we threw a huge Keith Emerson legacy soiree, dubbed “The Keith Emerson Experience,” which allowed his family, friends, technicians and associates to lay their eyes on these beautiful instruments before the send off. In addition to Keith’s Moog and two Hammond organs, we displayed his Korg Triton Extreme (serial #001!), GEM ProMega 3, his synth and effects rack, his on-stage monitoring rig and wardrobe case filled with Keith’s personal and Emerson, Lake and Palmer memorabilia. To gild the lilly, we also displayed our uber-rare Yamaha GX-1 synth, just like the one Keith used throughout his career. It was a fitting keyboard tribute to the legacy of this amazing musician.
In the days after the event, we broke down the stage setup, put everything back in its cases and rolled the MET-bound items to one of our loading docks in preparation for packing.
If you’ve ever wondered how priceless items get safely to a major art museum, it was pretty basic and logical. The biggest difference was the amount of focus and detail due to the rarity and value of the items. We began with a few phone and email conversations followed by a site survey from the packing/moving specialty company. A few weeks later, a crew of young and focused individuals arrived with a good amount of specialty packing equipment and a custom-made crate for the L-100. They meticulously packed, padded and shrink wrapped everything to make certain all would arrive in perfect condition.
In most situations, a well-built touring road case would be sufficient to transport gear. But this time, even the road cases were of high value. For instance, just the case for Keith’s Moog could fetch over $50,000 at auction. Therefore, his road cases were padded and shrink wrapped for transport as well. We even discussed whether the wheels of the road cases should be used or if the cases would require the use of a forklift or pallet jack. We chose to allow the use of the wheels, as the floor surfaces of both EMEAPP and The MET are smooth. The crew rolled everything onto the moving truck and strapped it down for the journey north. We bid the moving truck farewell as it left EMEAPP’s loading dock #5 and rolled directly to the end destination in New York City.
Two days later, EMEAPPers Drew and Vince Jr. arrived at The MET ready to lift and assemble Keith’s gear into the exhibit for the world to behold. The process went like clockwork with a team to open the crates, another to unpack them, someone to inventory items and check the condition along with a crew of people to assist in erecting the objects into the exhibit. It took the better part of the day, but we all got the job done. The challenge was to keep focused on our responsibilities and to fight the urge to peer inside all the sexy, old guitar and bass cases. The urge won, we got to see some of the good stuff up close.
We then had the honor of attending the opening gala, which given the provenance of the gear at this exhibit was as exciting as you might think. The main lobby was lit like a rock concert, a huge stage stood on our left as we entered. The welcome desk was set up for bar service, butlered hors d’oeuvres appeared out of nowhere.
In time, Philly homeboys, The Roots, took the stage and lit the place up. Vince Sr, Drew and Vince Jr. had a blast chatting with industry folks like Don Felder from The Eagles, legendary singer/guitarist Steve Miller and Kate Pierson from the B52s.
But the real excitement was around the corner. After passing through a Greco-Roman art exhibit, we stumbled upon an archway that looked out of place; it was the entrance to a rock and roll heaven. The juxtaposition of Greco-Roman art and Chuck Berry’s guitar was clear, it was like jumping forward a few millennia and ending up in the golden years of rock and roll.
Entering the portal, we were surrounded by rock and roll gems that glistened under the spotlights. Pianos, guitars, basses, drums, amps and more, all historically significant to say the least. Highlights included the gold grand piano from Jerry Lee Lewis, one of Elvis Presley’s Gibson acoustic guitars, Eric Clapton’s ‘Blackie’ Fender Stratocaster and Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Frankenstein’ custom guitar.
Turning the corner, it was hard to hold our excitement as the Moog came into our view. The huge Tarkus C3 organ was nestled beneath the synth creating a 10 foot tall monument to legacy of Keith Emerson. Keith’s L-100 sat proudly to the left with two of Keith’s daggers jutting out from the upper keyboard just like old times.
