Moog Synthesizer

The Moog Synthesizer

article-2148571-0133A75400001005-538_634x626Robert Moog, a physicist and electrical engineer from New York, was a pioneer in developing electronic musical instruments. One of his most famous creations is the Moog synthesizer, which is an analog modular voltage-controlled synthesizer developed in the mid 1960s.

Moog started to establish his synthesizers after meeting Herbert Deutsch in 1963. Over the course of the next year, he developed a modular voltage-controlled subtractive synthesizer. He demonstrated this synthesizer at an audio engineering conference and immediately received an order for the instrument.

However, the instrument did not become popular until the late 1960s. After fruitless efforts to get his synthesizer noticed, it did not really become noticed until Robert Moog set up a booth at the Monterey festival. There it received attention from major acts such as Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds. Some of the first famous songs to feature the Moog synthesizer were “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes, “Strange Days” by The Doors, “Cosmic Sounds” by The Zodiac, and “Bookends” by Simon & Garfunkel.

The synthesizer did not reach commercial breakthrough until composer and musician Wendy Carlos introduced the instrument to the general public. Moog and Carlos worked closely together in the late ‘60s to compose a demonstration record for the Moog Company. The album became known as Switched-On Bach and quickly captured the public’s attention. In addition, Carlos received three Grammy awards for the album.

moog_minimoogdA smaller version of the synthesizer, called the Minimoog, was introduced in the 1970s. This compact version gave musicians greater freedom with the instrument. The synthesizer gained international attention with the release of “Popcorn” by Hot Butter, a song that reached the top of the charts in Australia, the UK, and the US. In 1974, German electronic group Kraftwerk began using several types of synthesizers, including the Minimoog. Even the Beach Boys used the instrument in their album, Love You.

By now, Robert Moog had started his own company to develop electronic instruments, known as Moog Music. Throughout the ‘70s, the company changed ownership several times and was eventually bought out by Norlin. Moog decided to leave his own company in 1977 due to poor marketing and management. After leaving Moog Music, Moog started making instruments with Big Briar, a new company. The company specialized in producing theramins, but later expanded to start producing analog effects pedals.

Robert Moog’s innovative design for electronic instruments has been used in various synthesizers since then, such as the Minimoog Voyager, Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, and the Minimoog Model D. With the influence that electronic music has established over modern music, it is safe to say that Robert Moog was one of the pioneers of modern music and a genius for his time.

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The History of the Violin

Violin1The violin is the smallest member of the string instrument family. It features four strings which are tuned in perfect fifths. This instrument, also known as a fiddle, is made primarily out of wood. The violinist plays the instrument by dragging a bow over the strings. The bow is made of wood and horsehair.

While it has ancient origins, the modern violin was constructed and developed in Italy in the 16th century. During this time, many famous violin makers emerged such as the DallaCorna family, the Inverardi family, the Micheli family, the Amati family, and the Stradivari family.

During the 18th century, some changes were made to the violin such as the angle and length of the neck. The majority of older instruments constructed before the 18th century have been modified to match this feature and thus their shape and sound have been modified as well. However, instruments from the Golden Age of violin making are highly sought after and are worth millions of dollars. Violins from makers Stradivari, Montagnana and Gesu are highly praised and cherished.

indexThe modern European violin is thought to have evolved from stringed instruments from the Byzantine Empire and Middle East. One of the earliest known descriptions of the instrument was in the Epitome musical that was published in 1556. Around this time, the violin was already becoming popular in Europe.

The first violin to feature four strings is thought to have been constructed by Andrea Amati. Previous versions had three strings and were called violetta. The violin became very popular among a wide array of people, including nobility and street musicians. In fact, the French king Charles IX instructed Amati to make 24 violins for him. The Charles IX is one of the oldest surviving instruments from this batch of violins. During this time in history, the viola and the cello were also developed.

Composers noted to favor the violin in their music include Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky among others. In compositions, the violin is usually the main voice of the piece.

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While the modern violin has not changed much, there currently exists an alternate version known as the electric violin. It is a violin equipped with an electronic output of its sound. Most electric violins feature built-in pickups; however, there are some violins fitted with an electric pickup of some type. These violins have become popular since the 1920s and have been used in blues and jazz music.

Although it is a relatively simple instrument, the history of the violin is quite extensive and complex.

The History of the Piano

modern-piano-for-your-interior-design-1A piano is a keyboard-based instrument that has consistently been popular throughout the years. It is used in a variety of settings, such as jazz and classical solo performances as well as being included in ensemble use in chamber music.

