When I was a kid I was deeply impressed by a music video shot in a snow-bound Montreal Olympic stadium. It was the British super-group ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’, performing their version of Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’, which was basically his three-minute piece split by a six-minute solo section of their own. … More Fanfare for the common transistor
When I was growing up the definition of music was simple: it was anything composed from about 1650 up to about 1910 involving orchestras, opera singers, pianos and similar instruments. And the definition of a musician was somebody who could perform this stuff. One of the conceits poured over me on that basis was that … More Why classical music snobbery doesn’t cut it today
One of the reasons I got interested in physics as a kid – and still am today – is because of the way sound works. In physics terms, sound is simply a succession of alternate compressions and rarefications of the air, carrying energy which moves our eardrums. What does that mean? The first point is … More Making waves – the physics of sound
These past few months I’ve been getting my collection of vintage synthesisers going. I’ve got a lot of work to do. So far I’ve tested my 1976-vintage Micromoog s/n 2177 – which I picked up for $50 in 1988. This still works but the particle-board base that holds everything together has crumbled, which means I’ll … More Switching on – well, it’s not really Bach…
I have never really understood why people like nineteenth century opera. You know, those bombastic audio-torture events that feature singers making the kind of noises you’d expect from someone who’s just had particularly delicate body part slammed in a door. Usually the songs involve an obese soprano waddling out on stage looking like a giant … More Why I think opera is a kind of audio torture
These days synthesisers are amazing instruments, often using technologies derived from computing – or existing only as software with the only hardware being a separate keyboard controller. That wasn’t always so. The commercial synths of the 1960s were built around analog hardware that played just one note at a time, like a wind instrument. By … More When was the first fully polyphonic synthesiser released?
One of my frustrations when writing is that I’ll often come up with a way of illustrating a concept or idea, only to have somebody ‘correct’ me because some minor detail only they know of is an exception to the trend I’m describing, and therefore I am a worthless idiot who is ignorant of my … More The frustration of writing about concepts and ideas