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BT on Vintage Hardware Synth Character and Laurie Spiegel Bell Labs Performance
Rounik Sethi on Sun, January 18th 0 comments
Grammy-nominated musician, producer & technologist, BT, offers an interesting explanation on why music software can't replace music hardware using Laurie Spiegel video performance as inspiration.
It's no surprise that most of us want more music hardware! Yes, plug-ins are great, but vintage analog synths have a certain something that's perhaps more elusive to define which makes it tricky to compare them to their software cousins.

In an interesting sequence of tweets on Friday 16th January 2015, Brian Transeau (better known as BT, the grammy nominated musician, producer, technologist, songwriter and music more) outlined why he feels music hardware is still so desirable from a creative perspective.

Focusing on a short video showing Laurie Spiegel improvising on the Bell Labs experimental additive Digital Synthesizer (also known as the Alice or Alles), BT explains how just having a large quantity of samples in your DAW doesn't equate to a better user experience. Instead, vintage  hardware, like the Firelight Synclavier, BT says, have 'a character inherent to them not only because of their workflow and design, but PHYSICALLY because electrons course through their circuits.'

And with NAMM just round the corner, Korg, Roland, Behinger and many others are promising tasty new hardware to feed our need for touchable gear. Of course, this isn't the writing on the wall for software which will surely continue to provide convenience for the masses and more "touch-ability" via intelligent integration with modern music hardware controllers...

Check out the full text from BT's tweets below and here's the video of Laurie Spiegel creating a dreamy sonic performance on the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer:


(Laurie Spiegel Playing the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer, better known as the Alles Machine or Alice, was an experimental additive synthesizer designed by Harold G. Alles and Douglas Bayer at Bell Labs in 1977-78.)

The full sequence of Tweets from BT on character-rich music hardware:
"Jaw, meet floor. Precursor to GDS & Synergy (Used by Wendy Carlos to score Tron). Meet Bell Labs 300lb monster Alice. One of the things that stuns me loving, collecting, refurbishing & composing with vintage instruments is how much we have forgotten or lost. For example, if you've never used a Fairlight, Synclavier, Emulator etc. you think, "Why would I ever want to use a vintage sampler?' After all you've got all the samples you need in Fruity Loops or Logic. This misses the point entirely. These instruments have a character inherent to them not only because of their workflow and design, but PHYSICALLY because electrons course through their circuits. 

Now if that sounds hippyish, consider this: have you ever played a synth with a curtis filter chip? (If yes I already have your attention). Now imagine every voice of a 16 voice sampler (that records at 100kz with isorhythmic partial looping btw) with a glorious analog filter. If you "get" analog summing, this concept should deeply excite you. Check out that video, it's incredible. I have to own a Synergy someday! The point is this: It's not what something, looks/sounds/feels like it's what it actually IS. Let that sink in, it applies to everything.'
Screenshot of the BT Tweets quoted above.

Screenshot of the BT Tweets quoted above.

More on the Bell Labs Digital Synthesizer here
Follow BT on Twitter here.
Learn about Synthesis at AskVideo here

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