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Frank Zappa's EMU
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author Frank Zappa's EMU
zengomi
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
If you want to see Frank Zappa's EMU system up close and personal, I believe it is on permanent display at the music museum at Cite de la Musique in Paris. If you are ever in Paris and have a few hours to kill, there is probably no better music museum in the world. My 5 hours there felt like 5 minutes.


Thanks for the recommendation!
commodorejohn
Graham Hinton wrote:
commodorejohn wrote:
That's utter nonsense; there were piles of keyboardists who'd cut their teeth on the organ and piano who embraced the synthesizer in the '70s.

But they didn't use modulars on stage.

You talked about synthesis in general. It's definitely true that modular rigs were tricky to incorporate into a live environment, but they were far from the only option; the Minimoog came out in 1970 and inspired a flood of imitators aimed at the performing musician, and were adopted by a wide range of artists in a huge variety of genres.

(It's also silly to pretend that nobody had any ideas for using synthesizers before portable, road-worthy models were available. People were incorporating them into pop/rock music pretty much as soon as the Moog was demonstrated - hell, the Monkees were using it on their albums all the way back in 1967!)
zengomi
Blairio wrote:
zengomi wrote:
Modular synthesis enables and invites the creation of radically non-traditional music. Some are inclined to embrace that possibility; others are not.


Which camp do you fall into?

I don't think there has been anything radically different from 'traditional' music since since music concrete. Its not the technologies that count. Its the ideas. and beware, there are modular music tropes, just like there are tropes for all the other kinds of music.


The phrase
Quote:
the creation of radically non-traditional music
does not mean the creation of brand new forms of music.

Of course I'm aware of modular music tropes.

I'm not much of a camper, but I do like to go wild sometimes.
cornutt
Pelsea wrote:

The main thing missing was a way to play expressively. The Mini and imitators filled that need, but also established a rather limited definition of synthesis. A few years later the push for polyphony led to an even more limited definition of digital synthesis. We are only just beginning to emerge from those primitive days.


There was the huge push for realism in synthesis in the '80s, kicked off by the DX7. (I've met performers who bought a DX7 solely to be a replacement for a Rhodes -- they never changed patches, much less build their own.) Then, as the cost of memory came down through the decade, sample playback machines came along and they dragged most of the synth market with them. For a lot of these machines, the value of the box was mainly in the samples that it had in ROM, rather than in the circuit design or its capabilities. Many of the people who bought them had no interest in synthesis as such; they wanted imitations of conventional instruments.

The arranger workstation sprung from that. Fortunately for us, the workstations have since gone down their own path, to the point where nobody really thinks of them as synths any more. That was a good thing because it re-opened a part of the synth market for, you know, synths. Musicians are catching up and amazing things are starting to happen.

As for Zappa and the E-mu -- he didn't like it. It happens. A musical instrument is a highly personal thing, and the experience of playing one is almost entirely subjective. C'est la vie.
fireclown
https://youtu.be/YBbH6EsNBAQ?t=16
naturligfunktion
zengomi wrote:
Modular synthesis enables and invites the creation of radically non-traditional music. Some are inclined to embrace that possibility; others are not.


... I kinda like using my modular as an ordinary (but really phat-sounding) monophonic synth

(hides)
zengomi
naturligfunktion wrote:
zengomi wrote:
Modular synthesis enables and invites the creation of radically non-traditional music. Some are inclined to embrace that possibility; others are not.


... I kinda like using my modular as an ordinary (but really phat-sounding) monophonic synth

(hides)


That's always a possibility. My point is that it can be a lot more. It can be an orchestra.
Blairio
zengomi wrote:
naturligfunktion wrote:
zengomi wrote:
Modular synthesis enables and invites the creation of radically non-traditional music. Some are inclined to embrace that possibility; others are not.


... I kinda like using my modular as an ordinary (but really phat-sounding) monophonic synth

(hides)


That's always a possibility. My point is that it can be a lot more. It can be an orchestra.


That's a fair point. Alas, orchestration really benefits from polyphony, which is very expensive in modular. My rack has the equivalent of 6 individual voices (oscillator, filter, vca, mod sources etc). For the most part those 6 voices are articulating different polyrhythms, melodies, harmonies, random patterns generated by sources of uncertainty, and so on.

Apart from chord mode in my MI Braids, I use a JU-06 or some such small inexpensive polysynth for chordal stuff - even duophony. The JU-06 or Microkorg or Micromonsta all blend in well with modular sound sources, do the polyphony 'heavy lifting', and free the modular voices to do what they are best at.

