Instrumental hits (1969 – 2013)

This weblog post is a continuation of Instrument hits (1956 – 1969).

These two weblog post were conceived of while watching/ listening to yet another version of Jan Hammer’s (1948 – ) Crockett’s theme (1986). Culture affects listening habits, and musical preferences. Crockett’s theme was much more popular in Europe than it was in USA. In contrast, the Miami Vice theme (1985) was not, and still is not, especially popular in Europe. Yet, it was the most recent instrumental #1 for twenty-eight years on the Billboard Hot 100 in USA from 1985 until 2013. In 2013, Harlem Shake attained the #1 position.

By the 1970s instrumentals were no longer main-stream.

Santana, Soul Sacrifice (1969)

Santana was the name of a band, that was more than guitarist Carlos Santana (1947 – ). Bass guitarist David Brown (1947 – 2000), percussionist Marcus Malone (1944 – 2021), keyboardist Gregg Rolie (1947 – ) as well as Carlos Santana are all listed as composers of Soul Sacrifice.

Woodstock festival was perhaps the first time boomers managed to create musical history. This instrumental closed Santana’s performance at Woodstock. According to legend, they were the only performers who had not released an album. The track that appears on their album, Santana, was recorded several months before, but also released after Woodstock, in August 1969.

Pink Floyd, One of These Days (1971)

Many commentators regard Pink Floyd’s On The Run, from from the Dark Side of the Moon (1973) as the bands best instrumental. Unfortunately, there are too many human sounds for me to consider it an instrumental piece. On the version I listen to, One of These Days meets my criteria for an instrumental. It opens the album Meddle, where the drumming of Nick Mason (1944 – ) is prominent. Unfortunately, on the album he speaks a totally unnecessary and violent line: One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces. On my preferred version this line is missing.

Miles Davis (1926 – 1991), Right Off (1971)

This work is often included on lists of the best popular music instrumentals. As I age, I have less tolerance for sounds produced by trumpets. They are too piercing for aging ears. One possible reason for its inclusion on these lists, is that it originally defied classification, or was enjoyed by people who appreciated multiple classifications. Thus, some stated it was neither rock nor jazz, not some intermediate state between the two, but hopping between both. Later, some people tried to call this fusion, sometimes adding rock or jazz or both or something else as modifiers. One commentator described it as being ahead of its time. I always find this particular comment irritating, because it implies that something is too advanced or modern to be understood or appreciated.

This instrumental appear on an album titled, Jack Johnson. It was a tribute to Johnson (1878 – 1946) the first African American heavyweight champion, who was given the title in 1908. Originally, the music was written to be a score for a documentary about Johnson’s life.

The Edgar Winter (1946 – ) Group, Frankenstein (1973)

Sometimes a musical piece is not meant to entertain, but to promote the capabilities of the performing musicians. This has always been my opinion of Frankenstein. Members of the group perform, but fail to communicate. I do not listen to music to be impressed, but to relax. This applies to Winter on his ARP 2600 synthesizer and saxophone. Equally, I feel that the sidemen, Ronnie Montrose on guitar and Dan Hartman on bass, flaunt their abilities, but fail to entertain listeners. I am amazed that this instrumental reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It confirms an opinion that popularity is not a reliable indicator of quality.

The Allman Brothers Band, Jessica (1973)

Jessica has been a part of late 20th century popular visual culture. In general, the Allman brothers version was the intro for Top Gear, the BBC automotive program, from 1977 to 1998 (series 39). In 1998 (series 40) a new, more electronic version was used as an intro, produced by Hansen Bass. In 2002, yet another, still newer version of Jessica was used, composed by Christian Henson. It was faster and upbeat compared to the original Allman Brothers version, but less electronic, compared to the Hansen Bass’ version. The original outro was Elton John’s Out of the Blue, performed by Graham Smith, son of Derek Smith, Top Gear’s original producer. Later, other songs, unique to every episode, replaced this. In 2002, an arrangement of Jessica, similar to Bass’ version, was used for the outro. Jessica was also used in the baseball film, Field of Dreams (1989).

The Allman Brothers Band was started in 1969 by Duane (1946 – 1971) and Gregg (1947 – 2017) Allman, guitarist Dickey Betts (1943 – ), bassist Berry Oakley (1948 – 1972), drummer Butch Trucks (1947 – 2017) and percussionist Jamoe Johnson (1944 – ). The band was restarted in 1973, after Duane’s and Berry’s deaths in separate motorcycle crashes.

Jessica was composed by Betts and, to a lesser degree, by replacement guitarist Les Dudek (1952 – ). Jessica was first released on the band’s 1973 album Brothers and Sisters. Ramblin’ Man, was another track on this album which marked the beginning of a new era for the Allman Brothers Band. Jessica is named for Jessica Betts, the daughter of Dickey Betts and Sandy Bluesky. Betts also composed a song for his wife and Jessica’s mother called Bluesky.

David Bowie (1947 – 2016), Speed of Life (1977) 

Listening to the opening track on Bowie’s album Low, I remember waiting for the lyrics to begin. There were none. Slowly, as the piece progressed, I began to listen to and appreciate the synths and faintly strange drum beats. It was a departure from Bowie’s previous style, but more suiting my evolving musical taste. In addition to an ARP synthesizer, David Bowie played a Chamberlin, a keyboard instrument that was a precursor to the Mellotron, developed by Harry Chamberlin (? – 1986) from 1949 to 1956. Bowie also acted as writer and producer. Carlos Alomar (1951 – ) played rhythm guitar. Dennis Davis (1951 – 2016) played percussion. George Murray played bass guitar. Roy Young played piano. Tony Visconti (1944 – ) and Ray Staff had various engineering and production duties.

Rush, La Villa Strangiato (1978)

Many Rush fans believe La Villa Strangiato is the band’s masterpiece. Depending on the version, it is about ten minutes long, and is designed to highlight each member of the three-piece band. The work was composed by guitarist Alex Lifeson, of Serbian ancestry, born Aleksandar Živojinović (1953 – ) in Fernie, British Columbia. It also features bassist Geddy Lee (Weinrib, 1953 – ) and drummer Neil Peart (1952 – 2020).

Rush, YYZ (1981)

Another highly regarded work by Rush is YYZ. Morse code is a way to encode text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations, called dots and dashes. Morse code is named after Samuel Morse (1791 – 1872). Rush rendered the International Air Transport Association (IATA) airport code for Toronto’s main airport (YYZ) into Morse code then transposed it across several instruments to work through the melody.

An Aside: Canadians sometimes speak in IATA three-letter codes for airports. I am not certain if this is a deliberate attempt to prevent Americans from understanding, or if that is just a side effect. Most Canadian airports begin with Y. Crossing the country: YPR = Prince Rupert; YYJ = Victoria; YVR = Vancouver;YXX = Abbotsford = YVR’s alternative airport; YKA = Kamloops; YLW = Kelowna = the airport where I landed on my first flight, from YVR, to be baptized at St Michael and All Angels, a cathedral since 1987; YXS = Prince George; YYC = Calgary; YWG = Winnipeg; YQG = Windsor; YYZ = Toronto; YOW = Ottawa; YUL = Montreal, although older people might be inclined to say YMX; YHZ = Halifax; and YYT = Saint John’s. I think those are all of the ones I am expected to know.

The Alan Parsons Project, Sirius (1982)

In its original form, this is one of the shortest instrumentals presented here, lasting less than two minutes. This is the opening track on the Eye in the Sky album and leads to the Eye in the Sky track, which has vocals. Of course, there is an extended version of Sirius, lasting 3.5 minutes.

The Alan Parson’s Project lasted from 1975 to 1990. It involved audio engineer, musician and composer Alan Parsons (1948 – ) and singer, songwriter and pianist Eric Woolfson (1945 – 2009). Throughout its existence, a long list of studio musicians also participated in the making of tracks.

Jan Hammer (1948 – ), Miami Vice Theme (1985) and Crockett’s Theme (1986).

The Miami Vice theme was the last #1 instrumental hit, until Harlem Shake reached that position in 2013. This is the track preferred by North Americans. In contrast, Crockett’s Theme is preferred in Europe. The version I prefer best, is performed by Amadeusz Małkowski (? – ), better known as Madis, a Krakow-born Polish composer and electronic music producer whose music is characterized by 21st century sounds combined with 20th century electronics. This performance contains two works. 0:00 – 3:15 Nightwalk (2018), written, composed and performed by Madis. 3:15 – 6:12 Crockett’s Theme (1986), written by Jan Hammer, but performed by Madis.

The hardware used by Madis includes: Roland D-50, Waldorf Blofeld, Novation Ultranova, Korg Microkorg, Akai APC40 MK2, Native Instruments Maschine MK2, Mackie ProFX 12, and TC Electronics M350. Software is Ableton Live 9.

Joe Satriani (1956 – ), Always with Me, Always with You (1989)

Satriani is regarded as a good guitarist, technically. Some might want to change the adjective from good to great, possibly even to outstanding. Despite this, he has often worked backing up more prominent musicians. This results in Joe the salesman, endorsing Ibanez guitars, Marshall amplifiers, somebody else’s pickup or effect pedal. Unfortunately, the guitar playing on the video of this instrumental shouts fake. He is playing an electric guitar without any obvious source of power.

Eric Johnson (1954 – ), Cliffs of Dover (1990)

YouTube user, AlandFelger wrote a comment about this track: … when I started learning guitar, I thought I’d never be able to play this song. 10 years later, I realized that I was correct.

Don’t worry AlandFelger, you don’t have to be technically sophisticated, or even competent, to make a musical impact. It is your soul that is important. This track performed by Eric Johnson, much like Frankenstein, performed by the Edgar Winter Group, involves too much ego.

Mr Oizo, Flat Beat (1999)

Flat Beat was originally the music for an advertising campaign for Levis-Staprest. The original commercial is here. Both it and a later music video were made by Quentin Dupieux (1974 – ) ably assisted by puppet Flat Eric. Flat Eric was made at Jim Henson’s (1936 – 1990) Creature Shop. Mr Oizo is Dupieux’s stage name, used for musical productions. As usual, I appreciate the video more than the audio alone. It was filmed in an old apartment near Versailles . Pushed by the success of ads in Europe, Flat Beat emerged three weeks later, as a #1 hit in key European territories, selling almost 4 milllions CDs and LPs. Sometimes, music isn’t everything, as Flat Eric demonstrates here.

