1. I became interested in early (1940s – 1960s) drum machines, and conceived a desire to hear many of them playing different rhythms, simultaneously. I devised a way to connect a lot of them (presently, 72 and counting) to a single stereo buss, and to regulate their timing. This took quite a bit of electrical engineering, as equipment from this period has grounding issues, and irregular output impedances. It became necessary, for example, for me to invent a protocol for each drum machine to route through a custom-designed output transformer, which stepped down its output impedance from approx. 1000Ω to approx. 50Ω, making it resemble something more like a microphone, than an ordinary line-level device. This not only balanced the output, but also made it possible to use a sophisticated microphone preamplifier, thereby picking up all of the sonority and coloration of the mike pre, and adding it to the drum machine’s already peculiar resonance and tonality. I am in the process of recording a composition with all 72 drum machines and our Wiard – Blacet – Modcan – Analogue Systems synths, triggered by sequencers (which in turn are triggered by control voltages, or impulses turned into control voltages, coming from the drum machines).
2. Our lives are made much easier – some would say, they are ruled by – digital compositional tools, and MIDI. Of course it is necessary to be intimately familiar with the applications and operations of these devices, and I am. Howver, I also remain interested in early-1960s analog computing technology, and have several analog computers, most notably, an EAI TR-20, which has been described as “the quintessential example of a transistorized desktop analog computer of the 1960s.” The output of an analog computer typically is an oscilloscope trace, or an x-y plot. I reasoned, though, that it also should be possible to route that output to an oscillator, like any other control voltage. I have done so, and set up some interesting programs on the analog computer in the process. For example, it’s now possible for me to address intriguing, interdisciplinary questions, such as, “What does π sound like?”, together with different sequences of primes, Fibonacci’s number, Avogadro’s number, Riemann – Zeta functions, and the like. I am collaborating with a manufacturer of analog synthesizer modules (Mike Brown of Livewire Electronics) to design a module that will perform these, and other, calculations and functions. The use of analog computer technology also makes it possible to derive purer waveforms that do not exhibit any of the fractal artifacts associated with their digital counterparts. Because they exist in such a natural and undistilled state, those waveforms in turn are the paradigms for all other projects involving subtractive synthesis.
3. As facile as we all have become using ProTools, there still is something magical about handling analog tape. Some time ago, I acquired four Sony APR 5003 ¼” ATRs, which also have center-track SMPTE time-code, together with a complete LYNX system for synching them up. This has enabled me to continue work on several music concrète compositions. How ironic that in these days of sampling sounds, and then subsequently manipulating them in Acid, Reason, etc., some of the best results still come from cutting physical tape. The LYNX system actually enables you to regulate the slew of each ATR’s motor, in response to individual control pulses applied to its winding. The motor rotation is synchronized to the input control pulses. I’m sure you can see where this is going, as those same input control pulses in turn can be derived from analog computers or sequencers, enabling a kind of proto-über synchronization technology.
4. In 1969, I was able to obtain permission from the U.S. Navy to utilize one of the few electroencephalographs (if not the only one) then in Southern California, to determine whether it was possible to trigger oscillators using electrical current emanating from the occipital and parietal lobes of the human brain. The answer to that question is “yes,” when they’re properly amplified. “Analog” EEG technology now has migrated to more sophisticated “digital” technology, such as positron emission tomography and computed axial tomography. I am in the process of attempting to locate an analog EEG to continue these experiments. I also have developed a close relationship with the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute at UCLA, which has all of the latest machines. Using them, it should be possible to develop a “musical profile” of various mental – psychological – emotional states. I doubt this could be done with an EEG, which for all of its tubular and transistorized glory is somewhat of a primitive apparatus, and which functions best when the experimental subject is asleep. Even then, dream activity (though certainly not the content of those dreams) can be discerned by the presence of so-called “alpha waves” on a chart recorder. Like with an analog computer, the electrical impulses that drive the chart recorder, easily can be converted into control voltages, then on to oscillators.