Switched on Bach

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Early musical synthesizers like the Moog had full piano-like keyboards, but only one key at a time could be pressed. Pianists are accustomed to playing chords using multiple keys and thus live performances of synthesizers were restricted to solo voices. I concluded their limitations were not insurmountable; they could be fixed through clever design. As I had described in an earlier post, analog synths used voltage control to select individual notes. Each note came from an oscillator, controlled by a simple keyboard. Press more than one note on the keyboard and you still only heard one note, not two. I devised a rather simple plan to work around this problem. Instead of single note generators controlled from a keyboard, why not build ten note generators? In fact, taken to its logical extreme, what we wanted was ten full synthesizers controlled from a single keyboard. Ten was the perfect number because pianists have that many fingers. The next challenge was how to select the notes with a keyboard. A friend I knew suggested a digital approach - scanning the keyboard identifying notes selected - assigning a specific address to an available tone generator. There were other details of course, keeping the voltage controlled nature of the instruments for all functions (including the keyboard), but without boring readers let me just say I had it all figured out and began building what would become known as the Infinitizer; the Infinite Synthesizer. Now back in California after my Germany stint a company was formed, drawings made, prototypes begun. We found an investor and our first customer: Walter Carlos of Switched on Bach fame. When Walter (now Wendy) knew what I had in mind he and his manager, Rachel Elkind, were the first to sign up. Tomorrow, how synthesizers turned into phono preamplifiers and the futility of squeezing blood from turnips.
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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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