A piano has a wooden case built around metal strings and a soundboard. The keyboard is comprised of black and white keys. The player uses these keys to make sound. When a key is pressed down, the strings are tapped with a padded mallet to make a sound. The strings are sounded when pressed down and silenced when released. With the use of petals at the bottom of the piano, it is possible to sustain a note.

The modern piano has an extensive history. It is based on earlier innovations like the hammered dulcimer. In the Middle Ages, many attempts were made to create a instrument with a stringed keyboard. During the 17th century, earlier versions of the piano, such as a harpsichord and clavichord became well known.

The modern form of the piano was first created by Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, Italy. He was hired by Ferdinando de Medici to be the Keeper of the Instruments and was a professional harpsichord maker. It is not known when the first version of the modern piano was created, as many accounts differ from another. However, there are three pianos from the 1720s that were created by him.

The piano was created as an attempt to find a middle ground between the harpsichord and the clavichord. The clavichord was too quiet for loud performances and the harpsichord provided little control over the loudness of notes. Cristofori’s success in creating the piano was solving one of the main problems with the instrument which was that the mallet must hit the string then release contact with it. In addition, the hammer must return to its rest position efficiently and must be able to repeat a note in quick succession.

His version of the piano was largely unknown until Scipione Maffei, an Italian writer, wrote an article in 1711 which included an illustration of the instrument. The article became popular, and many piano makers set to work building pianos based on the diagram in the article. Gottfried Silbermann created almost a virtual copy of Cristofori’s design. One addition to the instrument made by Silbermann was the intention of the sustain pedal.  This pedal lifts all dampers off the strings at the same time. Silbermann showed his creation to Johann Sebastian Bach, who was critical of the instrument at the time. Silbermann heeded to Bach’s feedback and created an instrument that Bach would later help him sell.

John_Broadwood,_London,_1810_-_Musical_Instrument_Museum,_Brussels_-_IMG_3841In the late 18th century, piano-making flourished in Vienna. These types of pianos were built with wooden frames with two strings per note. The hammers were leather covered. Some even featured the exact opposite keyboard coloring from modern pianos with the natural keys being black and the accidental keys being white. It was on these instruments that Mozart composed his famous music. The instruments were known for their softer, less-sustaining piano sound.

From 1790 to 1860, the Mozart-era piano saw vast changes due to the need for a more powerful piano sound. This was made possible with the help of precision casting for the production of iron frames and high-quality piano strings. By the 1820s, the center of piano production moved to Paris where pianos were manufactured for Chopin. Other improvements of the century included replacing the leather hammers with felt hammers.

One popular form of piano, the upright piano, was introduced around 1805 and was built through the 1840s. On this form of piano, strings are arranged vertically on a continuous frame with bridges that extend almost to the floor. In front of this is a keyboard with a very large sticker action. Modern upright and grand pianos have largely kept their same form throughout the years, although small improvements have been made here and there. Many details of the instrument continue to receive attention and the form of the piano is constantly evolving.

Elizabeth Falconer and Her Albums

elizabeth-falconer-playing-koto
Elizabeth Falconer is an American master of the Koto, a Japanese traditional zither about six feet in length with thirteen silk strings which is Japan’s national musical instrument as well. Falconer was born in July 20, 1956 and she started playing the koto in 1979. She is licensed particularly in two Japan koto schools. She got her associate degree (junshihan) from Seiha Koto School where she studied under Nagane Utayumi. Her school focused on classical works specifically.

Later on, Falconer moved in Tokyo and studied under Sawai Kazue and Sawai Tadao at Sawai Koto School. She then earned her master’s license (shihan) here which made her more inclined to contemporary works.

Currently, Falconer has a bachelor of arts in Japanese studies degree from the University of Oregon and a masters degree in Japanese Pedagogy. She also has a PhD in International Education where most of her dissertations were about koto teaching methods in Japan. Most of her works were published in Japan. She has been well-known for her work with koto music that were linked to Japanese folktales. Under her label “Koto World”, she has been able to produce different albums.

Here is a list of them:

  1. Deep Pool (2000)
  2. Plum Boy! And Other Tales From Japan (2000)
  3. Hana and the Dragon & Other Tales from Japan (2001)
  4. The Crane’s Story – Tales of Love From Japan (2002)
  5. Once Up in a Lilypad (2013)
  6. Chocolate Suite – Japanese Music for Chocolate Lovers (2014)
  7. Isshin – Emerging: Music for Japanese Koto (2005)
  8. Little Pink Fish (2005)