Howard Shore (1946 – ), Concerning Hobbits (2001)

I have showed reluctance to include large budget orchestral works on this list, but include this one exception from Canadian film composer Howard Shore. Concerning Hobbits is from The Fellowship of the Ring. The version I prefer avoids a voice-over and other irritations from the film. It shows a rustic Middle Earth, that is only plausible in a film. Wikipedia provides an enjoyable article about the work.

My reluctance to include works that involve large orchestras is based on social ideals, especially that in the 21st century it should be possible for anyone to create songs in bedroom studios. In such an environment, and with the investment in headphones, there is no need for budding composers to subject their families or themselves to intensive sound levels.

On Piano Day, this year on 2024-03-28, the 88th day of the year, in honour of the standard piano keyboard, sound sampling will be discussed with reference to Pianobook, a company started by Christian Henson, and based on volunteer contributions. Its purpose is to create and share free instrument samples. Currently, 1413 samples are available.

Explosions in the Sky, First Breath After Coma (2003)

The band, founded in 1999 in Austin, Texas, was originally called Breaker Morant, then changed its name, almost immediately, to Explosions in the Sky. It consists of Chris Hrasky playing drums; Michael James playing guitar, bass guitar and keyboards; Munaf Rayani playing guitar, keyboards and percussion; and, Mark Smith playing guitar and keyboards.

I managed to listen to a musical version of this track for several seconds before I sought out something more satisfying. I found it in a version that includes scenes from a Ron Fricke (1953 – ) film, Baraka (1992). This film is described as purely cinematic non-verbal non-narrative. Baraka = بركة (Arabic) = blessing, is found in Islamic mysticism, particularly Sufism. It is a spiritual presence that begins with God and flows outward.

Wikipedia tells us that Baraka is a documentary film with no narrative or voice-over. It explores themes via a compilation of natural events, life, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period. It has a running time of 97 minutes.

Baauer = Harry Bauer Rodrigues (1989- ), Harlem Shake (2013)

The original Harlem Shake was a dance. This was followed by a YouTube meme, which ignited interest in an instrumental, that became a Billboard #1 hit. In this section, we are going to let Wikipedia provide a lot of the detail, without further credit.

The Harlem shake is a style of hip-hop dance and is characterized by jerky arm and shoulder movements in time to music, as shown here. The dance was created by Harlem resident Albert Boyce = Al B (1963 – 2006) in 1981, and was initially called The Albee or The Al B. The dance became mainstream in 2001 with the release of the music video for Let’s Get It by G. Dep. The video featured children performing the dance. The dance became known as the Harlem Shake as its prominence grew beyond the neighborhood.

In 2013-02, a song named Harlem Shake (due to a sampled line referring to the dance) went viral and became an Internet meme after featuring in a YouTube video by DizastaMusic. This song was originally released by Baauer in 2012-05-22. Note: The dance that is done on the internet as a meme is not the original Harlem Shake.

Baauer = Harry Rodriques recorded the work in his bedroom studio in Brooklyn, New York. His goal was to record a high-pitched, Dutch house synthesizer over a hip hop track and make it stand out by adding a variety of peculiar sounds. Some of these sounds were produced by Héctor Delgado (1979 – ), Jayson Musson (1977 -) and Kurt Hunte (? – ) who are also listed as songwriters, mainly because their works were sampled.

Dutch House is a subgenre of electronic dance music (EDM) that originated in the Netherlands in the early 2000s. It uses a 4/4 beat and a heavy bass at about 128 beats per minute. There is also a lot of filtering to pump the bassline. Sidechain compression creates the sound of breathing from drums. These techniques provide a Hi-NRG = high-energy distinctive sound.

Modern Solutions

Sometimes, lyrics are the most dissatisfying part of a recording, adding stress rather than joy to listening. Yet, there may not be anything wrong with the instrumental music backing the lyrics.

Such is the case for me with Billy Corgan’s (1967 – ) singing on Disarm, from the Siamese Dream album, released by The Smashing Pumpkins, in 1993. It’s music video, directed by Jake Scott (1965 – ), is innocent enough. Most sequences are in black and white, showing band members floating. There are also colour sequences of a young boy playing outside. It appeared on MTV in early 1994, and was placed into heavy rotation for a month, during a time period that predates play on demand.

My solution is to find instrumental versions of such works. I often do this by searching YouTube, listing the musicians, and the track, then adding instrumental. I searched with: The Smashing Pumpkins, Disarm, instrumental. When the results can back, Betheriel’s version of Disarm was at the top of the list. It was released on 2023-02-03, and has been played 2764 times, and received 50 likes.

Betheriel YouTube channel has about 2 430 subscribers and 9 280 instrumental only videos. These have been seen 982 205 times, as this is being written.

Another approach, being considered for its own web log post, involves do it yourself (DIY) vocals removal. There are numerous sites offering this service, many claiming to use artificial intelligence to assist. Typical instructions involve: 1) Uploading an audio file; 2) Instructing the site to remove vocals from the music; 3) Download the resulting extracted file; 4) Reviewing and saving the extracted instrumental track.

Many of these services also allow people to separate and create a separate vocal track. These services are especially popular with karaoke enthusiasts.

A concluding thought: Yes, there are female instrumentalists! This post took shape while I was making a series about women musicians published at the rate of one a month in 2021. I shunted notable tracks by male musicians to this and a couple of other weblog drafts. Since then, I have reflected on the nature of instrumental popular music, and wondered if men feel more comfortable performing tracks without words, while women feel more comfortable using words.

Instrumental hits (1956 – 1969)

Babyphon Phonograph turntable (probably a model 120), made by Metz Transformatoren- und Apparatefabrik (Furth, West Germany) 1954 – 1955. Photo by Maksym Kozlenko.

During the 1950s and 1960s, music became increasingly available. It could be heard on jukeboxes in cafes and elsewhere, on radios and on phonographs/ record players, most often at home. People started to pay attention to the ranking of individual pieces of popular music. Allowances allowed young people to buy recorded music, typically: 12-inch 33+1⁄3 rpm records with a microgroove specification, made of vinyl = vinyl chloride acetate. These were first released in 1948. Also popular were 7-inch 45 rpm records, first released in 1949. These were small, durable disks that offered high fidelity, effectively replacing 78 rpm shellac discs.

Ranking of record popularity owes much to Billboard, a company with its origins in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. It was starting on 1894-11-01 by William Donaldson (1864 – 1925) and James Hennegan as a trade publication for bill posters. After the magazine ran into financial difficulties in 1900, Donaldson bought out Hennegan’s interests for $500.

Early in the 20th century, it focused on circuses, fairs and burlesque shows. By 1955, there were three charts that measured song metrics: Best Sellers in Stores, started in 1940, measured the biggest selling singles in retail stores; Most Played by Jockeys ranked the most played songs on United States radio stations; Most Played in Jukeboxes, was especially important to measure song popularity among younger listeners, as many radio stations avoided music popular with the young. These three coalesced into the Hot 100, starting 1955-11-12.

The following list does not include all instrumentals to have reached #1, on a Billboard chart or anywhere else. It is extremely personal, which means that it excludes Percy Faith and Lawrence Welk as well as many others! It is probably somewhat inconsistent. Some listeners may regard some pieces as borderline instrumental, because some of these include sound effects or chants. Think, Wipe Out! My opinion is that all of the works here are instrumental, because they avoid verses and choruses, but may include the odd human utterance.

Bill Doggett (1916-1996), Honky Tonk, Part 1 & 2 (1956)

This track sold four million copies, reaching No. 1 on Billboad’s rhythm and blues (R&B) and No. 2 Pop(ular music). It was written by organist Bill Doggett (1916-1995), guitarist Billy Butler (1924-1991), saxophonist/ flautist Clifford Scott (1928-1993) and percussionist Berisford (Shep) Shepard (1917-2018). Guitar solos are dominant in Part 1, but it is the saxophone that dominates part 2. Many people have commented on the opening of the track, its handclaps and yells and danceable beat. In addition to the original, there is a version by the Beach Boys in 1963, as well as a remastered version by them from 2001. Another significant version was made by James Brown (1933-2006) in 1972.

Duane Eddy (1938- ), Moovin’ n Groovin’ (1957)

As Eddy’s first single, this instrumental made a considerable impact. The opening refrain is recognizable because of its inclusion in the Beach Boy’s Surfin’ Safari (1962). The title is also used in Bobby Darin’s (1936-1973) Splish Splash (1958). Eddy used his guitar’s bass strings to produce a low, reverberating, twangy sound. Numerous undocumented sources state that Eddy encouraged other musicians to borrow, share and even improve upon his works. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find supporting documentation for this contention.

Duane Eddy, Rebel-Rouser (1958)

Music is extremely personal. Few people share my tastes. While I don’t share the opinion, there were many in the late 1950s and early 1960s, who regarded Eddy as the greatest pop instrumentalist of all time. However, many more are probably agreed that this was Eddy’s greatest contribution, or at least better than Moovin’ n Groovin’ . It combines a folk tune with an unusual gritty sound that makes it unique for the time period. Some call it eerie or haunting, while others call it magical. When I listen to it now, the sound is dominated by the limitations of audio production of the time period.

The Champs, Tequila (1958)

Tequila was written by saxophonist Danny Flores (1929 – 2006), but credited to his alter-ego Chuck Rio because he was under contract to RPM Records. He utters the title several times during a performance. This was a one-hit wonder for The Champs in the late 1950s. However, the work took on a new life when it was included in 1985’s Peewee’s Big Adventure. Pee-wee Herman dance has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Tequila was initially released as a B-side of Train to Nowhere.

Dave (Baby) Cortez (1938 – ), The Happy Organ (1959)

Baby Cortez wrote The Happy Organ in 1959, along with photographer James J. Kriegsmann (1909 – 1994) and Ken (some sources say Kurt) Wood (? – ? ). A significant portion of the tune bears a strong resemblance to Shortnin’ Bread, written by James Whitcomb Riley (1849 – 1916) in the 1890s.

Up until now, I have no memory of hearing any of the instrumentals, at the time of their initial appearance.

Henry Mancini (1924 – 1994), Peter Gunn (1959)

In his autobiography, Did They Mention the Music? (1989), Mancini writes:The Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz. I used guitar and piano in unison, playing what is known in music as an ostinato, which means obstinate. It was sustained throughout the piece, giving it a sinister effect, with some frightened saxophone sounds and some shouting brass. The piece has one chord throughout and a super-simple top line.