Museum caption for the Emerson Modular Moog
Museum caption for the Emerson Modular Moog
Museum caption for the Emerson "Tarkus" Hammond C-3
Museum caption for the Emerson Hammond L-100
The Keith Emerson L-100 Hammond Organ with ELP knives
The Keith Emerson L-100 Hammond Organ with ELP knives
And then something epic happened. Jimmy Page from the band Led Zeppelin walked into the room. Even better, he chose to spend some time with us to discuss how impactful the music of Keith Emerson was. It was a proud moment when Jimmy said that “Keith Emerson was the Jimi Hendrix of the keyboards”. Keith likely would have shied away from a testimonial like that, but it was great to hear someone the likes of Jimmy Page praising his life’s work in such genuine and honest form.
Moments later, hit maker Steve Miller enters the gallery to take a gander at his own exhibit, the Roland synth and red Echoplex tape delay he used to create his 1977 hit, “Fly Like An Eagle”. He thoughtfully spent some time with us talking about Keith Emerson’s influence as well. We look forward to a future visit from Steve; he’s a perfect match for EMEAPP.
It was a proud moment for us to be able to bring this special set of instruments to the public, especially in such a grand way. What a travesty it would have been if these valuable instruments were snagged up by some rich person, stashed in their basement and kept from view for generations.
As we look back on the process, none of this would have happened without the involvement of Michelle Moog-Koussa. Michelle is the daughter of legendary synth maker, Dr. Robert Moog, the creator of Keith’s synthesizer. Not only did she play a major role in making this happen, she was also one of the players who helped land Keith’s Moog at EMEAPP. We must also tip our hats to Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp, the team who rebuilt the instrument for Keith late in his career.
All in all this whole process was challenging, complex, fulfilling and certainly worth the effort. Jayson Kerr Dobney, the curator of the Musical Instrument Department at The MET, took great care of us and we thank him for his efforts in making this event happen and bringing us on board.
We encourage you to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see this exhibit which runs until October 1, 2019. You’ll be glad you did!
Electronic Musician is featuring EMEAPP’s Emerson Gear Collection in their May 2019 Edition. Read the article below, graciously provided for use here by EM. Special thanks to Geary Yelton for taking the time to run down the whole story of this extraordinary set of instruments!
We are proud to have had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural run of Synthplex in late March of 2019. It was billed as “All Things Synthesizer” and it really hit the mark! The Burbank Marriott skillfully dealt with a wide range of rock stars, modular folk, tech heads, curious onlookers, dweebs and nerds, vintage synth aficionados, collectors, builders, composers, manufacturers and otherwise very colorful people wearing mostly black.
Yes, the event was in Los Angeles, but the crowd was from all over. We chatted with like-minded folk from Brazil, Japan, Portugal, England, Canada and beyond. The attendees filled exhibit halls that were packed with a tasty blend of synth modules, controllers, stunning vintage synths, production software and tons more.
Synthplex founders, Michael Boddiker and Michael Learmouth, did a great job of designing and creating a fulfilling three-dimensional event, packed with much more than just the exhibits. Educational and technical seminars, Q&A sessions with industry legends, DIY synth building workshop, live synth concerts and the Pop Up Synth Museum where you could actually spend time tweaking the knobs of epic mono and polysynths.
We were honored to be visited by Keith Emerson’s long-term partner, Mari Kawaguchi, who brought us the vertical banner that Keith would use when making personal appearances. We set it up right next to our banner of his legendary Moog synthesizer, it looked great!
But the most exciting part for us was showcasing the Godfather of synths, the Moog Model A Minimoog prototype. Next in line were the Model B, C and the Model D, which finally went into production and became the go-to lead performance synthesizer. Last in line was an enigma of the Minimoog family, what is ultimately a Minimoog with 20 presets. This quintet of tone raised quite a few eyebrows to say the least.
We hope to participate in Synthplex 2020 and hope to see you there!
On Saturday, March 9, 2019, EMEAPP held a VIP event commemorating the reunification of Keith Emerson’s iconic stage gear – a major milestone for EMEAPP – and a gathering that brought together a community of people that surrounded Keith Emerson’s life and work.
