Friday March 2, 2007
Dawn of the plastic age
By N. RAMA LOHAN
Wendy Carlos made the world take notice when she recorded an entire album of Bach compositions using one of those monstrosities built by Dr Robert Moog called modular synthesisers.
These intimidating-looking machines were already being used for sound effects in movies, advertisements and so on, but the recognition which Carlos’s Switched On Bach received certainly widened the possibilities for the instrument.
Keith Emerson, of 1970s British progressive rock outfit Emerson, Lake & Palmer, took the instrument into commercial realms and blew its designer away with his legendary synth solo on the song Lucky Man.
And while this may be an embarrassing part of the Minimoog’s history, one of the earliest recorded tunes that used it was Popcorn, a silly tune that made it into ads, computer games and more.
Rock musicians whole-heartedly embraced synthesisers for many reasons. Firstly, it was something new, unlike the guitar, saxophone or drum. Secondly, the synthetic sounds it offered weren’t previously available through any other source.
Throughout the synthesiser’s early development, musicians were hoping for instruments that played more than one note at a time and when polyphonic synths appeared in the mid/late 1970s, music composition naturally took a step up.
The New Romantic and British synth pop movement of the early 1980s saw polyphonic analogue synthesisers reach an all-time high with bands like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Ultravox, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Human League, Pet Shop Boys and their ilk all spearheading the cause.