In 1972, I bought my first reel-to-reel tape recorder and started experimenting with “Musique Concrète” and was immediately hooked. I had an opportunity to play and record a Buchla Synthesizer belonging to Suzanne Ciani, housed at the time in Francis Coppola‘s Zoetrope Studio in San Francisco. I was hooked even more. I bought a dozen old language lab reel-to-reel machines from the State Educational Surplus Agency for $1 each and began putting together my own sound studio. My first piece resulting from this was “Extraneous Static Refinement: Phase III” which premiered on Pacifica Radio KPFA in 1973 when I was Guest Composer on Charles Amirkhanian’s Morning Concert show.
This demo contains excerpts from a variety of different pieces.
The setup for AEOLIAN DREAM included 12 reel-to-reel recorders along with the Buchla and a Horner Pianet. Six of them played pre-recorded aeolian (wind-powered) strings (guitars, sitar, ukelin), Tibetan horns, and a P.G. & E. gas meter. I controlled their mix by a touch-sensitive capacitance keyboard. The other six tape machines were used as a delay line for the output of the Buchla; that is, the synthesizer output was recorded on the first tape recorder, then played back delayed as the tape passed through each playback head, pulled by the take-up reel of the last machine in the line. This excerpt includes only the last 10 minutes (SIZAGY) of the 28 minute performance, which uses NO tapes or delay.
Shortly thereafter, I met Don Buchla, inventor of the Buchla Synthesizer, when he was having a garage sale while preparing to move to a different space. I bought from him some un-stuffed circuit boards, some partially stuffed boards, some blank control panels, some modules that weren’t working and some that did work. Some were prototypes; no circuit board, just components soldered together like a spider web. He even gave me some circuit diagrams. This was old stuff; some of it from the days of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 60’s. I guess it was junk to Don, for he was moving on to designing ever
more esoteric systems.
So I began to build my own Buchla; building upon what I had gotten from Don, using recycled televisions for parts and the general refuse from western civilization. For its’ main cabinet, I removed the TV from a Montgomery-Ward Home Entertainment Center - it still has the turntable and amplifier. Not knowing anything about electronics, the first thing I built, a power supply, immediately went up in smoke when I plugged it in. I didn’t know that diodes were directional, so I learned by trial and error.