ODDITIES

Electronic Music Oddities from the National Music Centre Collection

By National Music Centre

By National Music Centre

These instruments are the experiments, the prototypes and inventions. They were made by innovators tinkering in their home garage or, occasionally, research laboratories.

EMS VCS3 Production Prototype synthesizer (1969) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

Quirky, bizarre, delicate and unique, they represent both successful and less successful explorations in electronic music.

Delta Music Research Modular synthesizer (1980) by Delta Music Research LimitedNational Music Centre

When they emerged in the mid-20th century technology was changing fast. Improvements to solid state technology made the marriage of electronics and the musical world inevitable.

They are rare, often one-off ODDITIES that hold an important place in the evolution of electronic instrument design and music.

The National Music Centre presents a selection of ODDITIES from its electronic musical instrument collection.

Delta Music Research Modular

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Delta Music Research Modular synthesizer (circa 1980) by Delta Music Research LimitedNational Music Centre

Delta Music Research Modular synthesizer (1980) by Delta Music Research LimitedNational Music Centre

The Delta Music Research Modular computer-based polyphonic synthesizer was manufactured by Delta Music Research Limited (DMR), which was founded by the late Calgary composer Tim J. Lawrence.  Learn More Here

Delta Music Research Modular synthesizer (1980) by Delta Music Research LimitedNational Music Centre

Though not a commercial success, unlike earlier monophonic systems the Model 1100’s keyboard was polyphonic, meaning that multiple notes could be played together, giving users more freedom to explore creatively.  Learn More Here

Chris Swansen Moog

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Chris Swansen Moog synthesizer (1969) by Moog Music, Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

Chris Swansen Moog synthesizer (1969) by Moog Music, Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

New York’s Museum of Modern Art commissioned the Moog company to configure this "Chris Swansen" Moog for a historic performance of electronic music held at MOMA in 1969. One of only four such units produced, it was used at the concert by a quartet led by jazz composer Swansen.  Learn More Here

Chris Swansen Moog synthesizer (1969) by Moog Music, Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

This particular instrument was never used again—though another of the 1CA units was sold to Keith Emerson, who featured the synth on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song “Lucky Man.”  Learn More Here

McLeyvier Amadeus

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McLeyvier Amadeus synthesizer (computer music system) (1981) by David McLeyNational Music Centre

McLeyvier Amadeus synthesizer (computer music system) (1981) by David McLeyNational Music Centre

The "McLeyvier" helped pave the way for the evolution of computerized music in contemporary culture. It is a computer-controlled analog synthesizer designed for composing, sequencing, performing, editing and notating music.  Learn More Here

McLeyvier Amadeus synthesizer (computer music system) (1981) by David McLeyNational Music Centre

Though innovative at the time, it coincided with the rise of digital synthesis—a factor that made this analog machine fade into obscurity. Its inventor, David McLey, was an American-born musician and instrument designer who spent the latter part of his life in Toronto.  Learn More Here

Buchla 100

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Buchla 100 synthesizer (1968) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

Buchla 100 synthesizer (1968) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

The Berkeley-based engineer Donald Buchla designed the Buchla 100, an analog, modular synthesizer, at the request of pioneering composers Morton Subotnick and Ramòn Sender, who were looking for a new electronic instrument that could be used in live performances.  Learn More Here

Buchla 100 synthesizer (1968) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

A pioneer in electronic music technology, Buchla is credited with several notable innovations and in 2002 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SEAMUS (The Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States).  Learn More Here

Buchla 400

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Buchla 400 synthesizer (1982) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

Buchla 400 synthesizer (1982) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

The Buchla 400 belongs to an era of synthesizers that incorporated microprocessor-based integrated circuits. More reliable and less expensive to manufacture, they were, to varying extents, also programmable, meaning various parameters could be stored within the instrument’s internal memory or on an external device.  Learn More Here

Buchla 400 synthesizer (1982) by Buchla & AssociatesNational Music Centre

Though not a commercial success, the 400 stands among the most sophisticated digital-analog hybrid synthesizers of the time. The various input and output jacks located on its front panel can also be connected to modules from the 100 and 200 Series to expand its capabilities.  Learn More Here

EMS Synthi 100

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EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer (1972) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer (1972) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

If you’ve ever watched ’70s-era Doctor Who or tuned into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio, you’ve probably heard the Synthi 100. Designed by hardware engineer David Cockerell, this instrument helped define the sound of ’70s sci-fi.  Learn More Here

EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer (1972) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

Produced by London’s Electronic Music Studios, the EMS company was to the European synthesizer market what Moog and ARP were to the American market. This particular unit came from the Soviet Union’s Radio Melodiya, and was famously featured in the score to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker.  Learn More Here

