Navigation for These Hopeful Machines

(... continued ...)

You talked about the three-person studio model, but what was the part played by the Buchla itself? If it produced something unexpected, which you then exploited and incorporated in the piece, was it acting as a ‘fourth person’?

The kind of chance element? Well, that happened in the ‘third person’ model even with a string quartet or something—a performer might do something that you didn’t ask for, and you either liked it or didn’t like it, and you would decide whether you wanted to incorporate it or add on to it later down the line. That isn’t particular to the machine, but the machine did offer things. But first of all I knew this machine backwards and forwards before it ever got built because I was in on every detail of it, and conceptualized a lot of the functions.

By this point you’d been working with it for about three or four years.

Yeah—three or four years on paper and then a good year or so playing with it before Silver Apples. I started on what became Silver Apples before it was going to be Silver Apples. I didn’t really say “I’m writing a piece now”, I was just playing with ideas and working with it. So that’s different than what most people will experience now in that you buy something—you read about it and then you buy it and then you start learning it and you get lots of ideas from it. So I didn’t get as many ideas from it as you might expect. It was a pretty amazing experience, I have to say—one of the most amazing experiences I ever had—but it wasn’t like surprise after surprise.

What I did discover, though, is that it could do things that none of us expected—which is what you asked—but in a different way from what you’re implying, because it didn’t do anything. Because we used the banana jacks for the voltages, it meant that I could do all sorts of things with voltages that they weren’t designed to do, and so I actually fed voltages back into themselves and discovered what later became the resonant filter. I had that in Sidewinder before there were resonant filters on the Buchla (sings resonant filter sweep) and I got that kind of a sound by sending a voltage back into itself and getting the pitch peaking at certain frequencies and things like that, so the sound would get into a little feedback loop of voltage, and a lot of it I didn’t even know, didn’t have a name for it—I just got this great jaw’s harp sound. I told Buchla about it and he said “wow, I’d never thought of doing that!” (laughs).

Going back to the initial idea—I think that’s where the metaphor is—I didn’t think of it as a musical instrument or as a composing tool. I thought of it as a sound easel that I had in my studio...and I painted every day, you know, I just got in there and played around. Hours and hours and hours. And things either attracted me or didn’t attract me. When they did, I went forward, and ideas would begin to form.

Did you ever get tired of the Buchla’s sound or was it always fresh?

I did, but it took me ten years. (laughs) I’ll tell you why—it was partly because I began to develop an idealized palette. It wasn’t just a couple of sounds, it was a bunch of different sounds that I really liked. And I wasn’t satisfied. It took me eight to ten years to fine tune that palette and the process itself. I fell in love with the process, which changed by about the third piece.

I was talking recently to Suzanne Ciani about her interaction with the Buchla and it sounds very similar to what you’re describing—this very intense process of working with a patch, listening, fine tuning, interacting with it. Do you think this was partly to do with the way the Buchla was physically configured?

Yeah...we were dealing with something that was open-ended. I mean, if you have a black-and-white keyboard in front of you, and the envelope generators are attached to the amplifier of an oscillator. What you're playing with at that point is—oh yeah, you do some playing with the timbre—but what you’re doing is making a new instrument that you're still going to play music on in a relatively traditional way. It’s like an electronic organ and in fact Moog didn’t even have a sequencer at the beginning[1]—he actually came into my studio on Bleecker Street, to ask what you would use a sequencer for.

But in the Buchla everything was neutral. The so-called envelope generators weren’t associated with anything—they were just voltages that changed in time and you could attach them to location in space, to filtering, to amplitude, to pitch, all of them at the same time or just some of them, turn one upside down while the other is going forward. It wasn’t very easy to do that on the Moog—you had to actually break the system down to be able to do that. But the Buchla was really a palette of voltages, of energy, that you could work with. And it really lent itself to experimenting.  For most of us it was a brand new playground.

I don’t think it was the same kind of brand new playground for the Moog because you were playing music. Bach got ‘switched on’ at the same time I was doing Silver Apples of The Moon. That was two different approaches to the same medium...

It wasn’t a new musical approach.

I don’t even know if what I was doing was a new musical approach—it was a new artistic direction, or aesthetic direction, using sound. I wanted to think I wasn’t making music. It wasn’t true, and I knew I could never not make music, because I’d grown up making music. But I also knew that some people down the line who had not grown up the way I did would use electronics to make things we may not want to call music. And that would prove to me—if I lived long enough to see it, and of course, I did—that what I had tried to do in the first place, was to create a new paradigm, a new way to think about using sound expressively.

