Getting started with the Buchla 206e — first things first: create a “vanilla” or “plain” preset.
Synth design mad scientist Don Buchla is back, and this re-issue of his Music Easel is a virtually identical copy of the original from the mid-’70s. Esoteric synth expert Gino Robair goes hands-on.
Summary Description / December, 1973
The Music Easel is a highly evolved electronic musical instrument. It maintains many of the design philosophies and functional characteristics of its predecessors, the 100 series Modular Electronic Music System and the 200 series Electric Music Box. The Music Easel introduces some substantial innovations in electronic instrument design – innovations that make it a truly expressive real-time instrument for composition and performance.
The Music Easel contains many of the elements commonly used to generate and process sound: a keyboard, sequencer, pulser, preamplifier, envelope detector and balanced modulator; oscillators, gates, envelope generators and filters; facilities for mixing, monitoring and reverberating. Many of these elements possess an unusual degree of sophistication. The keyboard is solid state, with touch sensitive, chromatically organized keys, accurate and reproducible pressure output, tactile feedback, octave shifting, and voltage controlled portamento. A complex oscillator, developed through computer aided simulation studies, is a rich source of complex audio spectra. featuring voltage control of pitch, timbre and waveform, this oscillator provides the Music Easel with a timbral range unapproached by other musical instruments.
The connectives are as important as the elements to be connected. Interconnection within the Music Easel is accomplished with a combination of switching and patching, a system which is flexible, expedient, and open ended. Logical, compact organization and color coded graphic feedback facilitate rapid and effective interaction. Multiple correlations between a performer’s actions and the Music Easel’s responses are readily implemented, enabling a degree of expressive articulation heretofore impossible with electronic instrumentation.
Further augmenting the Music Easel’s real time performability is the capability of permanently storing and immediately retrieving complete instrument definitions (patches) or portions thereof. (An “instrument definition” includes settings of parameters, degrees of articulation, switch positions and interconnections.) Storage entails the installment of resistors on program cards; retrieval is accomplished by plugging in a desired program card and activating a switch.
With its extended timbral resources, unusual expressive capability, and its facility for storage and recall of instrument definitions, the Music Easel opens new horizons to the composer and performer. To appreciate its potential as a new musical instrument the Music Easel must be seen, heard and played.
Music Easels are provided with six blank program cards, an assortment of programming resistors, and a comprehensive instruction manual. Available accessories include additional program cards and resistors and a 12 volt battery pack. Complete with case and charger, this battery pack will power a Music Easel for approximately three hours per charge.
Electrical requirements are 30 watts at 110 volts A.C. or 2 amperes at 12 volts D.C. Preamp input impedance is 1 megaohm; gain is 30 dB. Nominal program output level is 1 volt R.M.S., sufficient to drive tape recorders or power amplifiers. A separate 2 watt monitor output will drive headsets or low level speakers.
Housed in a rugged aluminum case, the Music Easel is built to travel. Weight is 30 pounds; dimensions are 6″ x 17″ x 22″ (carry on baggage for jetliners).
Background info from Todd Barton:
This is a serendipitous sketch that arose from preparing for an upcoming live concert with my friend, composer and video artist Robert Coburn. I did a free improv by looping my small Buchla system and Robert created a video sketch — the music and video crossed in the email and I merely laid in the music to his video. You can hear a higher resolution of the music here: soundcloud.com/user7621213/buchlidian-interstitial-space
and more on the concert SoundImageSound here:
Exploring the buchla 100 video 2.
see http://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/2013/01/exploring.html for more info
Here are a few patches on the Buchla 100. They are mostly based on the semi-random patch from the original user manual which involves using the random voltage source to control the sequencer speed and also the touch plates to add some expression. I didn’t realise how important the 191 sharp cutoff filter is in the system 100 sound, which you can hear most prominently in example 5. I am still waiting for the spring reverb tanks to arrive from Atlanta, so for now I am using a combination of several early digital reverb units (Yamaha Rev7, ART DR1, MXR DR01) blended together
Background video description:
Breaking in a new DIY Buchla format “Retro 158” dual oscillator that I just made. Also testing a one-off Buchla format Joystick I’m building.
The delay is a Modcan 59a Digital Delay, re-faced with a custom Buchla style panel that I created the artwork for.
I’m using the Joystick module to alter pitch and audio attenuation – as well as pulsing the delay for a sync.
These make up a KILLER sci-fi efx box
Buchla 223e as keyboard/controler for a Rob Hordijk System.
I tuned the 223e output voltage to use it as 1/V Oct keyboard.
Percussion from Buchla and Hordijk. Lead is a HRM into Filter into the Phaser.
‘Eldancer’ has uploaded this nice video featuring Buchla and Eurorack. Its a nice ambient bitpop/electro pop tune with cool sci-fi ingredients
A simple exploration using a contact mic on one of Richard Water’s Waterphones, a Buchla 207r’s preamp and a CBS 130 Envelop Detector — all was sent to various CV ins of a 258v oscillator and a 266r Source of Uncertainty. Oh yeah, and the final output going through a Eventide Space reverb. more on waterphones here: waterphone.com/ and a better audio of a similar exploration here:
Clarity films has uploaded this nice promotional video featuring the Buchla modular synth
A short brief on Clarity below:
Clarity Educational Productions, Inc. (dba Clarity Films) is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax exempt organization formed in 1979 to produce and distribute films of historical and social value.
Our mission is to encourage a re-examination of our past to better inform social progress in our future and to stimulate thought provoking discussion around issues of major social concern in today’s society.
Our funding is provided by grants from private foundations and government agencies, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, State Humanities Organizations, The Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, numerous smaller foundations, and most recently, Kickstarter.
Featured instruments in this video:
Alesis Metavox & 3630
Moog CP251 FreqBox MP 201
Logic Ultrabeat Drum