Synthesisers are great. When I was a kid Jean Michel Jarre popularised electronic music. I had never heard anything like it before. This music, in part, helped inspire my early teenage desire to own my own synthesiser and the one that was affordable enough to allow me so set my heart on was this! The Casio MT 400-V
It wasn’t really a synthesiser. This little machine was actually a pretty basic home keyboard with an ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain Release) filter bolted on, but it provided many happy hours of mucking about with sounds. The fact that it could be powered by batteries was also a boon – I even remember playing it on the beach.
A few years later I graduated to one of these…
The Korg M1 is the best selling synthesiser the world has ever known. It had an impressive feature set – a 61-note keyboard that senses both key velocity and aftertouch, a joystick for pitch-bend and modulation control, 16-note polyphony, eight-part multitimbral operation with dynamic voice allocation, and 86 16-bit sampled waveforms within just 4Mb ROM memory.
Importantly it also featured a facility to record using the inbuilt sequencer which provided me with my first experiences of layering sound on sound. I remember spending about a week, eight hours a day, recording an instrumental cover version of ‘Private Investigations’ by Dire Straits. From what I remember it sounded pretty good, apart from the overdriven guitar burst on the original recording, which the M1 struggled to emulate – I had to resort to some sort of insipid brass pad which didn’t quite have the same impact. I have a vague recollection that this recording may still be in existence on cassette tape somewhere. I will post it online if I can find it.
Sadly I don’t own either of these marvellous machines anymore. Eventually the Casio went to a charity shop and the M1 was sold, at a discount, to compensate for sticking keys and a dodgy output jack socket.
More recently in my work writing for media There have been quite a few occasions where an electronic score was been commissioned. Below is a collated playlist from some of these projects. All of the sounds here were made using software instruments – which very often are software emulations of classic synthesisers including the Korg M1.