It sounds like you didn’t have any interference from Nonesuch and they just let you get on with it; their only brief being to ensure it fitted on two sides of a record.

I don’t think they ever listened to it until I brought it to them...they must have, come to think of it—I never thought about that—I don’t think I saw Holzman again until I delivered it. I’m not sure, you know, but I certainly didn’t have any interference.

Was that true of The Wild Bull as well?

Yeah, well Silver Apples was such a hit that they didn’t care what I did after that!

Why do you think Silver Apples was a hit?

Oh I don’t know... because it was great, it was wonderful. (laughs) I don't know. It was a good piece, whatever it is. I mean it still holds up. It’s still out there. And it was a fresh piece, but I think there were a lot of reasons. One was that there was hardly anything there. It came out before Switched-on Bach, so that wasn’t even there yet. So it was new. There was the same kind of...let’s see, this was 1967. I had begun to conceptualize that brave new world in 1959 or 1960 and so seven years later a lot of people were also beginning to conceptualize this brave new world, the same one that I had been thinking about. So when electronics came to be heard, people gravitated towards it, “boy—we’re going to have music made with electronics”. Electronics became a big deal. I think that was part of it. Switched-on Bach sold a lot more records than Silver Apples did, and it got a lot of notoriety. So it wasn’t just my music—it was the electronics that were partially doing that.

And I know for a fact the avant-garde was primarily into extremely abstract thinking in terms of post-serial techniques. I had to wean myself off that. One of the most difficult tasks for me during that 13 months was to pull myself out of it. Because I knew that what I felt I was doing was writing music for a new medium. And I thought the new medium wasn’t today, it was a hundred years from now. I was trying to place myself in a world that didn’t grow up with instrumental music. Up to that moment, the record was simply a record in the normal sense of the word—it was a record, a documentation of a piece of music that really belonged on the stage, in the concert hall. The idea of trying to create something that didn’t have an outside, an objective correlative —the record was it—was something I was trying to create at that time and I knew it wasn’t going to be a post-Webern world. (laughs)

And Holzman got that?

Yeah. He did get it and he knew that I was starting to work with The Electric Circus. I wasn’t at Columbia-Princeton—he could have gone there, but he didn’t. I don’t know him very well you know—we never really spent much time together, so I don’t know what he was thinking.

But obviously, if we piece it together, he must have looked at this wild scene down in Greenwich Village and all the different things I was doing—I was doing interactive stuff with lights—strobe lights and liquid projections. So I think he must have seen something special that he was looking for. And he got it.

Do you think that the record’s success had anything to do with your use of regular pulses and periodic rhythms on side two?

Well yeah, the second half of the piece—that big pulsing thing—I used that for the opening of The Electric Circus, and Ozawa and the Kennedys were all there—they were all dancing by strobe light to an early version of the second half of Silver Apples Of The Moon, when it was a lot longer (sings). There were strobe lights going and a big heavy subwoofer that was pounding and it went for maybe 25, 30 minutes, and I had a sort of jazzy thing over the top—it just kept growing. By the time it became Silver Apples Of The Moon I had solidified it and brought it down to about ten minutes, but it was just a big raw thing at the beginning. I also used it in Parades and Changes with Anna Halprin during that period. But Holzman didn’t know he was going to get that. He just took a little chance, I guess. Wasn’t much of a chance—it didn’t cost him much!

Could you talk us through the transition from fixed pieces, like Silver Apples Of The Moon and The Wild Bull to pieces that were more flexible, like Until Spring or A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur through to works that incorporated real-time live electronics?

Right. The idea that I hit on for Silver Apples was to think of the piece as a voyage, a trip—I might have meant ‘trip’ in both senses of the word, I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking of that. I was thinking “if you’re in your living room a hundred years from now and the music transfixes you, it takes you off into another world”. So there were these gestural worlds—the world of sliding pitches, and then pulsing worlds that were almost dance-like in quality. So I invented five imaginary worlds. One of them, which is the one that keeps coming back, is what got me attracted to the title Silver Apples of the Moon. The last two lines of the poem[2] are ‘The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun’. I could have used ‘golden apples of the sun’ but I had these little ding-y pitches, this little pingy stuff, and that’s one of the sounds that I didn’t really perfect until Until Spring and then really perfected them on A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur. It took a long time to figure out how to get exactly what I wanted. But I had the beginnings of it, and those are those little ding-y, high pitched silver-like sounds—they sound like...little...silver apples! (laughs) that’s what attracted me to the title, to that line in the poem. So that keeps coming back, because at the back of my mind I was always talking a hundred years in the future. It was sort of science fiction for me—science fiction chamber music, so to speak—what you might be listening to a hundred years in the future.