E-mu Audity

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E-mu Audity synthesizer (1979) by E-mu Systems Inc.National Music Centre

E-mu Audity synthesizer (1979) by E-mu Systems Inc.National Music Centre

Designed for composition, orchestration, and live performance, the E-mu Audity was one of the first of its kind to include digital control of its analog sound producing and modifying components.  Learn More Here

E-mu Audity synthesizer (1979) by E-mu Systems Inc.National Music Centre

Originally created for the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, the Audity never went into production due to its size and lack of funding. It remains to this day a one-of-a-kind prototype.  Learn More Here

E-mu 2000 synthesizer (1973) by E-mu Systems, Inc.National Music Centre

E-mu 2000 synthesizer (1973) by E-mu Systems, Inc.National Music Centre

The E-mu 2000 follows the conventions of modular synthesis, with connections being made between modules via physical patch cables, but is unique in that it allows the user to set patches on the back of each module to save certain special sounds or frequently used patches - a feature particularly useful for live performance.  Learn More Here

E-mu 2000 synthesizer (1973) by E-mu Systems, Inc.National Music Centre

Notable composer, producer, and professional sound designer Patrick Gleeson purchased this customized system in early 1973, citing the importance of the instrument’s polyphonic digital scanning keyboard in his performance approach.  Learn More Here

EMS VCS3 Production Prototype

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EMS VCS3 Production Prototype synthesizer (1969) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

EMS VCS3 Production Prototype synthesizer (1969) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

In the 1970s, European rock rippled with the sounds of the VCS3. Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd are among a long list of progressive artists who put it to work.  Learn More Here

EMS VCS3 Production Prototype synthesizer (1969) by Electronic Music Studios (London) LimitedNational Music Centre

Instead of using the physical cables employed by most other manufacturers, the VCS3 uses a unique circular patching matrix with corresponding resistor pins.  Learn More Here

Hammond Novachord

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Hammond Novachord synthesizer (1939) by Hammond Organ CompanyNational Music Centre

Hammond Novachord synthesizer (1939) by Hammond Organ CompanyNational Music Centre

Decades ahead of its time, the Hammond Novachord is considered the very first analog, fully polyphonic synthesizer. It was designed in 1938 by Americans Laurens Hammond, John Hanert, and C.N. Williams.  Learn More Here

Hammond Novachord synthesizer (1939) by Hammond Organ CompanyNational Music Centre

Briefly used for film soundtracks—most notably Gone With the Wind—the Novachord’s complexity limited its appeal. Nevertheless, it became one of the world’s most sought-after electronic instruments and was a favourite of legendary musician/producer Brian Eno during his visit to NMC for a residency in 2011. Learn More Here

Mellotron MK II

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Mellotron MK II sample playback (tape replay) (1964) by Bradmatic/MellotronicsNational Music Centre

Mellotron MK II sample playback (tape replay) (1964) by Bradmatic/MellotronicsNational Music Centre

The Mellotron MK II was the second version of the Mellotron, an iconic analog sampling instrument immortalized in The Beatles hit "Strawberry Fields Forever."  Learn More Here  

Mellotron MK II sample playback (tape replay) (1964) by Bradmatic/MellotronicsNational Music Centre

As with the first model, pressing a key on the MKII keyboard triggered playback of a sound sample on a reel of magnetic tape, which might be strings, brass or flute, among others; however, the Mark II was more portable and used extensively in live contexts, allowing bands to employ a single person to produce a multitude of different sounds. Learn More Here

Patrick Moraz Double Minimoog

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Patrick Moraz Double Minimoog synthesizer (1973) by Moog Music, Inc (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

Patrick Moraz Double Minimoog synthesizer (1973) by Moog Music, Inc (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

This particular "Patrick Moraz Double Minimoog" model was custom-built for former Yes and The Moody Blues keyboardist Patrick Moraz.  Learn More Here

Patrick Moraz Double Minimoog synthesizer (1973) by Moog Music, Inc (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.)National Music Centre

Released in 1970, the Minimoog was the first truly portable and integrated analog synthesizer, and it revolutionized popular music by moving the synth from high-profile studios into the public sphere. It was used rampantly throughout the 1970s and 1980s, especially in the genres of progressive rock, disco and jazz. Learn More Here

RCA theremin

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RCA theremin (1929) by Radio-Victor Corporation of America (RCA)National Music Centre

RCA theremin (1929) by Radio-Victor Corporation of America (RCA)National Music Centre

In electronic music, the theremin stands alone. It remains the first and only instrument of its kind that can be played without any physical contact from the performer. Instead, it is played by hovering one's hands over radio antennae.  Learn More Here

