The Buchla Music Easel

Don Buchla created his first synthesizer in 1963. It was commissioned specifically by Morton Subotnick for his groundbreaking Silver Apples of The Moon composition.

Robert Moog made his first synth in 1963 as well. But his approach was radically different. Wheras the Moog was designed for musicians like Walter Carlos, who were classically trained and out to prove that a synth could imitate an orchestra, the Buchla was made to take fuller advantage of electronics. The performer had input, but there were many random factors that seemed to give a Buchla synth a life of its own.

In 1973, Buchla designed the incredible Music Easel, which was a wonder for its time; it actually could run on batteries and store patches. For some reason, only 14 of them were manufactured. From the original press release:

The Music Easel contains many of the elements commonly used to generate and process sound: a keyboard, sequencer, pulser, preamplifier, envelope detector and balanced modulator; oscillators, gates, envelope generators and filters; facilities for mixing, monitoring and reverberating. Interconnection within the Music Easel is accomplished with a combination of switching and patching, a system which is flexible, expedient, and open ended. Logical, compact organization and color coded graphic feedback facilitate rapid and effective interaction. Multiple correlations between a performer's actions and the Music Easel's responses are readily implemented, enabling a degree of expressive articulation heretofore impossible with electronic instrumentation.

Further augmenting the Music Easel's real time performability is the capability of permanently storing and immediately retrieving complete instrument definitions (patches) or portions thereof. (An "instrument definition" includes settings of parameters, degrees of articulation, switch positions and interconnections.) Storage entails the installment of resistors on program cards; retrieval is accomplished by plugging in a desired program card and activating a switch.

Music Easels are provided with six blank program cards, an assortment of programming resistors, and a comprehensive instruction manual. Available accessories include additional program cards and resistors and a 12 volt battery pack. Complete with case and charger, this battery pack will power a Music Easel for approximately three hours per charge.

Housed in a rugged aluminum case, the Music Easel is built to travel. Weight is 30 pounds; dimensions are 6" x 17" x 22" (carry on baggage for jetliners).

Get set for some amazing Buchla magic:

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