The other thing I had to deal with was turning the record over, so the big thing on the second side is that there’s only one section on it. It’s completely different from the first side. It still has the ‘silver apples’ at the beginning and the end but it grows into this one big thing that reaches and grows into this big climax. It’s a completely different gestural environment from the other side.

In The Wild Bull, I used the same thing except that I found a Sumerian poem from about 1700 BCE. I was always interested in Sumeria, because it was evidently the beginning of writing, so in some sense of the word the beginning of modern civilization really happens at that moment. The first writing in Sumeria, as you probably know, was about 7000 years ago and it was to keep track of who owned how many cows so you could tax them later. That’s why they made the writing. That led to some of the most beautiful poetry I’d ever read. What was surprising and astounding was just how quickly—I mean it may have been several hundred years—but how quickly we humans turned that writing into something quite remarkable and expressive. So I took this poem, which I saw as an anti-war poem.

It’s essentially a big lament, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s a lament from a wife whose husband has gone off and been killed. So one side is the wife’s lament and the other side is the wild bull himself, who gets slain. That was more narrative than Silver Apples and I had two sides, the female side and the male side, with this narrative.

When I got to the third one, Touch, I had begun to use...let’s go back...Columbia Records offered me a contract at the beginning, when I was doing Silver Apples. I was already working on Silver Apples when they offered it to me but I already had a contract with Nonesuch...You know, I never thought about this—I must have been unique to these people at that point because two different record companies came to me for the same thing. First Nonesuch, and I took it, and then Columbia—who later released Switched-on Bach—also came to me and I told them I couldn’t do it because I was doing a piece for Nonesuch, and then they said “well, the next one” but I stayed with Nonesuch for another record. I would have stayed with Nonesuch after that, but they wouldn’t do it any more.[3]

What did Columbia want at first? A proto-Switched-on Bach?

No, no, they wanted me to do my thing. I got to know John McClure quite well and he really saw what I was doing right away. He was the guy who produced the Leonard Bernstein and Stravinsky recordings for Columbia Masterworks. He wasn’t a pop person but he had a great sense of what was happening, and we became close friends afterwards. So I stayed with Nonesuch for The Wild Bull, but they wouldn’t do a third one because they released only three or four records a year and they couldn’t keep doing just me—they had a lot of other people they wanted to do. So I called John and told him I was available and he said “great, we’ll do a contract”. They gave me a four-track Ampex tape recorder, as part of the sweetener on the contract. They were coming out with a quadraphonic record player, and he wanted me to write whatever I wanted for that, and that was Touch, which first came out in quadraphonic. But the machine itself, the quad record player, didn’t make it in the market—they sold 40 or 50,000 units and that wasn’t enough for them. I think Touch sold 20,000 records that year, which is a whole lot, but that was partly because there wasn’t much you could buy for those machines.

Were you hankering after doing something live with electronics by then?

I wasn’t after that, I wanted to do that as well. I really believed in the record as a medium, and I wasn’t interested in making lots of records. I wanted to realize the idea—what does it mean for the record to be a medium? And I didn’t satisfy that for myself until the mid-late ‘70s with Until Spring and then A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur. Once I’d done that, I didn’t want to continue with it. But at the same time I also wanted to eventually work with live electronics, to see what it would be on the stage as well.

Was that when you evolved the notion of the ‘ghost’ scores?

That was later. To get into that let me tell you about the process I finally came up with...did I tell you about the control voltages, singing and everything?

No, we were going to come back to that.

That’ll take us to the ‘ghost’ pieces. By the time of Touch, to some extent, and then with Sidewinder, which followed, I developed this idea of the gestural expressive moment, so that I could improvise gestures. Instead of writing with a pencil on paper and wiggly lines and things, I would sing them. Buchla made me a module called the envelope follower, that would translate the amplitude of my voice into a control voltage, so I could go (sings) and I would improvise, also using my fingers to control oscillators, so I would get pressure from the touch plates...and I would improvise for tender things, gentle things, violent things, wild things, for 45 seconds, a minute, a minute-and-a-half, and capture them on tape, in order to send them back from the tape through the envelope follower as control voltages. So instead of pressing buttons and keys, my voice would be controlling various parameters of the synthesizer. What a wonderful experience! I could then play the tape back, and by now I had at least a four-track recorder, so I could take one track, play it back, and then go right under it on another track, and then under it again with something else and do another control. I mean I was just in heaven, it was great.