An unsung hero in this regard us the DSI Tetra, which is effectively Four Mophos in a single box - great for synth quartet arrangements.
dubonaire
fireclown wrote:
https://youtu.be/YBbH6EsNBAQ?t=16


That video says it all really. The Zappa interview that Hinton linked to was quite conceited, as was that video which was Doors-style organ setting Zappa up for the spotlight spoken lyrics and guitar solo. Zappa didn't actually say he hated the Emu in that interview, he said he was annoyed that he couldn't find a musician competent enough to play it live and that didn't gel with his need to be making money gigging, and that synth musicians were just frustrated guitar soloists. The reality may have been somewhat different to his version. He said that after mentioning how he had patched a complex polyphonic patch.

I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
dubonaire wrote:
I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.


I'm largely with you on this one, dubonaire.
commodorejohn
He's definitely someone who put out some great work (I'll stand by Freak Out! and Joe's Garage until my dying day) but had a tendency to get lost up his own ass the more he was left to his own devices. I wish I could find it, but there was an interview I read with him back when he was first getting into the Synclavier where he was talking about how the future of music was custom-tailored algorithmic machine composition and musicians and composers alike were going to be irrelevant and all I could think was, that doesn't sound like any future I want to live in, were people really this deluded in the '80s or was it just you, Frank?
adam
Brian Eno had similar thoughts, I played with koan pro quite a bit which he was involved with, could turn out some very pleasing stuff
Parnelli
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.


I'm largely with you on this one, dubonaire.


My respect for Frank comes from his "damn the record company I'll do what I want" attitude, I really admired that, especially in a time when the record companies controlled just about every aspect of music production.

Yeah his music was different, certainly far from main stream, but he survived doing what few other could have accomplished in that time in my opinion, and for that he gained my respect. Guinness ftw!
Parnelli
Parnelli wrote:
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.


I'm largely with you on this one, dubonaire.


My respect for Frank comes from his "damn the record company I'll do what I want" attitude, I really admired that, especially in a time when the record companies controlled just about every aspect of music production.

Yeah his music was different, certainly far from main stream, but he survived doing what few other could have accomplished in that time in my opinion, and for that he gained my respect. Guinness ftw!


edit: Back in the 70's my friend's sister would set up concert venues at Central Michigan University. Well they set up a concert for Zappa, and one of the contract stipulations was for bags of Tootsie Rolls; they wondered why they needed so many until they went in to clean the motel rooms the next day. The Tootsie Rolls had been torn in half wrapper and all, and then the open end was stuck to the wall with a bit of a twist and some pressure.

She said that they must have used one whole bag on the toilet seat alone...
zengomi
1996...his death was still a thing.

A couple of friends came over for New Years eve. Eventually we gravitated to my studio.

Should you listen, you'll be hearing: Korg MonoPoly and Prophecy; Roland 8000; 3 voices (2 occasionally in Japanese); a glitched drum loop.

Hello Frank Zappa
zengomi
Blairio wrote:
zengomi wrote:
naturligfunktion wrote:
zengomi wrote:
Modular synthesis enables and invites the creation of radically non-traditional music. Some are inclined to embrace that possibility; others are not.


... I kinda like using my modular as an ordinary (but really phat-sounding) monophonic synth

(hides)


That's always a possibility. My point is that it can be a lot more. It can be an orchestra.


That's a fair point. Alas, orchestration really benefits from polyphony, which is very expensive in modular. My rack has the equivalent of 6 individual voices (oscillator, filter, vca, mod sources etc). For the most part those 6 voices are articulating different polyrhythms, melodies, harmonies, random patterns generated by sources of uncertainty, and so on.

Apart from chord mode in my MI Braids, I use a JU-06 or some such small inexpensive polysynth for chordal stuff - even duophony. The JU-06 or Microkorg or Micromonsta all blend in well with modular sound sources, do the polyphony 'heavy lifting', and free the modular voices to do what they are best at.

An unsung hero in this regard us the DSI Tetra, which is effectively Four Mophos in a single box - great for synth quartet arrangements.


Traditionally, the standard Western orchestra, and, more to the point, music written for it, has not relied upon polyphonic instruments. The piano-forte expanded possibilities.

While I do appreciate instrument polyphony (I have 3 guitars), I regard it as unessential, but tasty at times.
MindMachine
dubonaire wrote:
fireclown wrote:
https://youtu.be/YBbH6EsNBAQ?t=16


That video says it all really. The Zappa interview that Hinton linked to was quite conceited, as was that video which was Doors-style organ setting Zappa up for the spotlight spoken lyrics and guitar solo. Zappa didn't actually say he hated the Emu in that interview, he said he was annoyed that he couldn't find a musician competent enough to play it live and that didn't gel with his need to be making money gigging, and that synth musicians were just frustrated guitar soloists. The reality may have been somewhat different to his version. He said that after mentioning how he had patched a complex polyphonic patch.