RCA theremin (1929) by Radio-Victor Corporation of America (RCA)National Music Centre

Its eerie sounds were used in the 1930s by symphony orchestras, and by the 1970s it had found a place in popular music—showing up on songs by Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. Invented by Russian physicist Leon Theremin, this theremin was manufactured by RCA as part of a pilot run of approximately 500 units in 1929. Learn More Here  

Raymond Scott Clavivox

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Raymond Scott Clavivox synthesizer (1957) by Raymond Scott Enterprises/Manhattan ResearchNational Music Centre

Raymond Scott Clavivox synthesizer (1957) by Raymond Scott Enterprises/Manhattan ResearchNational Music Centre

The Raymond Scott Clavivox is, effectively, a keyboard-controlled theremin. It uses the same electronic sound-generating mechanism, but replaces the theremin's antennae with a chromatic keyboard. For musicians already trained in piano it provided a much more intuitive approach.  Learn More Here

Raymond Scott Clavivox synthesizer (1957) by Raymond Scott Enterprises/Manhattan ResearchNational Music Centre

Designed in the early 1950s by inventor and composer Raymond Scott—known for his compositions for Warner Bros. cartoons such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig—it’s an incredibly rare artifact. So rare, in fact, that NMC’s Clavivox is believed to be the only one in existence.  Learn More Here

Wurlitzer SideMan

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Wurlitzer SideMan drum machine (electromechanical) (circa 1959) by The Wurlitzer CompanyNational Music Centre

Wurlitzer SideMan drum machine (electromechanical) (1959) by The Wurlitzer CompanyNational Music Centre

The first drum machine available on the commercial market, the Wurlitzer SideMan was made to provide percussive accompaniment to an organist or pianist. The name even references the old term for studio musicians, brought in to deliver a particular musical specialty during a recording session.  Learn More Here 

Wurlitzer SideMan drum machine (electromechanical) (1959) by The Wurlitzer CompanyNational Music Centre

An analog, tube-based, electro-mechanical instrument, it produced its sound entirely via electronic means rather than pre-recorded samples. With twelve possible rhythmic patterns, each preset corresponds to a popular dance step of the era, from the waltz to the fox trot.  Learn More Here

Roger Luther Moog

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Roger Luther Moog synthesizer (1973) by R.A. Moog Inc./Moog Music Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.) and customized by Roger LutherNational Music Centre

Roger Luther Moog synthesizer (1973) by R.A. Moog Inc./Moog Music Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.) and customized by Roger LutherNational Music Centre

Like this Roger Luther Moog, Moog systems incorporated various modules for sound production, manipulation, and amplification within a single cabinet—allowing for uninhibited methods of experimentation and control. This innovation set a standard followed and expanded on by every other manufacturer in the 70s and 80s—with several Moog modules becoming essential components of synth design.  Learn More Here

Roger Luther Moog synthesizer (1973) by R.A. Moog Inc./Moog Music Inc. (division of Norlin Music Instruments, Ltd.) and customized by Roger LutherNational Music Centre

This unit was customized by former Moog employee, Roger Luther, who joined the company as a technician in 1972 and served as the company’s General Manager until 1993.  Learn More Here

ARP 2500 synthesizer (1976) by ARP Instruments, Inc.National Music Centre

ARP 2500 synthesizer (1976) by ARP Instruments, Inc.National Music Centre

In the 1977 sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, five electronic-sounding notes allow humanity to communicate with aliens. The source of those notes likely came from the ARP 2500—a modular, analog synthesizer.  Learn More Here

ARP 2500 synthesizer (1976) by ARP Instruments, Inc.National Music Centre

Designed by former NASA engineer Alan R. Pearlman, the instrument’s most significant innovation is its matrix of patchable sliders. The sliders stand in stark contrast to the loose patch cables found on other systems of the time. The company’s first instrument was not a commercial success however—only selling about 100 units.  Learn More Here

ondes Martenot

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ondes Martenot synthesizer (1975) by Maurice Louis Eugene MartenotNational Music Centre

ondes Martenot synthesizer (1975) by Maurice Louis Eugene MartenotNational Music Centre

Kissing cousin to the more famous theremin, the ondes Martenot was immensely popular upon its release in 1928. Far easier to play than the theremin, but producing a very similar sound, it was immediately incorporated into the Western art music of the time by composers such as Olivier Messiaen and Edgar Varèse.  Learn More Here

ondes Martenot synthesizer (1975) by Maurice Louis Eugene MartenotNational Music Centre

More recently, it’s been used by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who has featured the instrument on each of the group’s albums since 2000’s Kid A.  Learn More Here

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