What we’re talking about is a way of capturing control voltages from physical gestures, recording them on tape, and on playback using those same voltages to control different parameters at a later date.

That’s right, so you’re out of real time now—you can move back and listen. Not only that, but I purposely had no idea what I was going to use these gestures for. I would improvise a minute of singing and pushing with my fingers on the touch plates—I called them energy pieces, raw energy pieces—they had no sound—then I could cut out one little thing like a ‘wuh’, and put blank leader on both sides of it, and take three weeks, if I wanted, on the ‘wuh’, until I got the perfect sound, and record it underneath, and do another and another.

When you take the leader out, and splice these sounds together, you have the continuity of the whole minute of your original. It was wonderful. You still can’t do that—there’s nothing that does that. So that was great, and when I got to my final pieces which were Until Spring and A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur, I decided I was finished, because I’d done what I wanted; now I had the medium, and now I was moving on. I had also played live, but I didn’t see that happening regularly because the amount of machinery I would need to be able to do anything live would be so huge on the stage. I decided that would have to wait, or would never happen.

Then I went on to what I would do with instruments on the stage and I decided that I would take this ‘ghost’ that was on the tape—the ‘ghost’ of my gestures—and use it to modify the live instruments in real time.

So that technique developed from the way you were working on Until Spring.

Exactly. Sidewinder too, but it got perfected in the others. I used it in Four Butterflies as well, but it was really perfected in Until Spring and A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur. A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur can be played live, I mean not exactly what I did, but I really got it down to an art at that point. But I took that technique, the whole concept. That’s why it’s called ‘ghost’ electronics because at the beginning it was the tape. I would write a piece with the idea that it was going to be modified, and then play the piano, and then make a modification of the piano by singing, and then send that tape to someone else who was going to play the piece and have their playing modified by the information on the tape as if I were there.

So the control voltages resulting from your physical gestures were recorded on the tape, and that tape would be sent to the person who would oversee the real-time modifications of the live sound.

Right, and they actually played the tape back through envelope followers—the same technique exactly that I used in recording the gestures. But the thing I found is that if, for instance, you altered the playback level on the tape recorder, you didn’t get the same thing that I had recorded, so I had to have these VU meters, and test tones on the tape so you could calibrate the tape machine to play it back at its original level, and that was really cumbersome, really hard to do.

Not long after that, though, things like EPROMs[4] became available and Buchla made me a little program where I could take the same kind of thing and burn it into an EPROM, and I had someone build me—I diagrammed it—a box that had those modules in it, so the EPROM would run instead of a tape recorder. And that, up until now, was the way we did most of the ‘ghost’ pieces. The early ones used the tape recorder and after that they were done the other way.

At this time did you see that the next obvious step would be to use computers—when they were small enough and fast enough—to take care a lot of this real-time control?

No, I didn’t really know a lot about computers. I needed to see what, if anything, I could do with them.  I gave all my equipment to Vladimir Ussachevsky in probably 1978 or 79, something like that, and MIDI didn’t really come in until 1983. I knew the DX-7 was going to happen with Yamaha because they had sent someone out to work with me for a couple of years—they sent about six people out to different parts of the world. So I knew something big was going to happen.

MIT invited me to be a resident in 1985. So I decided I would try my hand at what I could do with a computer— I bought my first computer, which I think was a Mac 512K, and it really didn’t do very much. I took it to MIT with me and I hadn’t even used it until I got there—I didn’t know how it worked. But all the kids there had these Macintoshes so I picked up some software they were making at MIT and learned it. I had three months there and I decided that I would see whether I had an aptitude for computers, and I programmed a score-following thing where a conductor—I didn’t have the hardware for it—could just tap the space bar. Then the computer could not only follow my beat, but it would know where it was in the score by having a metre map, so it would always know where you were in a score and to do something when you wanted it to.

Rather than being locked into a tape.

Right, so it could follow the tempo and know where you were in the score. And I figured that if I could do that in three months I probably had an aptitude, and I did. So I started working with computers. But I never thought we’d get to the point where we are now.