The first presentation of the event, as depicted in the video just below, featured EMEAPP’s Associate Director and resident synthesizer programmer Vince Pupillo Jr., who opened the formal festivities by performing a tribute on Keith’s Moog Modular, expertly demonstrating each of the famous presets with short quotations of famous Emerson keyboard lines:
In keeping with the legacy of Keith Emerson’s work, the guests entering the Performance Hall Atrium were greeted by . . .
This event also served as a fitting send-off for some of Keith’s Gear that will soon be on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for a sixth month long show called “PLAY IT LOUD INSTRUMENTS OF ROCK & ROLL,” which opens April 8th, 2019. Be sure to attend this exhibit if you would like to see this gear in person, along with many other fantastic rock ‘n roll exhibits!
The EMEAPP gear presented included:
Keith’s iconic Moog Modular Synthesizer, arguably the most famous and musically influential synthesizer in the world, now a deeply treasured part of the EMEAPP Collection.
Keith’s Hammond Goff C-3 organ – the organ known as the “Tarkus Organ”.
Keith’s Twin Goff Custom Leslie Cabinets.
One of the L-100 Hammond organs Keith used in his famous onstage antics, complete with knife stabs wounds to the keyboard, as used for example at the “ELP Live at Montreux 1997 Concert”, among others. Displayed along with this organ were two of Keith’s ELP-Logo enscribed knives, which he used on the Black Moon Tour.
An Alesis QS8.1 Sampling Synthesizer, with samples of Keith’s original instruments, including samples from his Yamaha GX-1, his Moog Modular, and his Hammond C-3.
Keith’s GEM ProMega 3, a board that utilizes both samples and physical modeling to produce highly realistic sounds.
Our rare Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer, one of the first analog polyphonic synthesizers ever produced, of the same production series used by Keith Emerson.
A collection of Keith’s Stage wardrobe and his wardrobe flight case.
Also utilized at the event was a Hammond B-3 from the EMEAPP Collection, used during the cocktail hour by various guests. This Hammond B-3 was the last one ever shipped by the Hammond organ company in 1975!
A photo gallery of rarely and never before seen photos by Keith Emerson photographer Mary Ann Burns.
A slideshow of photos documenting Keith Emerson’s entire career.
A video image slideshow that was to be utilized by Keith for the LCD display on his restored Moog Modular.
A mounted wall gallery of Keith’s discography.
The Moog Showcase: A comprehensive exhibit of the Moog Synthesizers in the EMEAPP Collection, including a full array of historically important Minimoog prototypes & early production models; prototypes of the Micromoog, Equalizer (Liberation), and SL-8 synthesizers; several Moog Modular systems; various Moog effects; and virtually all of the other synthesizers produced by Moog Music Inc, including the Micromoog, Multimoog, Polymoog, Prodigy, Satellite, etc.
A sampling of EMEAPP’s vast collection, including keyboards, effects, guitar pedals and amplifiers, including gear utilized by Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Steve Howe, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and many others.
The Emerson Hammond L-100 Organ, Photos of the L-100 in use, and the Welcoming Banner
Keith's Iconic Moog Modular
The Emerson wardrobe case, stage outfits, and photo gallery by Mary Ann Burns.
The Emerson wardrobe case, stage outfits.
The Moog Showcase
The Moog Showcase
Attendees experiencing the Gear:
Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp reuniting with the Moog Modular.
Aaron Emerson trying out EMEAPP's Yamaha GX-1 - for the first time in decades!
Gene Stopp, Brian Kehew, Joe McGinty, and Steve Masucci, discussing the Moog Modular
George Mandrin discovering the EMEAPP Gear
Ethan Emerson and father Aaron with the gear
Zach Emerson trying out the gear
Ethan Emerson with the gear
Aaron and Ethan Emerson with Al Goff looking on
Bill Sautter and Aaron Emerson exploring the Yamaha GX-1
Keyboard Magazine Editor Stephen Fortner tries out Chick Corea's Dyno-My Piano Rhodes
Stephen Fortner at the Yamaha GX-1
The Keith Emerson Experience took many months of planning – and not just the usual event planning sort of arrangements (invitations, travel & lodging, etc) – but much meticulous equipment restoration work and testing, musical practice and rehearsals, etc. The following images show some of this preparatory work:
Painting the Performance Hall
Painted! Ready for equipment
Steve Jingo flying the trusses for the event
Trusses up - moving in the gear!