The official visualizer gives an appropriate audio and visual presentation of the music where the piano riff is played by John Williams (1932 – ), the trumpet by Ray Anthony (1922 – ), and the tenor saxophone by Plas Johnson (1931 – ). This contrasts with the opening scene of the television series in 1958, with violence followed by announcements of the title, as well as credits for Craig Stevens (1918 – 2000) and Blake Edwards (1922 – 2010). Only a minimal amount of the theme can be heard. The music was recorded in 1958, but released in 1959.

Jerry Lordan (1934 – 1995), Apache (1960)

A number of musicians have either covered or sampled this track that was written by Lordan. It was inspired by the film, Apache (1954), and was first recorded by Bert Weedon (1920-2012), but not released until after a version popularized by The Shadows in 1960. Originally, it was to be the B-side of a single with Quartermaster’s Store. Producer Norrie Paramor (1914 – 1979) used his daughters as judges to determine which track should be the A-side. Apache won. Canadians may be interested to know that it was a version by Jørgen Ingmann that topped the CHUM Top 30 charts.

In the early 1970s a version by the Incredible Bongo Band became a hip-hop anthem. Later, the Sugarhill Gang made a dance-party version for group and line dancers. Recently, I have listened to another version by Kil Rockers, of Quilicura, Chile. It seemed to be the spiritual successor to the Shadows.

Booker T & M.G.’s Green Onions (1962)

I don’t know how true this memory is, for I am recalling an event that happened over sixty years ago. At some point I was on a bus heading from New Westminster to Ellensburg, Washington, with other members of the New Westminster Junior Concert Band for a weekend away. Somewhere on this adventure, I imagine hearing Green Onions, then in Seattle, I discovered the Green Onion cafe, where we stopped to eat.

Some regard Green Onions as the greatest groove track of all time. Others call it the greatest rhythm and blues instrumental in music history. Once again, it has been used in numerous films and commercials. While Booker T. Jones’ (1944- ) played the Hammond M3 organ, Steve The Colonel Cropper (1941- ), of Blues Brothers fame, played guitar.

Green Onions was Booker T & the M.G.’s signature song. This song has been used extensively in popular and niche films. It can be heard in two movies I find memorable, Rush Hour (1998) and The Sandlot (1993). It evokes youthful playfulness and mischief.

Dick Dale (1937 – 2019) and His Del-Tones, Misirlou (1962)

Known as the King of the Surf Guitar, Dale inspired many young, aspiring musicians, including Brian May (1947 – ), Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970) and Eddie Van Halen (1955 – 2020). Dale was especially known for his reverberation techniques. Miserlou was used in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994).

The Tornados, Telstar (1962)

Telstar was an instrumental performed by the English band the Tornados, but was written and produced by Joe Meek (1929 – 1967). It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1962-12.

While the Tornados are credited as the performers of this song, they were essentially studio musicians working under the direction of Meek, who wrote and produced the song. Previously, I have written about the Clavioline synthesizer used.

Currently, I am in the process of writing a weblog post about recording production, that will contain information about Joe Meek and other producers. In 2012, New Musical Express, founded in 1952 and usually known as NME, put Meek at the top of their list of greatest producers, above George Martin (1926 – 2016), Phil Spector (1939 – 2021) and even my favourite, Brian Eno (1948 – ).

The Surfaris, Wipe Out (1963)

If Dick Dale inspired people to play a guitar, then Surfaris drummer and vocalist Ron Wilson (1944 – 1989) inspired people to play drums. This song was composed at the Pal Recording Studio, in Cucamonga, California, when the band realized they needed a B-side for their Surfer Joe single. Before the music starts, Bob Berryhill’s (1947 – ) father broke a wooden board near a microphone, imitating the breaking of a surfboard, this was followed band manager Dale Smallin (1935 – 2011), laughting and yelling Wipe Out . Despite claims that it reached the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, it only reached #2!

Pink Floyd, Interstellar Overdrive (1967)

At its beginning, I find this track appealing. Unfortunately, this does not last. Some suggest it becomes more experimental, or at least improvised, as it progresses. With a length approaching 10 minutes, it is several minutes too long. It was written in 1966 and appeared on Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Its style is mainly psychedelic and discordant. It originated when the band’s manager, Peter Jenner (1943 – ), hummed a tune trying to remember the song it belonged to. Guitarist Syd Barrett (1946 – 2006) interpretation of that humming resulted in the track. It was also used in the film Doctor Strange (2016).

The version of the song that I prefer is performed by Hawkwind. It was recorded in 1971. Hawkwind was founded by Dave Brock (1941 – ) in 1969. Lemmy Kilminster (1945 – 2015) of Motörhead, played bass for Hawkwind, from 1971 to 1975. He was fired from the band after a drug arrest at Windsor, Ontario, Canada. In a 2014 interview, Lemmy stated: I really found myself as an instrumentalist in Hawkwind. Before that I was just a guitar player who was pretending to be good, when actually I was no good at all. In Hawkwind I became a good bass player. It was where I learned I was good at something.

Mason Williams (1938 – ), Classical Gas (1968)

Many people regard this piece as brilliant. However, I find his most popular recorded version too ornate, for my simpler tastes. It reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, there are some acoustic versions are just a little more rustic, that I can relate to.

In addition to his musical abilities, I admire Williams for his lifetime friendship with Edward Ruscha (1937 – ), who I appreciate for his photographic minimalism and artistic books, exemplified by Twenty Six Gasoline Stations (1963). Yes, I am contemplating making a follow up in the spirit of the original, Twenty Six Charging Stations!

Led Zeppelin, Black Mountain Side (1969)

Herbert Jansch (1943 – 2011) was a Scottish folk musician born in Glasgow, and a founding member of Pentangle. Without credit, Led Zeppelin, adapted Jansch’s arrangement of the traditional Irish folk song Down by Blackwaterside. It was recorded at Olympic Studios, London, in 1968. Unfortunately, many attribute this song to Jimmy Page (1944 – ) referring to him as the composer of the piece.  Jansch’s version is not instrumental, as he sang the lyrics on it. Jansch, in turn, is indebted to Anne Briggs (1944 – ) who introduced him to this, and other Irish folk songs. Anne Briggs also sang and recorded a version of this song. Both of these were in Bert Lloyd‘s (1908 – 1982) circle of intimates.

Up until now, almost all of the musicians mentioned here are members of the greatest generation, born 1901 – 1927, and the silent generation, born 1928 – 1945.

In a second post, scheduled for next week, the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, marks the time when baby boomers, born 1945 – 1964, start to become prominent on the musical scene.

August Insights

Some notable events have taken place in 2023-08.

Women’s World Cup 2023

I do not follow sports, but sometimes read results so that I can interact with normal people. There are two counrties that are natural for me to support, Canada and Norway, not to mention Ireland, that has provided citizenship to the others in my immediate family. With the Women’s World Cup, I felt I could impress these people by reporting a select few game results. Already near the start, on 2023-07-20, with Norway losing 1-0 to New Zealand, and Ireland losing 1-0 to Australia, I realized that backup could be necessary, in order to be on the winning side. Fortunately, Denmark and Sweden were also playing. By the end of group play, Canada and Ireland were out, but the Scandinavians were still in. On 2023-08-05, Norway lost 3-1 to Japan, and was out. The next day, Sweden beat USA on penalties, and was still in. The day after that, Denmark lost 2-0 to Australia. All hopes were on Sweden. In the end, on 2023-08-19, Sweden ended up in third place. On 2023-08-20 Spain won with England in second place. The scene was set for the main drama…

Dear Luis Rubiales: sportswomen are not dolls to be kissed, touched and patronised. Those are the words of Barbara Ellen in The Guardian.

Yes, I eagerly awaited the resignation of Luis Rubiales (1977 – ) for forceably kissing Jenni Hermoso (1990 – ), a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Liga MX Femenil club CF Pachuca (Mexico) and for the Spain women’s national team. She has previously played for teams in Spain, including Barcelona, and is the all-time top scorer for both Barcelona and Spain, at the end of the Women’s World Cup. She did not consent to be kissed.

Rubiales is president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and one of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) vice presidents. He refused to resign, and was dumb enough to say, “A social assassination is taking place. I don’t deserve this manhunt I have been suffering.” It took Fédération Internationale de football association = FIFA to remove him, if only temporarily. FIFA will look at whether his actions constitute violations of Article 13 in its disciplinary code, concerning offensive behaviour and fair play.

The Spanish government was also taking action to force his removal. It was asking Rubiales to explain himself to a Spanish administrative court as soon as possible. If it deems he violated the professional sports code, he could then be suspended.

Hermoso stated: “I want to make clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place and, above all, his kiss [was n]ever consensual.”

She added his claims were “categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he has generated”.

“I feel the need to report this incident because I believe no person, in any work, sports or social setting should be a victim of these types of non-consensual behaviours. I felt vulnerable and a victim of impulsive-driven, sexist, out-of-place act, without any consent on my part”.

“Quite simply, I was not respected.”

She was put “under continuous pressure” to help with a “statement that could justify” Rubiales’ actions – and so were her family, friends and team-mates.

“These types of incidents add to a long list of situations that the players have been denouncing. This incident is the final straw and what everyone has been able to witness on live television also comes with attitudes like the one we saw this morning [Friday, 2023-08-25] and have been part of our team’s daily life for years”.

81 players confirm they will not play for Spain’s women’s team until he is removed from his post. In addition, two Spanish men’s national team and Real Betis players, Héctor Bellerín and Borja Iglesias, criticised Rubiales on social media, with the latter refusing to play for Spain until Rubiales resigned.

By Saturday, 2023-08-26, RFEF had threatened to sue Jenni Hermoso, accusing her of lying and defamation, and the women football players who signed a letter in which they refused to play for their country as long as Luis Rubiales remained its leader. Obviously, a lot more people in the RFEF need to be replaced.

Then, Ángeles Béjar (? – ), Rubiales’ mother, entered the Church of the Divine Shepherdess in Motril, Granada, Spain on Monday morning, 2023-08-28, to begin a hunger strike to protest what she describes as her son’s unwarranted, inhumane and bloodthirsty hunt.

2023-09-11 Update:

Ángeles Béjar was taken to hospital on 2023-08-30.

On 2023-09-05, Jorge Vilda (1981 – ) was fired as head coach of the Spanish women’s national team.

