i keep coming back to this passage
figured I’d share
I also played a Moog in those days, because there was one at Mills, and once they gave it to me for two weeks while they were closed for vacation. And you know I missed all that, it was kind of dormant. It had those great big patchcords and the big keyboard but there was no living, breathing…aliveness.
Did you feel the Moog was more passive?
Rather than the Buchla which was active and interactive.
Yes, but they were so different. The thing that the Moog had going for it was the sound. It had a very rich sound that found a lot of interest in popular music, and in imitating existing instruments. The Buchla was never about the sound—it was about the way the sound moved. So the timbre wasn’t important. Instead of playing a keyboard and having a chord or having a melody, you could move that sound all over the place in incredible new ways of organizing sound. I can’t explain all that here, but in 1976 I did a paper for a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts in which I documented my live performance techniques using the Buchla’s Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator.
Do you think it made any difference to you that you’d worked on the instrument from the inside? You had soldered and made them for a while, working for Buchla.
Yes, and while I was working for him I would have access from time to time to his personal studio, which was astonishing. I mean it looked like Manhattan—there were these towers of modular units, hundreds of them, in this enormous system and you’d stand up because it was tall, and be patching the units together. And there was a big swing in the room, so while you were listening to how your patch was evolving you could get on the swing and swing through the space, and kind of listen to what was going on. I was proselytized, very much so, by his concept, and I’m grateful for it, because I think Don Buchla—even to this day he’s still designing instruments—had a sense of the possibilities of those instruments. I mean he’s done so many interfaces: one that’s like a mallet percussion keyboard , things that are played with light …instead of taking from the existing world of instrument design he looks at what’s going on now and designs. He has keyboards in the shape of hands that fan out on an angle , so he doesn’t take anything borrowed. He invents.
So you worked with a Moog at Mills briefly, but I gather you also took Moog classes with Bernie Krause.
I took a class that Bernie offered at a studio in Berkeley at Sunset Recording. I took the class because at the time—I was a grad student at UC Berkeley—the music department was the recipient of a brand new Moog. And I had already played synthesizers—if that’s what you want to call them—for quite a while, but they said “you cannot play these instruments until you have a certificate” (laughs)