Tim Warneck repairing a few of the Emerson Moog modules
Setting Up the Moog and the L-100
Tim Warneck tuning up the Yamaha GX-1
Adding in the Yamaha GX-1
Ben Luce and Vince Pupillo Sr. setting up the GX-1 for performance
Rebecca, Vince, and Vince Jr. preparing for the onslaught
Moog Modular Load Out - Off to the Met!
Invited guests at the Keith Emerson Experience numbered well over one hundred – far too many to list here. Many signed the Event Door:
Some of the attendees most closely related to Keith’s life and work included Keith Emerson’s son, Aaron, and his spouse Jo and sons Ethan and Zach; Keith’s fiancé Mari Kawaguchi; Moog Foundation President Michelle Moog-Koussa and other representatives of the Foundation; Keith Emerson Photographer Mary Ann Burns; Keith’s former organ tech, Al Goff; One of Keith’s synthesis coaches at Moog Music, Dr. Tom Rhea; and the restorationists of Keith’s Moog Modular, Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp.
Special images of some of the guests:
The Emerson Family and Mari Kawaguchi
Larry Fast, Tom Rhea, and Tom Lamb, former associates of Moog Music Inc.
The Emerson Family (left to right): Jo, Zach, Ethan, and Aaron
Zach Emerson takes a selfie with Vince Jr. and Vince Sr.
The Pupillo and Emerson families, communing after the event
Vince Pupillo Sr. and Ethan Emerson selfie
Mary Ann Burns, Emerson Photographer, with her photos
Aaron Emerson before the Yamaha GX-1, looking just like Dad in the Fanfare video
Brian Kehew, Steve Masucci, Vince Pupillo Sr., and Jim Scott at Frank Zappa's Breakfast Table
Brian Kehew and Vince Pupillo Sr.
Bob Moog Foundation Board Members Hunter Goosman and Daniel Liston-Keller
Aaron and Ethan Emerson
Mari Kawaguchi with Zach and Jo Emerson
Jeanie and Rachel Flowers
Ethan Emerson before his grandfather's Moog Modular
Vince and MaryEllen Pupillo
Tom Lamb bellying up to the bar
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel Flowers, and Tim Warneck
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel Flowers, and Michelle Moog-Koussa
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel Flowers, and Al Goff
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel Flowers, and Mari Kawaguchi
George Mandrin chatting in the Moog Showcase
Drew Raison chatting with Eddie Jobson in the Moog Showcase
Debbie Roey signing the Event Door
August Worley and Gene Stopp
Rachel Flowers and Al Goff
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel Flowers, and Charlie Green
Vince Pupillo Sr., Rachel and Jeanie Flowers
Mari Kawaguchi and Al Goff
The Emerson Family: Ethan, Aaron, Jo, and Zach
Bill Sautter, Emily Belkoff, Michelle Moog-Koussa, Daniel Liston-Keller
Michelle Moog-Koussa and Greg Hockman
Stephen Fortner and Helen Liu
Wynne and Doug Salvas
Mari Kawaguchi and Chuck Wright
Alan and Pamela Lenhoff
Dr. Tom Rhea and Aaron Emerson
MaryEllen and Rebecca Pupillo
David Sonetto, Wally DeBacker, John and Pete Mariotz
George Alessandro and Andrea Solly
As seen in the video posted above, EMEAPP’s Associate Director and resident synthesizer programmer Vince Pupillo Jr. opened the formal festivities by performing a tribute on Keith’s Moog Modular, expertly demonstrating each of the famous presets with short quotations of famous Emerson keyboard lines.
EMEAPP’s Founder and President Vince Pupillo Sr. then introduced and honored the Emerson Family. Vince presented the EMEAPP Legends Award to Keith’s son and keyboardist Aaron Emerson, a posthumous award recognizing the achievements of his father, which Aaron received with visible emotion.