I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.


Bingo. He would bad mouth Tommy Mars and the guys that DID use the Emu and EML live, He also disparaged the technology on occasion. And noodling guitarists besides himself. But he bought the stuff that was pricey and used it. Even the crap sounding Synclavier.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Parnelli wrote:
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
I never really got the Zappa thing. Brilliant musically but often overlaid with cold, nasty, cynical, barely sung lyrics. A self indulgent ego-tripping savant if you ask me.


I'm largely with you on this one, dubonaire.


My respect for Frank comes from his "damn the record company I'll do what I want" attitude, I really admired that, especially in a time when the record companies controlled just about every aspect of music production.

Yeah his music was different, certainly far from main stream, but he survived doing what few other could have accomplished in that time in my opinion, and for that he gained my respect. Guinness ftw!


I don't really pay too much attention to all that meta-stuff. I just listen to the music. Most of it leaves me cold. I don't believe I've ever heard a Zappa piece that I felt compelled to listen to again.
pianoscope
just goes to show one mans poison...!

I find the synclavier music to be some of the most interesting great sounding electronic music I Know of. Possibly I am appreciating qualities that Zappa didn't intend or forsee, and I infact only enjoy listening to the synclavier music, not the rest of his works.

Strange hyper real, like a weird inhuman classical ensemble. Beautifully recorded, it sonically sounds like absolutely nothing else before or since. The more fake and plastic it sounds, the more I enjoy it.

There is so little electronic music that deals with contemporary post tonal harmony, not just timbre. Its normally completely arhythmic and atonal or the usual endlessly regurgitated minimal tropes, or drone. Its electronic music that carries on in the spirit of pieces like Raymond Scotts baseline generator.

Yes there may be some bluff, but so what. It's very fakeness and unreality are what makes it so beguiling. And for me the synclavier sounds incredible. It's up there sonically in my personal emotional listening pleasure with the early tape pioneers before they started ditching their studers and vintage tube gear.

I just wish there was more!
zengomi
pianoscope wrote:
There is so little electronic music that deals with contemporary post tonal harmony, not just timbre.


If you wouldn't mind, please expound a bit more on the above, and the following (beyond fixing the grammar of 'its').

Quote:
Its normally completely arhythmic and atonal or the usual endlessly regurgitated minimal tropes, or drone. Its electronic music that carries on in the spirit of pieces like Raymond Scotts baseline generator.
EATyourGUITAR
I think we are already into the time period of contemporary post tonal harmony if that is the term we are going to use. to then turn around one sentence later and use the word "atonal" in the derogatory sense is extremely hypocritical in my humble opinion. I don't see how you can hear any consonant sounds at all if you are the elite evolution of human hearing in the sense that post tonal harmony implies there will be no consonance or dissonance in the evolved human perception of sound. taken to the extremely absurd conclusion of what atonal music would actually sound like, we arrive at the definition of 1/f white noise completely lacking any defined sine waves or tones however I think it is clear that that was never the goal of post tonal harmony. neither was it the goal to replace TET with micro or macrotonal systems of a new fascist order. there is so much variety available today on the internet I think it would be more likely than not that you can find your foot fetish on band camp and be happy with it. I can empathize your porridge being too hot or too cold all the time. but I don't think that you need to change the world. you just need to keep looking.
commodorejohn
Did...did we just stumble into Timecube...?
pianoscope
Atonal, careless, apologies, I didn’t use the right term. Not meant to be derogatory at all but I can see how it appeared that way.


I like some dodecaphonic synth music, but get tired of endless shades of grey even thought machines like the RCA sound so beautiful. Apart from Raymond Scott can’t think of anyone doing more harmonic electronic 12 tone, think Scott Bradley, Berg Stravinsky.
There is a natural synergy between 12 tone techniques and the modular approach on a compositional level. But I haven’t heard any music consistently working this angle electronically since the 60’s anyway. Pieces like the ensembles for synthesizer is aesthetically a precursor to Zappaz Synclavier music.

The Emu was just unsuitable for realising works like civilisation phase 3. Perhaps when he slagged it off he was just pissed off with that fact.
pianoscope
Eatyourguitar for what its worth I don't actually believe in harmonic consonance and dissonance.
I think the entire concept is an pedagogical invention that actually has ultimately nothing to do with harmony at all.
It’s a model. Follow the rules and get predictable results. Obviously it “works” in that sense. But to extend that further and claim it says something fundamental about the inner workings and nature of harmony or music is a conceit.
Tomorrow Sounds Good
eek!
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