According to a Guardian article, Luis Rubiales’ uncle, Juan Rubiales, told El Confidential: “We Rubialeses are absolutely committed to the idea of dignity. And dignity is to defend Jenni, to understand her, and to reproach the shameful behaviour of this president…. I think [Luis Rubiales] needs a social re-education programme and a re-education in his relationship with women.” He described his nephew as a man “obsessed with power, luxury, money and women”. In a separate interview with the newspaper El Mundo, he added that his nephew was a “man with a clear machista [sexist] tinge”.

Irene María Montero Gil, MP is a Spanish politician and psychologist, member of the Podemos party. She has been the Spanish Minister of Equality since 2020-01-13. She described the kiss as a “lower-intensity” form of sexual violence that is often invisible and normalised in society.” On 2023-09-10 she tweeted: “Se acabó [It’s over].”

On 2023-09-10, Gary Lineker, former England footballer turned BBC broadcaster who played in Spain for three years, tweeted about Rubiales resignation: Rubiales: “No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir. No voy a dimitir.” “Voy a dimitir [I resign].”

Rich Men North of Richmond

Oliver Anthony, playing Rich Men North of Richmond

At the start of the first American Elephant Party television debate on 2023-08-22, an excerpt was played of Oliver Anthony’s (1992 or 1993 – ) song, Rich Men North of Richmond, then discussed. Fox News host, Martha MacCallum, said Anthony’s “lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country. Washington DC is about 100 miles north of Richmond.”

On stage stood seven current or former governors and congressmen and one venture capitalist, all members of the Elephant Party.

McCallum asked: “Governor DeSantis, why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”

Ron DeSantis, replied: “Our country is in decline. This decline is not inevitable. It’s a choice. We need to send [Donkey Party member and US president] Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline.”

However, on Friday 2023-08-25, nonpartisan Anthony released a 10-minute video, in which he rejected that answer and denied that he was a conservative figure. “The one thing that has bothered me is seeing people wrap politics up in this. I’m disappointed to see it. Like, it’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them. That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. You know, it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song’s written about the people on that stage and a lot more, not just them.”

It was hard, Anthony said, to “get a message out about your political ideology or your belief about the world in three minutes and some change. But I do hate to see that song being weaponized, like I see. I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own. And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That’s got to stop.”

He said the response to his song had crossed party lines and that he welcomed a diverse audience.

“If you watch the response videos on YouTube, it’s not conservative people responding to the song. It’s not even necessarily Americans responding to the song. I don’t know that I’ve seen anything get such positive response from such a diverse group of people. And I think that terrifies the people that I sing about in that song. And they’ve done everything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool. To spin my words. To try to stick me in a political bucket.”

Wikipedia tells us, that Anthony is the first songwriter to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with no prior chart history in any form, Anthony is the first male songwriter to chart 13 songs all simultaneously in the top 50 Digital Song Sales while still alive—Prince and Michael Jackson exceeded that count only following their deaths.

Confession 1: I have not actually listened to Oliver Anthony’s track. After about 10 seconds I find the raspy voice and Piedmont dialect , along with a resonator guitar so unpleasant that I turn it off. I was able to listen to Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003), or more likely his artificial intelligence alter-ego, singing it.

Confession 2: I find the names of political parties difficult to accept. I am not sure what makes, say, the Democratic party, more democratic than another party. I frequently avoid that aspect of political debate, by codifying their real names. In this alternative universe, the party that is closest to me is the Marmot party. Why? The marmots I know best, those living on McArthur Island in Kamloops, British Columbia are enthusiastic and engaged, but without direction. I often rename parties after party symbols.

Wildfires

The effects of the Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii wildfire. Photo: 2023-08-17 at 10:02, taken by Glenn Fawcett, for the United States Department of Homeland Security, and released into the public domain.

Wildfires have become an issue. To call them a serious problem is to undermine their destructiveness. I think especially of the village of Lytton in British Columbia, but also Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, not to mention Lahaina, on Maui. On 2023-08-19, West Kelowna, across Okanagan Lake from Kelowna, where I spent most of my childhood summers, was experiencing wildfires. Kelowna, was being threatened by them. They experienced the wildfire of a century twenty years earlier, on 2003-08-16. Yes, I too am amazed at how short centuries have become!

We have to improve the terms used to describe wildfire events, removing the time scale. A once in a century fire, could be more accurately described as a 1% chance wildfire event. This, has now become a more common 5% chance wildfire event. In another ten years that might increase to a 10% chance wildfire event. These percentages indicate that there is no regularity to these events.

Historically, there have also been large wildfires in the past, such the Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin in 1871 and the Sudbury fire in Ontario in 1916. At times in Australia, Indonesia and other places there have seen multiple fires burning simultaneously, causing significant harm and loss of life. Cities have also burned, notably, the Great Fire of London on 1666-09-05 and Chicago, that started the same day as the Peshtigo fire, 1871-10-08. New Westminster, where I grew up has experienced two massive fires that started on 1898-09-10 and 2020-09-13, respectively.

While I avoid expletives, I am thinking of introducing one for dramatic effect, combustion! (with variants). For example, “It was a combustive mess”. Like most other expletives, it adds no truthiness to a basic statement. Here, a mess is a mess. Combustive simply adds emotional flavour. While some forms of combustion are necessary, the world in my lifetime has produced too much of it. My hope is that by making it an expletive, people will reflect on their combustive behaviour and reduce or eliminate it.

Despite being as much of a NIMBY (not in my backyard) as the next person, I am a proponent of decarbonization, including the total elimination of fossil-fuels, such as natural (and unnatural) gas from houses. Induction stovetops are a more effective (but not necessarily cheaper) way to cook. Hydro, geo-thermal, solar and wind are effective ways of producing clean electricity.

Hawaiian Electric irresponsibly claimed that they could not turn off the electricity on Maui because some customers were dependent on electrical power for medical devices. In addition Maui uses electricity to provide water for residents. My reply is that batteries have been invented that can provide power to medical devices, in situations where it is unsafe to have grid power on. Yes, I am aware that someone has to think of that solution, and that batteries cost money. So does an enormous loss of life, with so many people unaccounted for! Where I have lived water relies on reservoirs and tanks at higher levels, and uses gravity feed to provide water to consumers. Admittedly, water may have to be pumped into these storage places.

Somewhat later, I received the following reply from a friend: Appears Hawaii Utility removed downed power poles, equipment, suspected of possibly causing the devastating fire …. therefore jeopardizing offficial investigation. Cover up?

Maui County is suing Hawaiian Electric over the fire that leveled Lahaina, The lawsuit includes a demand for a jury trial. It alleges the destruction could have been avoided if power lines had been shut off. This is part of a growing critical focus on the utility with videos apparently showing downed cables setting fire to vegetation. There were ample warnings of strong winds from a nearby hurricane, but Maui County claims which that Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries negligently kept power lines live. Some quotations: “These power lines foreseeably ignited the fast-moving, deadly, and destructive Lahaina Fire, which completely destroyed residences, businesses, churches, schools, and historic cultural sites.”; “Defendants knew that the high winds the [National Weather Service] predicted would topple power poles, knock down power lines, and ignite vegetation.”; “Defendants also knew that if their overhead electrical equipment ignited a fire, it would spread at a critically rapid rate.”

Maui County is not free of blame. Critics say it was not prepared for the event, and provided an inadequate response. In other place, such as California, electric utilities routinely shut down large stretches of above-ground power lines in strong winds. One has to question whether above-ground power distribution is suitable in the 21st century.

This 2023-08-08 fire was the deadliest wildfire in the United States for more than a century. It burned through about 800 hectares destroying the historic town of Lahaina, a former Hawaiian royal seat. It has rendered thousands of people homeless. Maui County released a list of 388 names of people who remain unaccounted for. Recovery is expected to take years. Federal estimates suggest the fire caused $5.5 billion of damage.

Popularity contests

At the end of August, Tim Anderson has written something I could never write, It has to do with the popularity of computer languages. This topic is easiest to explain by looking at fruits. Different fruits have different uses. Personally, I avoid apples and cherries because they don’t like me. I do consume citrus fruits, but they are not substitutes for each other. I would never eat a lemon or a lime with breakfast, like I would eat an orange or half a grapefruit.

Computer languages also have different uses. I regard scripting languages, such as JavaScript or Lua, as a type of glue, typically used to hold the components of websites together. There are database languages used to manipulate and organize data. In my mind, these are special purpose languages to be used restrictively, much like lemons or limes are used in cooking.

Then there are general programming languages, that can actually be used to make a software product. These are a totally different ilk, much like an orange or (for some people) an apple or a handful of cherries. There have been many generations of these, with Python being the most popular today. It was named after the British comedy group whose first name is Monty, rather than a snake. It first appeared in 1991. C, the language I use most, first appeared in 1972. Fortran first appeared in 1957.

I am now changing the advice I am giving to young people about which general purpose language to learn and use. My new favourite is Rust, named after the plant pathogenic fungi (order Pucciniales) with about 7 000 species. This programming language first appeared in 2015, but originated some years earlier at Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser. It is supported by a number of large tech companies including Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Microsoft. Apple uses Swift, a competing language and successor to Objective-C, in most areas, but uses Rust in robotics.

Microphones

An inexpensive Behringer XM8500 microphone. Goodenuf for most purposes. Photo: Behringer.

Clan MacDonald’s Detroit Representative, fashionista, melophile, nephew Brad (1981 – ) sent me a message, “Whenever I need a laugh or a trip back to 2001, I listen to Rock and Roll McDonald’s. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this gent. Unorthodox lyrical style.” The gent was Wesley Willis (1963 – 2003).

I replied, “Thank you, Brad. That was a refreshing change, even if I did consider commenting about Wesley’s need for Autotune. I will come back to him when I start writing about musical content, rather than its outer form.”

Listen to Wesley’s music, and you will understand why most singers do not need to spend money on an expensive microphone, such as a Shure SM7B. Indeed, Julian Krause, my go-to specialist on audio equipment has compared this Shure microphone with a cheap Behringer XM8500.

At my favourite Norwegian online music store, the prices for the two microphones on 2023-06-19 were NOK 4 597 (Shure) and NOK 279 (Behringer). This makes the Shure more than 16 times more expensive.

The Behringer can deliver almost the same results as a Shure, provided that the microphone is suitably placed to compensate for a lack of a built-in pop filter, and a graphic equalizer (or equivalent) compensates frequency deviations, as shown in the following table. These adjustments could take about one minute.