Vince Sr. then introduced Keith Emerson’s fiance Mari Kawaguchi, and then Moog Foundation President Michelle Moog-Koussa. Mari both spoke movingly about Keith’s life and work, and Michelle spoke passionately about the amazing and intertwined legacy of Keith’s and her father’s work.
Vince Sr. then also presented Brian Kehew with the EMEAPP’s Preservation Award for his decades-long efforts at saving the hardware of electronic music, work that has played an important role in the development of the EMEAPP Collection. Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp then also received the EMEAPP Restoration Award from Vince for their extensive joint work a decade ago restoring the Emerson Moog Modular – work that Keith Emerson himself greatly appreciated.
Vince Sr. then introduced Tom Lamb, former Marketing Director of Moog Music Inc., who described Keith Emerson’s early interactions with the Moog Company, interactions that included instruction on synthesis techniques by Dr. Tom Rhea, who was in attendance at the event, as was Jim Scott, who had prepared the original shipment of Keith’s Moog to him from R.A. Moog Inc.
EMEAPP’s Research Director and Webmaster Ben Luce then gave a presentation describing EMEAPP’s nonprofit structure and mission, and emphatically invited attendees to become ambassadors for EMEAPP, to assist the organization’s ability to sustain itself and fulfill its mission over the long term.
Emerson Hammond Organ Technician Al Goff then wrapped up the presentations by regaling the audience with stories about his and his father’s first encounter with Keith’s L-100 organ antics – which to the delight of the audience he revealed had initially caught them quite off guard after they had delivered an L-100 to Keith for the first time for his use one evening!
Images of the presentations:
Vince Pupillo Jr. demonstrates the Moog Modular in a tribute to Keith
Vince Pupillo Sr. and Jr., leading the proceedings
Aaron Emerson receiving the EMEAPP Legends Award honoring his father
Mari Kawaguchi addressing the gathering about Keith
Michelle Moog-Koussa speaks of her father's legacy with Keith
Brian Kehew receiving the EMEAPP Preservation Award
Brian Kehew and Gene Stopp jointly receiving the EMEAPP Restoration Award
Tom Lamb, speaking of Keith's early interactions with Moog Music Inc.
EMEAPP Research Director Ben Luce beseeching the crowd to become ambassadors to the world for EMEAPP
Al Goff recalling his work with Keith Emerson
Throughout the evening a number of performers wowed the audience with demonstrations of Keith’s instruments and other instruments at EMEAPP. These performers included:
During the opening reception organist Joe Patano entertained the crowd with his expert Hammond organ stylings on the Hammond B-3. Joe was then joined by keyboardist George Mandrin on Korg Triton Extreme (piano voicing), and the two furiously traded jazz licks to the delight of the audience.
This was followed by Ben Luce playing ELP compositions “Trilogy”, “Jeremy Bender”, “Benny the Bouncer”, and “The Sheriff” using Keith’s GEM ProMega 3 (for piano sounds) and Alesis QS8.1 (for synthesizer voices).
Wally DeBacker then performed the beginning of ELP’s “Karn Evil 9” with Rachel, and sang “Lucky Man,” backed by the “EMEAPP Band,” consisting of EMEAPPer’s Doug Salvas on guitar, Ben Luce on the Moog Modular and backing vocals, Tim Warneck on backing vocals, Vince Pupillo Jr. on drums, and Drew Raison on bass.
Keyboardist Rachel Flowers, among her other performances at the event rocked the crowd with an amazing solo rendition of “Tarkus”on the Emerson C-3 and the Moog Modular, with Vince Pupillo Jr. assisting Rachel with programming changes. Rachel also played excerpts of “Pirates” on the GX-1 and played many of the other keyboards at EMEAPP throughout the event, wowing the attendees till the wee hours of the morning. Keith Emerson’s son Aaron Emerson and EMEAPPer Ben Luce performed ELP’s version of “Fanfare for a Common Man,” with Aaron on the Yamaha GX-1 and Ben on the Alesis QS8.1, and Wally DeBacker accompanying on drums.
