Analog Synth Music
There is an emerging renaissance of interest in analog synthesis. Enough folks are beginning to ask about my earlier works using some of the very first modular synthesizers. Most of the works were created with Arp 2500 or 2600s, an early Buchla, an Oberheim mono synthesizer, and Crumar keyboards ( a modified electric organ). I controlled many of the devices with a Computone Lyrcion wind driver. The Lyricon converted breath pressures into voltages that were fed into the VCAs (volumes) and VCFs (filter-color) of the analog synths. The embouchure pressures were added incrementally to pitch. Together it infused a dynamic, "live" sound to these early synths.
By the early 1990s, the world was going digital and it became more and more difficult to maintain the frail and relatively expensive analog instruments.
Below is a collection of works based on analog synthesis production. The quality of the recordings vary. And there are a few valued performances - both live and in the studio - that I no longer have at all. I will update as more materials and information become available.
In our early days - mid 1980s to mid 200s or so - our instruments were analog. I played a Computone Lyricon Wind Driver that controlled an Oberheim Monophonic Synth that was routed through an original Roland Tape Echo. Don Slepian used a customized Mirage Keyboard modified and controlled with his own array of foot pedals that acted primarily as his mixing board. These are the instruments featured here on our CD. The violin - played by Karen Bentley Pollick - is pure acoustic strings.
The videoballet,“Journey” was set to the music of “Lyric Images.” "Lyric Images" itself was the first work I created for a live electronic music ensemble (which later would morph into Electric Diamond). The work was premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in the Spring of 1979. With an instrumentation of Lyricon wind driver controlling an Arp 2600, two Crumar keyboards, percussion, plus an Arp sequencer running a second 2600. Lyric Images is a 4 movement symphonic work. The recording is from a pirated tape of that performance, secreted into the auditorium. It is but a pale reflection of the colossal sound we created. Using a Mutron Biphase (anyone remember that device), we developed a stereophonic phase shift of swirling overtones that bathed the audience in an immersive ocean of sound. At the time of its premiere with its raucous rhythms, improvisations, and lyric sweep it was both hailed by some critics - The Miami Herald called it "the music of the future" - and reviled by others. (My favorite decried that it augured the “beginning of fascist Classical music.”)
Liz Geyer Gottlieb, a former member of the New York City Ballet, was inspired to create a videoballet to the score -- one of the first ballets ever created for directly for the medium of video. With years of MTV behind us it is hard to imagine the time when creating dance directly for the camera was still a revolutionary idea. Renamed Journey, Lyric Images became the score for this dramatic pas-de-deux of two lovers at the end of time. It won major awards at Festival of the Americas International Film and Television Festival, Julian Montaner and Regine Maximilien are the dancers.
Beauty Beast followed Lyric Images. It was premiered live in 1980, scored for Soprano (Sally Jo Anderson as Beauty), Lyricon Wind Synthesizer (as the Beast), 2 Crumar keyboards (a modified organ that was a predecessor to today's modern polyphonic synths), and drums. James Roos of the Miami Herald, described the group as “among the first of the new generation to maximize rock in classical form.”
For its time quite out there - a classically based electro-acoustic group performing complex written scores (with many technical directions) - including challenging pounding poly-rhythmic passages - 7/8 against 7/4 at ferocious speeds. Was definitely pushing boundaries while hewing to the simple sentiments of the story. I can still remember Mike Lauren, our drummer, yelling out “ONE” and pounding out the downbeat trying to hold the ship together. Ultimately, it was a 30-minute, musical fantasy with grand operatic duets – Sally Jo Anderson’s Beauty matched against the Beast portrayed by my Lyricon. (The Christians Science Monitor described the work as “Music Tolkien might have written if he'd used a piano instead of a pen.”
This version is a studio recording I did a few years later on an analog 8 track tape recorder. The video was done in 2012-13, adding words and dance. One day perhaps we will resurrect “Beauty Beast” in live performance.
"Tyme's Escape" is improvisation with mad genius organist Paul Fejko. The premise: Paul and I had never played together before. So the plan was to meet in All Saints Episcopal Church in Worcester, Massachusetts that features a famous organ with over 7000 pipes. Turn on the tape recorder and play for an hour. 2 AM in the morning (to avoid daytime car traffic noise), freezing cold night, playing in our winter coats. No recording or description can capture the reality of what happened. If you are not interested in listening through the full hour, I suggest starting at 34 minutes or so and follow the build. My Lyricon wind synth controlling an OB-1 analog synth soars over 7500 organ pipes coming from 360 degrees. And when the massive 32 foot Contra Bombarde pipes come in sync with the Lyricon bass notes - the stone floors and walls of the cathedral vibrating in resonance – they create a colossal sound surpassing even the power of the largest symphony orchestras or rock band. No Youtube video or CD or any other recording can come close to capturing the sheer magnitude of sound. Outside of this recording (a pale reflection of the sonic truth) the only ones to testify to do it all were myself, Paul, the producer, the audio engineer, and an assistant.