By the mid-‘70s you’d reached a high level of sophistication with your particular way of working with the Buchla, but were you looking across to the work of, say, Jean-Claude Risset, John Chowning, or Max Mathews and thinking that that was the next step?

No, no. I mean, I knew all of these people, but I was doing something different. I was approaching it in a very different way—in fact it’s almost the other end of the spectrum because I was working with this three-person model and they were not. In many senses they were making music in a more traditional manner.

You mean partly because of the time delay between specifying a sound and hearing it, say, a day later?

Well also they didn’t think about the physical gesture...I mean the whole use of the microphone and the gesture thing that I was doing was a whole different approach. I had no intention of going into what we call  computer music.

So it wasn’t really until the 1980s really that the technology caught up with you.

It was the late 80s! In the 1980s I used the computer, but I was using it in my instrumental pieces to follow the score and add some element. I was looking at the theatre eventually—that’s what I was aiming for, and multimedia. I had a wonderful technique I developed for running sound live, with the synthesizer. I used a silent projector—did I tell you about that?

No, no.

I used a variable-speed sound projector with double-sprocketed films on it, and used the sprocket over the playback head so that it produced a constant pulse. Every frame created a pulse. You didn’t hear that, but it sent a pulse instead of a pulse generator and ran my sequencers from the sprockets. Then by counting the sprockets, I could get the sound to hit on a particular frame no matter what the speed and control the projector as it was going. I was using it like SMPTE[5]. So that was the kind of thing I was really interested in. That’s what I was trying to do with the computer. I was getting it to be a control mechanism, to control lights—I had voltage-controlled lights, images, sound and this would be controlled by someone playing an instrument or singing, and things like that. That’s what I was interested in,

So you weren’t using the computer for sound processing or sound generation.

No. Before Max came out, I ended up with a thing called Interactor that a student of mine, Mark Coniglio, programmed. It didn’t have any sound processing in it. It was just MIDI control of all sorts, because MIDI was in by then. So that was my direction with the computer. It never occurred to me that I would actually see computers in my lifetime being able to do the kind of controlling that we can do now.

Just to bringing things more-or-less up to date, now, I see you’ve been presenting revamped versions of your older pieces—you have Until Spring Revisited where you’re performing with a laptop. What’s the process that’s going on there?

Well, I have recreated some of the sounds—they’re all sampled sounds in there. I’m moving to another step now for the next season. Until Spring Revisited has samples and I’m using the computer as a sample player. Some of them are a new batch of sounds that are the similar to the originals but developed further, others are actual sounds from the original—when they’re good enough. And then I’m processing them in real time and performing them and adding new stuff to them with the laptop. But where I’m going now with it...the Library of Congress is archiving my stuff so they have the original Buchla that I did Silver Apples on, and that’s being refurbished. And I’m going to take six key modules from the Buchla 100, and Don is loaning me his newest stuff, which is much more sophisticated...

This is the 200e.

Yeah, the 200e, right. So I’ll have those two things and then I’ll mix that with the sample-processing stuff that I’ve been doing on the laptop. I should be able to do a pretty much live version of A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur and a re-doing of Silver Apples. A light artist, Lillevan, from Europe, is going to be doing live video, and we’re going to tour with that, and I will do lecture demonstrations of the original Buchla. I hope to get across some of the stuff that we talked about here about that early metaphor, one of which went in the direction of keyboards and the other one that we had. Hopefully that will spring some people to think about where they are with this and maybe go in other directions.

How do you feel about revisiting something like Silver Apples and taking these antique pieces of gear on the road—does it seem like a historical lecture to you?

Yeah, I think of it as a historical thing, I don’t think it’s a great aesthetic accomplishment... (laughs)

What’s your take on the current fetish for vintage analogue synthesizers?

Oh I’m not doing this tour with the Buchla because I think that’s the direction to go, you know I can’t even believe we’re doing everything we’re doing and then in addition to that there’s so much interest in the analogue synthesizers. The original Buchla that I used on Silver Apples isn’t in good enough shape to use right now so I’m going to pick up some equipment from Don so I can use it this summer and then I’ll take the original one with me and I’m going to incorporate it into basically a laptop evening. But I will give talks to show how it was designed and what the patches are, you know, how it got patched and so forth and then incorporate that into the performance.

You’re not tempted to go back to that old way of working or anything...

