I don’t often start

with a no idea of what I want to say, but today is one of those days. I have to go to the Post Office later to pick up my new keyboard/synth, but I’m gonna wait until later to make sure that they have brought it from out the back to the front counter, in order to let me get my hands on it. I was there yesterday and they said that even if it was delivered later that day, it wouldn’t be available until tomorrow. There’s not enough people working there to make that happen. (it has to move about ten feet, FFS) I don’t need a new synth really. I bought it on a whim. Then I realized that I already use most of the sounds that it has onboard. They aren’t really onboard because you have to install a program on your computer and download them to access them.

Robert Moog. All that patching…no thanks.

This what what I was already doing anyway, only now there is an official keyboard that goes with it. Arturia is a French company that makes these things and they have somehow obtained the rights to a lot of classic synth patches. The company has been going since 1999, and in 2003 they worked with Robert Moog to produce a modular synth.

Moog died in 2005. He was the inventor of the first electronic synthesizer. In 1963 he was designing and selling Theramins while he was at Cornell University working towards a PhD in engineering physics. He is the Godfather of the modern synth. His principal innovation was the voltage-controlled oscillator, which uses voltage to control pitch. He wasn’t the greatest businessman, and he would have been a billionare if he had patented all of his inventions instead of allowing them to remain in the public domain. There is a Moogseum set up by his wife in North Carolina, where you can look at all his prototypes and research. All of this started when at the age of 14, Moog built a theremin from plans printed in Electronics World, which arguably set him off on the road to becoming king of the synth. This brings us to Lev Termen who invented the thing.

Hot chicks in bands!

The Theramin was one of the first electronic instruments. It was designed by a Russian, Lev Sergeyevich Termen. Termen was born in 1896. As a very young student he was sent to a Military Engineering School in St Petersburg. He advanced rapidly through the military. (there was a civil war gong on) and he built a radio station in Saratov. He was forced to destroy the 120-meter-high antennae mast with explosives so that the Bolsheviks could not gain access to it.  Fed up with everything he was offered a job at the newly founded Physical Technical Institute in Petrograd, and started work developing measuring methods for high-frequency electrical oscillations. It was during this time that the Theramin was invented using high frequency oscillators with an added circuit to generate tone. He also invented the first motion detector using the same circuitry. In 1920 Theramin gave his first public concert with the “Etherphone” as he had named it.

There is a hell of a lot more information here about Leon. He was a brilliant man. He was also the inventor of a secret listening device, called “The Thing”, which hung for seven years in plain view in the United States Ambassador’s Moscow office and enabled Soviet agents to eavesdrop on secret conversations.

A replica of the “Thing” aka the Great Seal Bug

Everyone who is familiar with the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations” thinks that they have heard the Theramin, but the instrument used on that session was something else called the Electro Theramin. It was developed by trombonist Paul Tanner and amateur inventor Bob Whitsell in the late 1950s to produce a sound to mimic the Theramin. The instrument features a tone and portamento similar to that of the theremin, but with a different control mechanism. It was the only one made, and the inventor donated it to a hospital for audiology work.

Was that not a fascinating trip through synthesizer history? I’ve c/p’ed a few things, and I’ve learned a lot. I hope those Post Office cats have my keyboard ready for pick up today, that’s all.