10.4 kHz-6 dB5.0 Q
6.4 kHz-5 dB5.0 Q
2.7 kHz-3 dB1.3 Q
220 Hz-3.5 dB0.7 Q
80 Hz+3.5 dB2.0 Q
Frequency compensation table for a Behringer XM8500 microphone. Data provided by Julian Krause.

Of course, the cheapest microphone is one that has already been purchased. I have a Røde NT-1, that is more than adequate for my purposes. However, I may acquire a second microphone for backup. It is cheap insurance. It could be a Behringer. Another theoretical, but unlikely, approach is to allow myself to appear impressed by the equipment of some random acquaintance who has upgraded to a better microphone than s/ he can actually use. I will then offer to buy their old mic for NOK 100. Garage sales are another opportunity.

There are exceptions to buying cheap. Sometimes, weirdness is a good reason to buy something different, even if it is a bit more expensive. This is acceptable, if the reason one is buying it, is to have fun and not to impress others. People who have been economically deprived develop frugal habits, and are seldom tempted by wasteful consumption.

Conclusion: In most situations, people do not need to invest in the best or even good audio equipment. Impress family and friends with frugality. Make do with equipment that is good enough, but still fun.

DIY Synths

A mki x es.edu DIY analogue synthesizer system. Ten kits are needed to make this, including two envelope generators, in addition to a Eurorack case. The main drawback of this system is its cost. Photo: mki x es.edu.

This post was inspired by a close reading of Ray Wilson, Make: Analog Synthesizers (2013). A close reading is not the same as a great appreciation. The initial problem with the book is that it is a vehicle to promote Ray’s day job, the production and sale of Music From Outer Space (MFOS) analogue synthesizer kits. Another problem is that the author/ editors confuse slang and humour with an ability to make a text easy to understand. They do not. For people who have English as a second language, these two components add confusion. The book is described as a hands-on dive into the tools, techniques, and information needed for making an analogue synthesizer. Hopefully, this information will be unnecessary for anyone with experience in building synthesizers, so it is only suitable for people lacking this experience.

Some of the negative vibes about Wilson’s project come from his reuse of the company/ product name. Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space, the debut album of Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015), was recorded in character as Mr. Spock from Star Trek, and released 1967-06.

Much of the book assumes that the interested reader is building an analogue synthesizer from a MFOS Noise Toaster kit. No other kit or project will do. It is that specific. Earlier parts of the book are useful in explaining the differences between analogue and digital synthesizers (and then forgetting about digital synthesizers), the building blocks incorporated into an analogue synthesizer, including voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs), filters (VCFs) and amplifiers (VCAs) as well as low frequency oscillators (LFOs). There are suggestions about making a workshop suitable for synthesizer production. Some of these suggestions are useful, especially those about modifying equipment to make it more suited in a low cost workspace. Some of the foundation circuits for amplification, biasing, and signal mixing are also useful, as is much of the information about setting up and using a budget electronic music studio.

MFOS’s description of the Noise Toaster even lists the following features (orthography in the original): WILL attract alien visitations – CAUTION ADVISED; WILL DEFINITELY cut into TV viewing time – CAUTION ADVISED; Stimulates plant growth and calms goldfish. While the kit is described as lo-fi, it has a price tag that is excessive for that category: US$ 209 = € 187 = NOK 1793, at the time of writing. Periodic checks indicate that this kit is permanently out of stock.

In the weblog post Tech Ed some helpful, electronic textbooks are discussed. One book that was not mentioned was Forrest M. Mims III, Getting started in electronics. It began life in 1983, but the edition I have, from Master Publishing, is dated 2003. This is a good introductory book, if somewhat dated, that many people will prefer to, say, Harry Kybett and Earl Boysen, All New Electronics Self-Teaching Guide, 3rd edition (2008), or later books based on this.

My advice to a prospective 16-year old synthesizer builder is to begin by reading, and working with the Mims textbook, then go on to Kybett and Boysen. With sufficient theoretical knowledge in place, a Eurorack synth component can be made.

Rather than MFOS, my preference for a starter kit involves open-source Erica EDU DIY Eurorack projects. Erica Synths was founded in Latvia in 2014 by Girts Ozolinš. Originally, these Synths used Soviet parts. That time has passed, mostly. Erica Synths discontinues its legacy DIY eurorack projects, but decided to make them open-source. They made slight changes to module design to eliminate custom/ rare components. However, this was an imperfect process, as some modules still require relatively uncommon ICs. It is claimed that these can be sourced from Erica Synths. Then they created a folder for each project, with Gerber files for printed circuit boards (PCB) and front panels, and complete information/ files to build a module: schematics, including bills of materials (BOM), component placement with values and designators, and assembly manuals. Note: some manuals are designed for older module versions. Open source allows them to be available for personal, educational and/or commercial purposes.

Gerber is an open ASCII vector format, and de facto standard, for PCB designs, including copper layers, solder masks, drilled holes and printed data.

An almost unpronounceable brand name, mki x es.edu, is a joint effort between Erica Synths and YouTube presenter Moritz Klein. It claims that its goal is to teach people with little-to-no prior experience how to design analog synthesizer circuits from scratch. Design is the key word in that statement that they want to emphasize. The components in the kit box are not simply meant to be soldered together and then disappear inside a rack. Instead, they claim that they want to take the constructor through the circuit design process step by step, explaining every decision and how it impacts the finished module. A related, but cheaper, approach is to download the manuals, study them, and then decide if one wants to purchase kits.

Starting at 2021-12-28, they are in the process of offering new kits at the rate of one every four to six weeks. A total of 9 kits are planned. When completed this results in a fully-featured modular monosynth: 1) a sequencer, 2) a VCO at €60, 3) a wavefolder (used to shape soundwaves), 4) a noise/ sample and hold (S&H) module, 5) a mixer, 6) a VCF, 7) an envelope generator (EG) at €55, 8) a dual VCA unit at €55, and 9) an output stereo mixer with a headphone amplifier. In addition, a eurorack case with a DIY power supply unit (PSU) is available at €110. Even if a complete kit costs about €700, it should offer greater value for money than a MFOS Noise Toaster!

Kits have a 40+ page user manual that can be downloaded separately, and in advance of any purchase. These provide information about the electronics behind each circuit, also the fundamental principles of sound synthesis. We hope that the project will inspire future engineers and will contribute to the ever-growing diversity of electronic music technology.

The advantage of a Eurorack component, is that it allows one to start with a very simple project that is only part of a functional synth. One can build up construction experience gradually. One can also mix and match components from several manufacturers, or make them.

If one is determined to follow the Wilson trajectory, arrange a conditional sale of a finished MFOS kit-build of a Noise Toaster at cost, at the same time one is reading the Wilson book, and building the kit. The reason for this approach is that once the Noise Toaster is built and sold, the builder is free to decide if s/he wants to build another synthesizer and, if so, the type – without being constrained by the ownership of an existing kit.

My suspicion is that kit builder are seldom content with the simple, but want to construct more complex design. However, a word of caution may be needed. I remember hearing from someone that only the third (or later) iteration of a project actually results in a usable product. The first iteration is overly simple, because one is in the process of developing one’s skills. The second one is overly complex, because with the success of the first project, the constructor is open to anything and everything. The third iteration, involves moderation.

The KLF

RETRO DISCO HI-NRG: KLF - The White Room (Album) 1991 ...
The Album sleeve, for The KLF, The White Room (1991)

White

The KLF was founded in London, England in 1987 by Scottish – but South Africa born – Bill Drummond (1953 – , aka King Boy D) and English Jimmy Cauty (1956 – , aka Rockman Rock). They began by releasing hip hop-inspired and sample-heavy records. Like many musicians of the 20th century that I appreciate, Bill Drummond was educated at a third class art institution, the University of Northampton, Art and Design Academy.

An art school education allows people to develop themselves as personas with particular characteristics. In this case, it allowed the KLF to adopt the philosophy presented in The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975). Often regarded as a cult success, it was written by Robert Shea (1933 – 1994) and Robert Anton Wilson (1932 – 2007). It could be described as a satirical, postmodern, science fiction–influenced adventure with drug-, sex-, and magic-laden components, heavily dependent on conspiracies, both real and imagined.

Should one want to appreciate the KLF in terms of content, there is only one significant album: The White Room (1991), initially recorded in 1989. There are four important tracks: 1) What Time is Love; 3) 3 a.m. Eternal; 5) Last Train to Trancentral; and, 9) Justified and Ancient. Don’t bother just listening to the music, watch the videos, for it is the videos that put the music in context. The videos are not a musical performance. They are theatre.

Drummond and Cauty also practised guerrilla communication, “illegal but effective use of graffiti on billboards and public buildings [in which] the original meaning of the advert would be totally subverted”. Another part of this guerrilla communication involved the alleged burning of £1 million in a hut on Jura, Scotland.

John Higgs (1971 -) writes in The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds (2013) that: A simplified description of their partnership would portray Cauty as the musician and Drummond as the strategist, but this view doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. All of the products of their partnership, whether musical or otherwise, came out of mutual agreement. Cauty is just as capable of burning stuff as Drummond…. Cauty is practical and above all curious, quick to get his hands dirty, experiment and see what happens. He is a catalyst.

My own personal interest in the KLF, apart from their theatrical performance, is their instrumentation. The instruments that appear on stage (or in videos) are not necessarily the instruments that are used to produce the music, they are props.

Early KLF music was performed using an Apple II computer equipped with a Greengate DS3 sampler peripheral card, and a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Later, an Akai S900 sampler and Atari ST computers were used.

Singles in 1990–1992 were mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent (1965 – ) using a Solid State Logic (SSL) automated mixing desk. SSL is referenced in the subtitle of 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.).

Later, an Oberheim OB-8 analogue synthesiser was used. Drummond sometimes plays a Gibson ES-330 semi-acoustic guitar, and Cauty plays an uspecified electric guitar. A Roland TB-303 bassline and Roland TR-909 drum machine are also used.

Some of the musicians involved on the four highlighted tracks.

What Time is Love Backing Vocals [“Mu Mu’s”] Katie Kisson, P.P. Arnold; [“Ooohs”] Cressida, Lindz. E. Love; Keyboards [303 Acid Factor] Major Malfunktion; [808’s & 909’s] Manda Beatmaster; Mixed by Stent; Performer [Breaks] Lenny Dee, Tony Thorpe; Rap Isaac Bello; Vocals [“I Wanna See You Sweat”] Wanda Dee; Written by Drummond, I. Bello, Cauty, L. McFarland.