Keith Emerson’s grandson Ethan Emerson then played two of his grandfather’s piano pieces – “Close to Home” and “Ballad for a Common Man” – on Keith’s GEM ProMega 3, demonstrating uniquivocally that he is following steadily along in his grandfather’s footsteps.
The after party saw bartender Eric Sirianni mount the drums, and along with (Quiet Riot) bass player Chuck Wright laid down the rhythm while keyboardists Joe Patano, George Mandrin, Ben Luce, and Eddie Jobson (a recent Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee!) all joined in the jam.
Images of the performances:
Joe Patano warms up the room with his Hammond organ stylings
George Mandrin joins in on the Korg Triton Extreme
George Mandrin and Joe Patano burn the house down with dueling jazz licks
Ben Luce playing ELP's "Trilogy", "Jeremy Bender", "Benny the Bouncer", and "The Sheriff" during the reception
Ben Luce playing ELP with Dr. Tom Rhea looking on
Wally DeBacker belting out the opening lines of ELP's Karn Evil 9 - "Welcome Back My Friends"
Rachel Flowers accompanying Wally DeBacker, with Vince Pupillo Jr. assisting Rachel with programming changes
Doug Salvas playing the guitar opening to "Lucky Man"
Wally DeBacker singing "Lucky Man," with Ben Luce and Tim Warneck singing harmony, with Vince Pupillo Jr. on drums
Wally DeBacker singing "Lucky Man," with Drew Raison on bass
Vince Pupillo Jr. on drums, Wally DeBacker singing, and Drew Raison on bass, on "Lucky Man"
Ben Luce on the Moog Modular on "Lucky Man"
The crowd gives a standing ovation to "Lucky Man"
Rachel Flowers plays a stunning rendition of "Tarkus" on the Keith's C-3 and Moog
Rachel Flowers plays a stunning rendition of "Tarkus" on the Keith's C-3 and Moog
Rachel rejoices after playing "Tarkus"
The crowd gives a standing ovation to Rachel
Rachel addressing the audience
Rachel and Vince just after "Tarkus"
Ben Luce tweaking a control while Aaron Emerson looks on at the beginning of Fanfare
Ben Luce, Aaron Emerson, and Wally DeBacker play "Fanfare for the Common Man"
Aaron Emerson playing "Fanfare for the Common Man"
Ben Luce, Aaron Emerson, and Wally DeBacker play "Fanfare for the Common Man"
Guests watching the performances
Wally DeBacker playing drums on Fanfare
Ethan Emerson plays his grandfather's compositions “Close to Home” and “Ballad for a Common Man"
Ethan Emerson plays his grandfather's compositions “Close to Home” and “Ballad for a Common Man"
Ethan Emerson plays his grandfather's compositions “Close to Home” and “Ballad for a Common Man"
Rachel Flowers playing "Pirates" on the Yamaha GX-1, with Vince Pupillo Jr. assisting
Vince Pupillo Sr. at the Hammond B-3
Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot) thoroughly exercising the bass
Eddie Jobson jamming on the Yamaha GX-1
Eddie Jobson jamming on the Yamaha GX-1
Eric Sirianni and Chuck Wright laying it down
Rachel playing "Baby I Love Your Way"
Rachel playing the Yamaha CP-80
Rick "Pepper" Holmes singing "Superstition" with Rachel accompanying on the Clavinet
Rachel playing "Because" by the Beatles on the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord
Rachel playing ELP's "Nutrocker" on the Clavinet L
Rachel rejoicing after playing ELP's "Tank" on the Clavinet L
Throughout the event the attendees enjoyed a cocktail party atmosphere with Gourmet Butler style hors d’oeuvre with Eric and Jill Siriani tending the bar filled with cheer.