THE GREATEST HITS OF 2150 was originally conceived by Stuart Diamond and legendary producer Tom Frost (who produced the original "Switched-on-Bach" and "Greatest Hits of..." series for CBS Records). The music-video, one of the first of its kind, featured choreography by Liz Gottlieb and the remarkable real-time video effects of Don Slepian, using an analog Chromalizer video effects box. THE GREATEST HITS OF 2150 was originally conceived by Stuart Diamond and legendary producer Tom Frost (who produced the original "Switched-on-Bach" and "Greatest Hits of..." series for CBS Records). The music-video, one of the first of its kind, featured choreography by Liz Gottlieb and the remarkable real-time video effects of Don Slepian, using an analog Chromalizer video effects box.
The Premise: What would the classics sound like in the future when played by Aliens from different planets.
This version was recreated in the mid-1990s using a digital sampler to recreate the original analogue soundscape. The accompanying video was produced in 2013.
The Jester is an electronic song cycle with words by Robert Host. A 1972 work using the original analog modular synthesizers - early Buchla. massive Arp 2500, endless overdubs on Ampex 4 track tape recorder and a Baldwin Electric Harpsichord.
This was my MFA thesis. Left alone in an early electronic music studio at Sarah Lawrence College. ) Though primitive in many ways, I still consider The Jester one of the most out-there, imaginative work I have done... then or since. My main composition professor on hearing the work for the first time stood up and said: "No Comment." And walked out of the room." A classic moment for any young "enfant terrible" composer.
No psychedelics or inebriants were used in the production of the work. The analog tape is faded - so you have to imagine it more or less at rock and roll volume. Jump around. No need to go through it in its entirety. The words, by Robert Host, though unintelligible in this rendering. are masterful.
Master of the Astral Plane
Music and Libretto by Stuart Diamond
“Master of the Astral Plane” – The Opera. Samantha abducted by the demons of the Master of the Astral Plane. Saved by the White Knight ala Elvis. Narrated by Fleetwood. It’s all here. For those who remember, Fleetwood was the “master” of late-night classical radio in New York City throughout the 1970s and 80s. I was often a guest on his shows. Freeform, interesting radio from another age. The opera premiered in 1982 at Brooklyn College under the able production eye of Bill Boswell at The Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College
Premiere: February 4, 1982
Narrator: Harry Fleetwood
Samantha: Audrey Levine
The Knight: Brian McGovern
King Tookiyama: Kevin Knutsen (French Horn)
Guinevere is 8 minute selection from an epic, 90 minute, dark and brooding music meditation on Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgan Le Fey, Maleagant and the many other characters of the Arthurian Romances. CIrca 1983.
This section features the March to Battle, The Conflict between the Forces of Good and Evil) and the Lament of the Dead. (All very Star Warish – though set in the early Middle Ages). A conglomeration of medieval music, electric rock and classical music. All done with my Teac 8 track tape recorder, Lyricon, Arp 2600, Oberheim, and Crumar synths, presynths and sequencers. All analog.
One day I may forge through the other 70 minutes to find out what is salvageable.
Painting by James Henry Draper
Full catalogue of electronic based musical works
FILM and VIDEO
Two Hundred Years in the Future
With Our Own Hands
Hands Across America
The Submerged Lake
The Greatest Hits of 2150
The Oddest Duet
THEATER, OPERA and DANCE
Lulu for Now
Darling Poor Darling
Master of the Astral Plane
Dances for a Summer Evening
Theme and Variations
ELECTRONIC MUSIC and COMPUTER GENERATED MUSIC
The Adventures of Andrew in the Land of Odibil
Darling, Poor Darling
Succubus (Flute and Tape)
Diana et Acteon (Flute and Tape)
Japanese Ghost Stories Rituals
The Greatest Hits of 2150
Theme and Variations
Three Pieces for Summer Music
KONZERTO for Solo Violin and Electric Orchestra
Then, Now and Again
Dances of Merlin
Beauty and the Beast
K for Electric String Quartet
Symphony for two Synthesizers
Painted Clouds Sonata for Lyricon and Piano