3 A.M. Eternal (Live At The S.S.L.) Backing Vocals: Ian Richardson, Micky Wilson; [“Are You Ready?”], [“Here We Go”] Ashanti; [“KLF Aha Aha”] P.P. Arnold; Clarinet: Duy Khiem; Keyboards, Backing Vocals: Nick Coler; Mixed by Stent; Performer [Breaks] Tony Thorpe; Rap Ricardo; Vocals Maxine Harvey; Written by Drummond, Cauty, R. Lyte.

Last Train To Trancentral (Live From The Lost Continent) Backing Vocals [“All Aboard, All Aboard”] Black Steel; [“Come On Boy D’ya Wanna Ride?”] Wanda Dee; [“KLF” & “Mu Mu”] P.P. Arnold; [“Lie Down On The Floor & Keep Calm”] John Dillinger; [“Woo Woo”] Emma Burnham; [Wild Yelps] Cressida; Keyboards Nick Coler; Mixed by Stent; Performer [Breaks] – Tony Thorpe; Rap [“This Is What KLF Is About…” & “Back To The Heavyweight Jam”] Ricardo; Written by Drummond, Cauty, L. McFarland, R. Lyte.

Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs): Backing Vocals [Lead Chorus Vocals] – Maxine Harvey; Lead Vocals – Tammy Wynette; Mixed by Stent; Pedal Steel Guitar – Rusty Pence; Written by Drummond, Cauty.

Grey

One major criticism that can be levelled against many musicians today, is that they fail to clothe themselves with a consistent perspective/ world view. Rather, they jump back and forth without any apparent reason or explanation. Each track/ song is a universe unto itself. Listeners are expected, somehow, to migrate from song to song, which is more correctly a passage from world to world. Since the music of the KLF is encapsulated in its own world, there is an understandable transition between tracks. Beyond this, the music is concerned with ceremonies and journeys, which can be seen particularly well, with respect to a hero.

Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987) deconstructs the monomyth in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949): A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons [= timely benefits] on his fellow man.

Black

The blackness of the KLF is the chaos that envelops it. This chaos was documented by Andrew Harrison (1960s – ). Return of the KLF: ‘They were agents of chaos. Now the world they anticipated is here’ (2017-04-27). It was published, just as the inexplicable happened. The music of the KLF, possibly the Kopyright Liberation Front, was re-released.

Long before there was the KLF, even before The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the origins of this blackness can be found in Principia Discordia (1963), written by Malaclypse the Younger = Gregory Hill (1941 – 2000) and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst = Kerry Wendell Thornley (1938 – 1998). They invented Discordianism, variously referred to as a religion/ philosophy/ paradigm centered on Eris, a goddess of chaos.

Discordianism accepts that order and disorder are illusions, a product of the human nervous system that imposes itself on the universe. Neither order nor disorder is more real than the other. Many feel that Discordianism should be regarded as a parody of religion.

The role of the KLF was to operationalize discordianism. Operationalizing transforms a fuzzy concept into something understandable. It exemplifies the concept, and by doing so extends it into something real and, potentially, measurable.

The Black Room was also the name of a never-completed album intended to follow The White Room. First, it was to be hardcore-techno, then electro-metal, before a thrash-metal collaboration with Extreme Noise Terror emerged, then faded.

Blink

According to Stuart Semple (1980 – ), Blink is the darkest black, even darker than Vantablack. This is neither the time nor place to discuss the cultural nastiness that has emerged with these claims about blackness, but there is an article that attempts to explain them.

In the KLF universe, the equivalent of Blink is the video, Who Killed The KLF? (2021), made by Chris Atkins (1976 – ), who also provided insights into it in a Guardian article, Prison, lawsuits and a glovebox of fake cash: the film the KLF didn’t want you to see (2022-04-08). As many expected, £1 million burned in that hut on Jura, was all fake. In fact, almost everything about the KLF was fake.

Orange update 2022-12-22

Somehow, some five years before writing this update, Build a Fire was uploaded onto YouTube by A.M.V. @ MaxiMadridVideos. I managed to hear it for the first time, two days before writing this update.

Build a Fire constitutes a fifth track from the White Room album that can be classified as important, a euphemism referring to a musical track accompanied by a video. Build a Fire appears as track 7 on the unreleased Tunes from the White Room (TftWR, 1989) and the 1991 released North American album (WRNA). It is track 6 on the 1991 general album release (WRGR), and the 2021 Director’s Cut (WRDC).

Investigating this Spanish YouTube channel more closely, I find there is yet another KLF video that is even more difficult to describe. It is titled, No More Tears, and lasts 8m18s. Accompanying the video are two songs. Song #1 = From North Druid to Atlanta. North Druid is a mountain about 13 km north of Atlanta, Georgia. It can be found using this title, as track #6 on Come Down Dawn: Brooklyn to Mexico City 1990, Original duration: 9m50s. This work is a 2021 reissue of the studio album Chill Out (1990) released to streaming services on 2021-02-04 under their alias The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. This was the second in a series of six official compilations Samplecity thru Trancentral. Content on Chill Out/ Come Down Dawn originates from a 43-hour road trip in 1990, from the Reverend Doctor Wade’s tabernacle in Brooklyn to the Mesoamerican Pyramids near Mexico City in a 1968 Ford Galaxie, a repurposed American police car. The authenticity of this statement can be doubted, when one is presented with a Spanish, rather than North American, landscape.

On Chill Out (1990), this track is listed as track #8, 3 a.m. Somewhere Out of Beaumont. It lasts 3m36s.

Song #2 is, No More Tears, appearing as track #6 on TftWR, #9 on WRNA, #8 on WRGR, and #8 on WRDC. It does not appear on Chill Out or on Come Down Dawn.

While truthiness may not be the KLF’s strong point, the British monthly magazine, Record Collector, compared The KLF’s production method to that of established electronic musicians: “While electronic dinosaurs like Jean Michel Jarre [(1948 – ), noted for a series of works, all titled Oxygen] and Klaus Schulze [(1947-2022), member of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and The Cosmic Jokers, before starting a solo career] were walling themselves in with banks and banks of synthesizers, computers and electronic gadgetry, the KLF were doing the opposite—making a crafted work like Chill Out with the bare necessities of musical survival.”

A.M.V. describes Build a Fire as: Filmed Sierra Nevada de España. An instrumental version of the unreleased original 1989 soundtrack version of Build A Fire. Restored & Dedicated To Our Ancient Friend John Milne. Unreleased Recording.

A.M.V.’s cryptic notes for No More Tears read: Intro: North Druid Hills to Atlanta – KLF (1991) Lyricist: Bill Drummond (1991) Composer: Bill Drummond Lyricist: Jimmy Cauty Composer: Jimmy Cauty Unreleased Recording NOT FOR SALE OR RESALE Matrix/Runout: SAMP 1684 AB(SAME ON B SIDE)Provided to YouTube by Domino North Druid Hills to Atlanta · The KLF · The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu Come Down Dawn ℗ KLF Communications Matrix/runout (A-side runout): 656674-1 1 02 P1991 Matrix/runout (B-side runout): 656674-1 2 01 P1991 Producer: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu Mixer: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu Music Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Music Publisher: Warner Chappell Music Lyricist: Bill Drummond Composer: Bill Drummond Lyricist: Jimmy Cauty Composer: Jimmy Cauty #KLF#BillDrummond#JimmyCauty.

I refer to this update as orange, reflecting the burning fire in the first video, and the sunrise/ sunset content in the second video.

For now, orange could be just a temporary pause of the KLF time machine. If nothing else, the KLF are unpredictable. Graduates of third-rate art schools have one advantage over those attending more illustrious institutions, nobody expects anything of them!

Wave Gotik Treffen

Cyber-goths, attending Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig in 2009-06-01. Photo: Danny Sotzny

With World Goth Day #15 occupied by Bob Metcalfe and the Ethernet, this year’s annual post has been moved to 2023-05-27 to coincide with an even older Goth event, Wave Gotik Treffen (WGT) = Wave Gothic Meet, a music festival that started life in Potsdam in 1987, an illegal event in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) = Democratic Republic of Germany aka Ostdeutschland = East Germany.

At WGT, there are two types of goths: purists, who regard 1987 as the starting date of WGT; and resurrectionists, who prefer 1992, when the event was revived in Leipzig in 1992. It has been held in Leipzig ever since.

In my career as a prison teacher, one becomes acutely aware that outsiders, those who live outside of acceptable social norms in a thousand or more different ways, find comfort in something excessive. One of the major appeals of Goth music, and its kindred variants, such as glam metal, is its immaturity. It is an attitude reminiscent of 14-year old girls experimenting with makeup: If a little is good, a lot is better. Why not? It is an experiment. In fact, life is an experiment.

Justin Quirk states that: Glam metal kind of drags rock back to where it’s supposed to be, which is the mental and hormonal concerns of 15-year-olds. He redundantly adds that at its best, Glam metal is profoundly juvenile.

An introduction to a large number of immature musicians is found an Alexis Pedridis’ article in the Guardian about Bound for Hell: On the Sunset Strip (2022), a box set from Numero Group that documents the nascent glam metal scene.

I do not read much fiction, but the latest novel I read (finished yesterday, 2023-05-26) is Stasi Child (2016) written by David Young (1958 – ) who has his crime fiction set in the DDR, in 1974. In a Telegraph newspaper interview 2016-, Young says the inspiration for the book series came after his indie pop band The Candy Twins toured Germany in 2007 and he read Anna Funder’s (1966 – ) non-fiction book Stasiland (2003) between gigs. Some of Stasi Child is set at Prora, a former National Socialist resort, on Rügen, an island in the Baltic Sea. Another major location in the book is Brocken, a 1 143 m high mountain, in Harz National Park, in northern Germany. The mountain is the traditional home of witches.

Peter Zinovieff (1933 -2021 )

Peter Zinovieff, ca. 1969, with synthesizer equipment matching that shown in the block diagram image of an EMS, below.

This appears on what would have been the 90th birthday of Peter Zinovieff, (1933-01-26 – 2021-06-23) composer, hesitant engineer and reluctant synthesist.

There are some elements to Zinovieff’s life, that only happen because of his Russian aristocractic background. In 1960, Zinovieff married Victoria Heber-Percy (1943 – ). Her tiara was auctioned, to finance Zinovieff’s first computer. This was used to control an array of oscillators and amplifiers he had bought from an army surplus store. He claims that this was the first computer in the world in a private house. I am uncertain what benefits Heber-Percy got out of the sale of her tiara, but the marriage did not last.