No. I think it’ll be fun adding the analogue stuff to it, but that stuff comes so easy to me at this point that it’ll be sort of recreational. I’ll have a good time, and I think it’ll be worthwhile to people because there’s interest and I think that this is a good thing to do. A lot of people will see it, and there’s something here that historically is sort of buried in the fabric of what we have, and the more I’ve seen and the more I’ve talked and people have responded, I realize that it is a sort of special niche; it’s got a place and I think it could spark some interest in people. Let’s put it this way: I think it’s important to share what one has done, and this will really give me a chance to share it. Whether it really does anything is really up to someone else. I’ll do it well, and I’ll do the best I can, so people can really understand what I was doing. If they care, they’ll do something with it. If it isn’t worth anything, they won’t do anything. (laughs) But I’ll do it anyway.

So this is more to do with getting across what it was you were trying to do, rather than getting hung up on a piece of gear.

Yeah. Exactly. If they want to go back to analogue synthesizers that’s fine, but that’s not what I’m after. There’s another way to think about things. It doesn’t have to be a particular piece of equipment.

I am also working on a whole series of new pieces, including a new version of what I did with the ‘ghost’ things. I was telling you that I did these things live—I sang and modified things and then put them on tape. But now I can provide people with the ability that I could go off with a pianist, and I can go into a performance and live, modify it, with my fingers and voice and various things, and the computer. So I’m building pieces where you can do that, and I’m offering to people how to do the gesture, and let them make their own versions of modifying this piece. It works without modification—I think they’re, really beautiful pieces. I have two of them now. One, The Other Piano, is about 35-40 minutes long, and the other is a piece for violin, clarinet and piano, Then Now and Forever, which is I guess 20-25 minutes long. They can be done either as acoustic pieces, or you could take them to the next step and modify them in a surround sound environment. I give what my intention was and then people can make their own versions, because there are so many people who know how to process now, that...why not?

It’s a kind of live remix.

Yeah it’s a live remix in a way—although I’m not quite sure what a remix is!...(laughs) but for instance in the piano piece I included a little patch that allows me to capture any note that is played and hold it, and bring it back and change it as it goes, so that note is floating around and I can do things, so yes it is like a remix. I give all this stuff to the performers—it’s on the score so people can read it, and people are starting to do it. I haven’t heard one yet, but I understand there are a couple of people getting ready to do some of these. I have one of these pieces for a large chamber ensemble, I’m getting ready for my 80th birthday concert, and I’ve just got another commission for another piano piece which I’ll have ready for the 2011/12 season. I’d like to do an orchestra piece that way too, but I haven’t quite got that under way yet. So I’m taking this stuff now to the next step, and the music is very different than any music I’ve written before.

Where do you think the challenges lie for the next generation of technology?—do you think it’s in the way that one physically interacts with the machines, or sound generation or what?

Well, I think there are really two challenges. One thing is to reach a point of transparency that we haven’t reached yet, in order to get the message of the medium, to use the McLuhan term, of digital technology—or the computer. We need  to truly use the medium as an extension of the nervous system. The hammer—we know what the extension of that is, the pliers. I think it’s the extension of the nervous system that we need to concentrate on. And in order for it to be an extension of the nervous system it has to become transparent. We’re still using a typewriter keyboard on it. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue to use that for some things, but it needs to be more transparent. The next gadget that I imagine will come will be the iTooth, rather than the iPad—something that’s really part of the body. And that’s not so far off now, I don’t think. Having a more transparent technology is one thing and then, the other side of the challenge, is for us to be able to understand that there is a message in the medium and we shouldn’t be doing the same goddam thing over and over again.

So we have a computer that can do all these different things, it has the potential to do all these things, and we turn it into a black-and-white keyboard!—well, we already have black-and-white keyboards! We turned it into a calculator...or a virtual Moog! (laughs) We have this typewriter keyboard that was originally made to slow us down because we were typing too fast because the mechanism got hurt and we’ve never been able to change that once we got it, and we’re using that to go to the moon with, and to do all of our calculations. The biggest challenge we’ve got is to understand that we can think differently—we don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over. I think we'll get the technological change, I think we’ll get the transparency, but unless we get the other that goes along with it we’re just going to be making more Brandenburg Concertos with transparent technology.



[1] Moog did not offer a sequencer module until 1968.

[2] W.B. Yeats’ The Song of Wandering Aengus, 1899.

[3] Nonesuch did, however, commission and release an all-Moog album in 1968: Tragoedia by Andrew Rudin.

[4] Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory chips

[5] The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers timecode, used to synchronize sound and moving images.