A look at some of the fun:
Jillian Sirianni at the bar
Eric Sirianni at the bar
Discussions in the Keyboard Room
Brian Kehew, George Alessandro, and Andrea Solly
Cynthia Gentiletti and Mike Kind viewing the Emerson Discography
Erik Norlander, Charlie Green, Helen Liu, and Geary Yelton
Aaron Emerson and others in the Photo Gallery
Breakfast buffet on the morning after
Breakfast buffet on the morning after
Response From Emerson Family
“Hi Vince, First let me thank you for the amazing week-end at EMEAPP. Seeing the collection you have saved to date is truly mind blowing. Seeing friends …whom I haven’t seen in over 40 years, all together in one place was truly special. I am pleased to know you, Vince Jr., Drew, and the rest of the EMEAPP team as the champions carrying forward vital work to preserve the history of EM. I will be honored to be an “Ambassador” for EMEAPP.”
“Dear Vince, Wow just wow. Thank you very much for such an amazing event. It was perfect. I am so honored to have been included as a guest. There are not enough superlatives to say how wonderful and well presented the event was. The museum was amazing and nostalgic. I hope to visit again.”
“Dear Vince, I just wanted to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the three of you and your staff, not only for your gracious hospitality, but also for conceiving and bringing EMEAPP and the Keith Emerson Experience to fruition. It was sheer joy to see so many historically significant instruments and so much gear all under one roof. The music was extraordinary, the camaraderie was outstanding, and the food and drink were superb, but your generosity was most remarkable of all. I can’t thank you enough for what was absolutely one the most enjoyable gatherings I’ve ever been part of.” -Geary Yelton
“Hello Vince, Wow another one of your many unbelievable accomplishments!! It is so rewarding when the dream, becomes a goal and then reality!! Hats off to the master chef, Vince Jr. and all the sous chefs at EMEAPP!!” -God bless, Roger Rumble
“Dear Vince, You really did yourself proud this weekend. Pam and I had a great time, and from an attendee point of view, everything was perfect. (I know how hard it is to plan and execute this kind of event. You’re probably exhausted, but you all ought to take a deep bow.)
It was great to finally meet all of you and see your breathtaking collection. Rachel was incredible. (Great idea to have her there!) But what made the greatest impression on me was the sincere appreciation and gratitude you earned from the Emerson family and the Moog folks. In a very short period of time, you’ve transformed your collection into a significant historical and educational asset for the music community.” -Alan Lenhoff
“Dear Vince, Thank you for your incredible hospitality at EMEAPP this weekend. I would like to help out in any way I can, bringing my skills and years of experience as an editor, writer, and content creator to the table.” -Stephen Fortner
“Dear Vince, Thank you for inviting Juliana and me to this fun and special night. I know that building inside and out, but last night gave me a new appreciation for it and how really great it will be as we work our way through the upcoming phases. I talked to some folks who were truly blown away by the facility as it exists…all I could think of is how they’ll react as it continues to transition into your total vision. Another thing that impressed me last night…you and I work on building projects together, I appreciate your enthusiasm for what we’re doing…but last night I saw it in a much bigger way. This thing that is your interest and passion is the passion for a large group of people, and for some it is their entire life. The experience I had last night really energizes my understanding of what we’re creating…and that makes what I’m doing so much more significant and enjoyable. Now I fully understand your enthusiasm for the facility and for EMEAPP. Thanks again for the invitation, it was a very special event to be a part of.” -Rich Kapusta (EMEAPP Architect)
Harold Rhodes originally created his “Army Air Corps” electric piano to provide music and physical therapy to recovering WWII soldiers. Unable to source enough acoustic pianos, he created his own portable instrument that became the Rhodes electric piano that we all know and love. Ray Manzarek of The Doors was a popular user, his Piano Bass was always propped up on top of his Gibson G-101 or Vox Continental combo organ.
The Piano Bass was basically the lower 32 keys of the Rhodes electric piano. A physical hammer would strike a thin metal tine causing it to vibrate, the tone bar above it helped give it more fullness and resonance. A transducer would pick up the vibration in the same way a guitar pickup would hear string vibrations.
The tone bars on earlier units were thick, square bars that created a ‘thud’-type dynamic. Later ones used the more standard Fender Rhodes type tines that were flat and bent into a curved unit.
The Rhodes Piano Bass has become quite the collectible that sells well into the thousands. We have quite a few units here at EMEAPP, including a rare Extended Range 54 key piano bass in silver sparkle.