Zinovieff closely followed some developments in computing related to sound generation. In particular this was happening at Bell Labs in New Jersey, where its owners had a vested interest in telephone research. There in 1957, Max Mathews (1926 – 2011) had written MUSIC, the first widely used program for sound generation. This had been further developed in the 1960s with new versions. In 1964, Jean-Claude Risset (1938 – 2016), had used MUSIC IV software to digitally recreate the sounds of brass instruments. He made digital recordings of trumpets and studied their timbral composition using pitch-synchronous spectrum analysis tools.

In 1963, David Alan Luce’s (1936 – 2017) doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology implemented a pitch-synchronous approach to analysis/resynthesis of instrumental tones. Luce  joined Moog Music in 1972, where he developed a polyphonic synthesizer, the Polymoog. Later, he became head of engineering, then president of Moog in 1981. He became a co-owner in 1984. Moog Music closed in 1987.

In 1966–67, Zinovieff, Delia Derbyshire (1937 – 2001) and Brian Hodgson (1938 – ) ran Unit Delta Plus, creating electronic music. Its studio was built by Zinovieff in a shed at his house in Putney, Greater London. Unit Delta Plus had a short life, and was disbanded in 1967.

Zinovieff worked with a medical technician with electrical engineering skills, David Cockerell (? – ) and software engineer Peter Grogono (1944 – 2021) to develop an analogue–digital (hybrid) performance controller. Grogono was tasked with developing a new musical composition and sequencing language, MUSYS, that was to be easy to use (composer friendly) and efficient, and working within the limitations of two Digital Equipment PDP8/S and PDP8/L older and newer computers, respectively, named Sofka and Leo, after Zinovieff’s two first children. The system saved output data files to disk. A musical keyboard was added for input, as an afterthought.

Block diagram showing components of original EMS synthesizer. Source: musicainformatica.org

In the mid-1960s electronic components were expensive, and the equipment being made exceeded Zinovieff’s means. Thus, it was decided to sell some machines to finance further development costs. Zinovieff, Cockerell and composer Tristram Cary (1925 – 2008) founded Electronic Music Studios (EMS). It is likely that the name was selected for this enterprise prioritizing a studio making music, while ignoring a product manufacturer making synths. EMS created a commercial, miniaturised version of its studio as a modular, affordable synthesizer for the education market. A prototype called the Voltage Controlled Studio 1 (VCS1) was designed by David Cockerell, consisting of a two oscillator instrument built into a wooden rack unit, and built for the Australian composer Don Banks (1923 – 1990) for £50, after a lengthy pub conversation.

Some of this equipment was subsequently marketed as a synthesizer system using the EMS label. It was considerably more portable than the existing Moog system. Possibly because Robert Moog recognized the limitations of his synthesizers, he offered to sell out to EMS for one million dollars. Zinovieff turned down this offer.

The EMS Synthi 100 was a large analogue/digital hybrid synthesizer series, of which 30 were produced. The first unit was orriginally a custom order from Radio Belgrade for its Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio. This order was the result of contact between composer/ saxophonist Paul Pignon (1939 – ), then living in Belgrade, and Zinovieff. The synthesiser was designed by David Cockerell who documented it in detail in 1971. The cost at that time was £ 6 500.

While EMS lasted until 1979, its key personnel soon began leaving the company. Cockerell left in 1972 to join Electro-Harmonix to design effect pedals. Cary left in 1973 to become Professor of Electronic Music at the Royal College of Music and later Professor of Music at the University of Adelade. Grogono left in 1973 but continued working on the MUSYS programming language and further developed it into the Mouse language. He became a computer science professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

The main challenge for Zinovieff was his aristocratic origins, that prevented him from doing technical work. In 2019 he commented on EMS as a business: “It’s always been a problem with me because I don’t like synthesizers. So this side of EMS was never interesting to me, it was always the studio. The basic purpose of EMS was to finance the studio, but unfortunately that’s not what happened. EMS got bigger and bigger and we made more and more products and it took up more time. And instead of making money, it started to lose it. In the end, when EMS went bankrupt, it pulled the studio down.”

Zinovieff then closed the Putney studio, which was sold to the National Theatre. The equipment was put into storage, and later destroyed in a flood.

He then moved to the remote Scottish island of Raasay between 1975 and 1983. His cottage had no mains electricity supply, so synths were powered by wind generation that charged batteries.

He then move to Cambridge where, in the 1980s, he received two commissions from Clive Sinclair (1940 – 2021) including a piano-sampling project and consultations on sound support for the Sinclair QL personal computer, launched in 1984.

Zinovieff as Composer

In 1968, Zinovieff staged the world premiere of Partita for Unattended Computer, notable for being the first ever unaccompanied performance of live computer music, with no human performer involved, with the piece read from paper tape.

Later in 1968, as part of Cybernetic Serendipity, the first UK international exhibition devoted to the relationship between the arts and new technology, Zinovieff et al created a computer system, that could analyse a tune whistled by a visitor to the show and improvise upon it.

Zinovieff collaborated with Harrison Birtwistle (1934 – 2022) on Chronometer (1971–2) with recordings of Big Ben ticking, and Wells Cathedral clock chiming. Zinovieff claimed that in this project he had invented the technique of musical sampling.

The soundtrack for Sidney Lumet’s (1924 – 2011) film The Offence (1972) was composed by Birtwistle with electronic realization by Zinovieff.

Zinovieff also wrote the words for Birtwistle’s Nenia: The Death of Orpheus (1970) for soprano, 3 bass clarinets, crotales and piano. Here the electronic realization was by Barry Anderson (1935 – 1987). Zinovieff wrote the libretto for Birtwistle’s opera The Mask of Orpheus (1973-84).

He also worked with Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) producing a tape in Tristan’s Folly in Tristan (1975).

Through an association with Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza (1964 – ), Zinovieff was able to create an audio work for a large-scale installation, The Morning Line by Matthew Ritchie (1964 – ), Bridges from Somewhere and Another to Somewhere Else (2011). Good Morning Ludwig (2012) followed.

Following these projects, Zinovieff’s compositions typically combined sounds from live instrumentation and field recordings and multi-channel performances.

He collaborated with Kazakhstani violinist Aisha Orazbayeva (1985 – ), composing two concertos for violin and electronics: OUR (2010) and Our Too (2014).

From 2011 he collaborated with Scottish poet, historian and broadcaster Katrina Porteous (1960 – ) to combine her poetry with soundscapes created by Zinovieff using sound sources related to physics and astronomy. This resulted in Horse (2011), then with the Planetarium at the Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edge (2013), Field (2015) and Sun (2016). Live visuals for these last works were created by planetarium supervisor Christopher Hudson.

A retrospective compilation of Zinovieff’s work in the EMS era was compiled by English musician Pete Kember/ Sonic Boom (1965 – ) and released in 2015.

Zinovieff collaborated with cellist Lucy Railton (? – ) on RFG (2016). An album version was released as RFG Inventions for Cello and Computer (2020).

Between the years 2013–2017, Zinovieff composed South Pacific Migration Party, based on from hydrophone recordings of blue whales recorded by British oceanographer Susannah Buchan off the coast of Chile. In was released on the record label The Association for Depth Sound Recordings in 2021.

Zinovieff’s final work was, Under The Ice (2021), a 30-minute piece based on recordings of Antarctic glaciers.

A Lifetime of Music

This post lists core sonic moments that are permanently branded/ etched into my brain about music that I have listened to. These are organized by the decade they became influential. Since it is based on memory, rather than written notes, there is no guarantee that this map corresponds to the terrain.

1950s

Tom Glazer (1914 – 2003): Building a City (1948)

This is the first song that I remember. It appeared on a 78 rpm record, that was played on a child’s record player in the 1950s. I am not sure exactly when. I had to listen to a YouTube presentation of it, to be sure it was the same song. Surprisingly, I reacted to the mention of an architect and a banker on the first version I heard. I then found out that these were added later. The original version is what I remember from my childhood.

Maria Straub (1838 – 1898), lyrics & Solomon Straub (1842 – 1899), composition: God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall (1874). Of the hymns I experienced at Sixth Avenue United Church in New Westminster, this is the one that had the greatest impact on me as a child. The starting point for this hymn is Matthew 10:29, which the Open English Bible (OEB) translates as: “Are not two sparrows sold for a one copper coin? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. [30] While as for you, even the hairs of your head are numbered.” These two verses are disturbing, because God’s role is portrayed as that of an accountant.

1960s

At some point in the early 1960s, our household acquired a stereo record player which occupied a secluded place near the shuffleboard in the basement rec room. The record player could play LPs at 33 rpm, and singles at 45 rpm. It could not play 78s. I found its location to be a place of refuge.

The Highwaymen, a group of musicians with origins at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, whose album of the same name, was the first LP I remember owning. This was world famous for Michael [, Row the Boat Ashore]. They also made the first recording of Universal Soldier in 1963, on their March on Brothers album. It was written by Buffy Saint Marie. Part of my interest in this group came decades later, and relates to one of its founders, Dave Fisher (1940 – 2010), who graduated as an ethnomusicologist.

I also remember my father buying assorted LPs with traditional Scottish music, that I also listened to, sometimes even enthusiastically.

Surfing music, as performed by The Beach Boys and others. Unfortunately: Jan and Dean, were part of this repertoire until they recorded/ released Universal Coward in 1965; Dick Dale (1926 – 2014) and Misirlou, was not part of it, until much later in the 2010s.

The Animals, House of the Rising Sun (1964). I remember listening it for the first time sitting in the back of a Ford Econoline van, being transported to Hollyburn mountain to spend a weekend at a cabin with other scouts.

Other songs by English groups I remember well: The Zombies, She’s Not There (1964); The Yardbirds, For Your Love (1965); Herman’s Hermits, Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter (1965); The Troggs, Wild Thing (1966).

Listening to The Beatles, Paperback Writer (1966) for the first time, moments before hearing about the deaths of two fellow students.

After this event, my musical interests changed, becoming decisively more American. I remember listening to: Country Joe [McDonald] and the Fish; Jefferson Airplane; Janis Joplin; Quicksilver Messenger Service. These were all living in the Bay Area of California. The Byrds, living in Los Angeles, added Turn, Turn, Turn (1965).

