On and off the record with synth inventor and electronic design innovator Don Buchla
In the 1984 book The Art of Electronic Music, Subotnick tells Jim Aikin that Buchla synthesizers are notable for "the way things are designed and laid out, so that a composer can impose his or her own personality on the mechanism. For example, Don always disassociated a voltage controlled amplifier from its control voltage source. That meant that the voltage source could be used for controlling anything. It wasn't locked into a single use ... That kind of sophistication has given him [a reputation] as the most interesting of all the people building this kind of equipment."
The first Buchla Box, using touch-sensitive pads or ports rather than a standard keyboard, was funded with a $500 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Today it's permanently ensconced at Mills College. On a side note, Buchla estimates it would easily go for $30,000. Buchla still tackles new designs — he has a multichannel filter that can serve as a Vocoder coming out next month — and his instruments, it seems, "don't depreciate at all, so they're good investments."
"But I prefer to build them for playing."
11TH SAN FRANCISCO ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL
Wed/8–Sat/11, various times, $10–$40 (pass)
(Alessandro Corti and Don Buchla perform Thurs/9, 8 p.m., $10–$16)
Brava Theatre (except Fri/10 at de Young Museum)
2781 24th St, SF