Another important event occurred 1967-12-26 to 1968-01-01, when I attended the Cleveland Week of Process, as a representative of the Canadian Student Christian Movement, at this American University Christian Movement event. This, along with the political assassinations of John Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Martin Luther King, Jr (1929 – 1968) and others, ignited an interest in protest songs, especially as recorded by Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014), a Unitarian, Joan Baez (1941 – ) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941 – ). It would take some years until I found kindred spirits like Joe Hill (1879 – 1915).

Soon after, I became a Unitarian, and became interested in the music of Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945) and Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907).

Not all musical choices are rational, including an enjoyment of Desmond Dekker (1941 – 2006) & The Aces, Israelites (1968).

1970s

In about 1970, I remember meeting a girl I had sat beside in the alto horn section of the New Westminster Junior Concert Band, some years earlier in the 1960s. We ended up drinking coffee at a cafe. She put a song on the jukebox, Play with Fire (1965), by the Rolling Stones, and asked me to listen very carefully to the lyrics. Over fifty years later, I am still trying to interpret her message. I have not seen her since.

Whenever, I think of the band, I also think of a trip to Ellensburg, Washington and a stopover in Seattle at the Green Onion cafe, which invariably brings to mind Booker T[aliafero Jones, (1944 – )] and the M.G.s, with their hit Green Onions (1962). Their Stax sound, named after their recording label, is noted for the interaction/ reverberation of the recording studio, the former Capitol Theater, in Memphis, Tennessee, with the musicians, to produce a deep bass and raw mid-range.

This was very different from the controlled sound produced by Roxy Music. Starting in 1972, all of their albums were purchased as LPs. At this point, I took an interest in art school musicians, where stagecraft/ theatre/ melodrama took precedence over any musical content.

Starting in the mid-1970s, I attempted to broadening my musical horizons with jazz. Influences included Django Reinhardt (1910 – 1953), Dizzy Gillespie (1917 – 1993), Miles Davis (1926 – 1991), Herbie Hancock (1940 – ) and Chic Corea (1941 – 1921). This, in part, was because many of the local Baha’is had an interest in jazz.

At about the same time musical tastes were being influenced by film. Notable examples include: Michelangelo Antonioni’s (1912 – 2007) Blowup (1966); the musical content of Putney Swope (1969); Issac Hayes (1942 – 2008) and his theme from Shaft (1971),

In 1978 I married Trish, who was an accomplished musician, singing as well as playing the piano and acoustic guitar. In 1979 we travelled to Europe together, taking with us recorders for entertainment. We returned to Vancouver in 1980-03, but departed permanently to Norway in 1980-08. All of our LPs was disposed of in 1980, prior to moving to Norway.

1980s & 1990s

From 1981, various classical music cassettes were purchased. In 1986, we purchased a used CD player. It allowed one to specify and play the first ten tracks. If one wanted to listen to, say, the twelfth track, one would have to specify track 10, then wait until the intervening tracks (10 & 11) were played. After this purchase, much of my musical listening involved CDs. Especially after 1987, Naxos CDs of classical music, were purchased at the rate of one per month. One important work was: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958): Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910). Works by modern British composers were listened to extensively.

1990s and 2000s

Continued investment in Naxos CDs, of classical music, but at a reduced frequency. The last CD was purchased in 2006. One important work from this time period was: Henryk Górecki (1933-2010): Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976). This was first heard in a documentary about a Ford rubber plantation in South America.

From about 2002, work started on digitizing CD content.

Works introduced to me by students included: Smells like Teen Spirit (1991) by Nirvana; Learning to Fly (1991) by Tom Petty (1950 – 2017) and the Heartbreakers; Zombie (1994) by the Cranberries; Tonight, Tonight (1995) by the Smashing Pumpkins, from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. In addition come assorted Finnish symphonic metal bands, such as Nightwish, and a somewhat more diverse list of Norwegian bands, of which the most interesting is Madrugada. In response, I introduced many of them to Mr Oizo = Quentin Dupieux (1974 – ), and Flat Beat (1999), featuring Flat Eric. For those interested, there is also a Flat Beat synth tutorial.

Work at Verdal prison brought me into closer contact with Goth, industrial and related music. In addition, there was considerable interest among inmates, both male and female, in various forms of metal and rock.

2010s

Second Flight (2011) by Approaching Nirvana, heard originally as background music on a long forgotten technical video.

My daughter, Shelagh, introduced me to the Lipdub concept in general, and a University of British Columbia lipdub production, soon after it was made in 2011. After failing to encourage students to produce a lipdub to promote their senior secondary school in Leksvik, by showing them several, including a favourite, Lipdub per la independeència de Catalunya (2010), I attempted to encourage them with something less ambitious, and with fewer people, by using Hideaway (2014) by Canadian Kiesza, born Kiesa Rae Ellestad (1989 – ) in Calgary, but of Norwegian ancestry, as inspiration.

2020s

Original works and covers by The Iron Cross, a Romanian band, including Fear of the Dark (2020).

YouTube provides a number of synth focused channels such as All My Friends Are Synths, the creative exploits of a slightly deranged Scotsman, Stephen Blythe, and Are Sound Electrik? with shockelectrik audio.

Lebanon-Hanover is more difficult to place musically. Larissa Georgiou = Larissa Iceglass (1988-08-24 – ) and William Morris = William Maybelline (1986-03-15 – ) a dark wave duo, founded in 2010 with roots in Switzerland, Berlin and Newcastle/ Sunderland.

Note: The writing of this weblog post was initially begun on 2021-03-27. It was again edited for publication on 2022-11-09, with additional materials added 2023-01-08.

Behringer

The Behringer Odessy synthesizer. Photo: Behringer.

When this weblog post was being planned, it was hard to decide if the focus should be on Swiss engineer Uli Behringer (1961 – ), or on the audio equipment company he founded. Currently the company is privately owned by his holding company, based in the Philippines, but with production facilities in Zhongshan, China. It will be both.

Did Uli Behringer have any options in life apart from becoming the founder of an audio electronics company? Much of his family were professional musicians. He started to learn piano at age four. At age five he assisted his father to built an organ with over 1000 pipes and integrated them into the family house. At age sixteen, he built his first synthesizer, the UB1.

Behringer, the company, was started in Germany in 1989. By 1990, it had moved to China, with products being made by subcontractors to reduce production costs. In 1997, Behringer himself moved to Hong Kong, in an effort to improve product quality. In 2002, the company completed a 110 000 m2 manufacturing complex in Zhongshan. Here, ten separate production locations form a vertically integrated, eight-building facility where 2.5 million products, including assorted electronic units, speakers, guitars and digital pianos are produced annually.

Synthesizers have been produced by Behringer since 2016. In Norway, there are 18 distinct Behringer desktop synthesizer models available, some with keyboards, some without. These are analogue instruments, meaning that they will produce sound through a headphone or speaker, without the use of additional equipment. Many of these are clones of earlier synthesizer products, whose intellectual properties (such as patents) have expired. There are also 63 different Eurorack components available.

A Behringer Deepmind 12, all the synth anyone could possibly want. Photo: Behringer.

The first synths produced were a twelve voice Deepmind 12, a six voice Deepmind 6 that effectively imitate a Roland Juno-106. The Deepmind 12D is a simpler desktop version. In 2022, these cost about NOK 7 800, 5 500 and 6 850, respectively. While these models offer relatively good value for money, they are expensive as a first synthesizer, where a user will want to experiment in order to find something that suits her/his soul. Others disagree.

The next synth, the Neutron, provides a 56 point mini-jack patch bay. This is ideal for enthusiasts addicted to patch cables. For others, the appeal of the Neutron is its low price, currently NOK 3 355, and the fact that it is equipped with a clone of the synth on a chip technology used in the Curtis CEM3396 integrated circuit (IC). This IC was responsible for the main voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) used in many synths from the 1970s and 1980s including: the Oberheim OB-Xa, OB-Sx & OB-8; the Voyetra 8; the Roland SH-101, MC-202, Jupiter-6, and early model MKS-80; the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 Rev 3, Prophet-10, Prophet-600, Pro-One, and Prophet T8; Moog Memorymoog; Banana Polysynth; Crumar Spirit; Digisound 80 VCO modules; the Synton Syrinx; Steiner Parker EVI; and, Doepfer A-111-1 High End VCO. This allows the Neutron to recreate the sound of many of these former synths. Here is a video that shows the operational characteristics of the Behringer Neutron.

A Behringer Wasp Deluxe analogue synthesizer, launched in 2019. Photo: Behringer.

Electronic Dream Plant (EDP), an Oxfordshire, England based synth manufacturer, was started in 1977 by Adrian Wagner, a synthesist, and Chris Huggett (1949 – 2020), an electronics engineer. Huggett designed the Wasp, and EDP started selling it in 1978. In 2019, Behringer made a clone of the original Wasp, the Wasp Deluxe. The Wasp will appeal to those wanting to avoid patch cables. Once again, it includes a clone of the Curtis CEM3396 IC. It is also ideal as a starter synth. Here is a video that shows the operational characteristics of the Behringer Wasp Deluxe. When it first came out, the its price was NOK 3 400. Now it is a little over NOK 2 300.

A Behringer MS-1 analogue synthesizer. Photo: Behringer.

In most situations an open-source software/ app synth on a computer is a suitable substitute for an analogue synth, saving space and money. The challenge is the lack of a musical keyboard for input. On 2022-04-01, I took home a Behringer MS-1 RD in red, as my first analogue synth, their cheapest keyboard synth with 32 semi-weighted, full size keys. It cost NOK 3 600. Another characteristic of this synth, was that it was one of only two MS-1 synths available anywhere in Norway, the only other one was a MS-1 BU in blue, not my favourite colour. The purported reason for this was, once again, a chip shortage.

The other synth under consideration was a Behringer Odyssey, previously mentioned. It increases the number of keys to 37, is duophonic, but occupies considerably more desk real estate. It also costs almost NOK 5 000. While marginally more capable than a MS-1, the Odyssey would not be a stopping point, should my skills develop sufficiently.

At some point in the future, I might be tempted to supplement/ replace the MS-1 with a polyphonic synth with more keys and aftertouch = the ability of a keyboard to change tone (or other sound qualities) in response to velocity, pressure or other playing variations. The Behringer Deepmind 12, previously mentioned, offers more synth at a cheaper price than most other polyphonic analogue synths available. However, the design is dated and it is not on any future shopping list. The main reason is a three letter word, fan = a device that moves air, usually for cooling purposes. It also produces unwanted noise.

My current conclusion is that I have bought my first (and last) Behringer synth. However, they offer good value for money for any individual wanting to buy a first synth.