Sunday, 26 August 2018 23:22

30 Years In The Making

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What were you doing in 1988?   

It was quite an eventful year in that decade called the 80's.  For me, it was the year I legally became an adult. At that time I was still a student struggling to figure out what to do with my life.

I barely graduated from high school the year before. Most of my friends had planned at least a year or more in advance what they would be doing for their post-secondary studies and where.  I tried attending a popular music program at Vanier College, but that lasted one month.  I loved music but I could not afford the materials for my courses and ended up dropping out. 

I had spent the past 4 years playing in an after-school pop band with some friends of mine.  We mostly played cover songs that were popular at the time.  We did a few concerts at school and in our neighborhood.  For the latter part of my high school years, I was playing with a jazz band with a group that was put together by Denny Christiansen.  We played venues at the Ottawa and Montreal International Jazz Festivals, which was one of the coolest experiences of my life!

Back then, I had some fun gear to play around with.  I shall list them for you in chronological order!

 

1. Korg Poly 61-M

korg poly61m

 

2. Roland Juno 106

Roland Juno 106

 

 

3. Yamaha DX7

yamaha dx7

 

 

4. Ensoniq EPS

ensoniq eps

 

 

5. Linn Drum

linndrum

It took about 4 years of searching before I finally found a program that would be a good fit for me. In 1992 I took a break from my love of keyboards and music to finish my studies in electrical engineering technology.  

Here's a pic of me at 22 years old enjoying my last days of "freedom" before going off to college to learn a trade.

me2

I went to night school from 1992 to 1995 and entered the workforce straight after.

Then life happened.  I met a beautiful woman, got married, bought a house in the suburbs and started a family.

 

I took piano lessons as a child and studied the classics through the Royal Conservatory of Music.  My entire childhood was all about scales, technique and learning from the great masters of classical music.

My two greatest influences were Bach that appealed to my technical side, and Beethoven that appealed to my romantic side.  Over time, I grew attached to Beethoven.  He was an innovator well ahead of his time.  His music inspired so many musicians over the years, perhaps more so than any other.  Even now, 248 years since his birth, his music is still played and admired by many music enthusiasts around the world. 

The piano was virtually a new instrument in his era and he made sure he put his mark on it!  It is known to be quite an accomplishment for any pianist to play through all of his 32 piano sonatas.  I have played about 20 of them in their entirety, and the remainder I've played a movement from a sonata here and there.  My favorites are the Waldstein (Opus 53), Appassionata (Opus 57) and the Hammerklavier (Opus 106).

 

Growing up my parents got us (my sister and I) a small apartment-sized piano.  It was nothing special but it did the job. I always fantasized about owning and playing on a baby grand one day.

I eventually bought one and enjoyed having it my home.  I enjoyed playing many of Beethoven's piano sonata's on it.  It was pretty much all Beethoven all the time on this piano!

 

6.  Young Chang PG-150

youngchang 

It would be 7 years before I would get my next, musical instrument!

7. Roland V-Synth

v synth top gal

It was love at second sight (I'll explain why a little further down in this blog)!  Most of my instrument purchases were made here in Montreal at Steve's Music on St-Antoine st. 

This time, I saw it on sale at Musique Richard in Quebec City.  I was living there for a few years, and just before coming back to Montreal, I walked into that store with no plans to buy anything.  I was just window shopping.

It was a floor model and the only one in stock!  At a nicely reduced price, I could not say no!  It's been with me ever since, and I use it regularly.

And so, I thought this would be my last musical instrument.  But then, a miracle of sorts happened!

Since 2010 I have been exclusively using Mac computers for my website and computer consulting business.  I find them much more reliable, easier to use and have better software than their PC/Windows counterparts.  I started with a MacBook Pro, and now also have a MacMini which replaced my aging PC tower.

For some years, the developers of music software created plugins that are essentially a virtual keyboard on a screen.  This is an ideal alternative for someone who wanted to get a particular keyboard or sound, but for one reason or another could not buy the actual hardware.  This is obviously a less expensive approach to buying the real thing, and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Then one day, I saw something that I never thought would be possible in my lifetime!

A software company called Arturia began developing keyboard plugins that replicated the actual sounds and algorithms off vintage synthesizers of back in the day. They started with the very first programmable polyphonic synthesizer called the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5.

arturia prophet

I was awestruck!   But it didn't stop there.  They then came out with one of the most popular synthesizers that shaped the music of the 80's.  The Roland Jupiter-8!

jup 8 v image

This was the preferred keyboard of so many artists back in the day!  It was big, colorful and produced many rich and layered sounds that are still unmatched to this day!

But what keyboard collection would be complete without a digital sampler?  My first sampler was an Ensoniq EPS as you saw above in #4. 

This was not my first choice.  That was solely reserved for the granddaddy sampler, the very first one to hit the market and become one of the most sought-after musical instruments of its generation!  The Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument).

Fairlight CMI IIx

This sampler came out to market in 1979, around the same time as the Prophet-5.  And much like the Prophet-5 and Jupiter-8, it revolutionized the way that musicians make music.  This was the first time a computer interface was paired with a keyboard and allowed you to capture sounds from any source, modify the waveforms (even create new ones), and had a built-in multi-track recorder!   

It was a complete music studio solution in one box!.....for the modest price of $75,000US you can own one!  When I first saw one used by a musician, I dreamt of owning one but at that price, that was a mortgage on a house!  So I settled for the Ensoniq EPS, which eventually had a motherboard failure and was thrown out in the trash after 5 years of use!  A truly heartbreaking moment for me.

But guess what Arturia did just last year...

Arturia CMI V

 

This was my dream come true!  It may not be the actual hardware, but the sound and technology are essentially the same!

After 30 odd years, the wait is finally over!  I have the studio I always wanted to have and I did it without breaking the bank!

Here's what it looks like today in 2018.  30 years in the making!

 

8. MacMini w/GarageBand & Arturia V Collection

mystudio

 

If you're wondering where I got my interest and influences for electronic music and keyboards, it's from none other than Nick Rhodes, one of the founding members Duran Duran! 

nickrhodes2

He's been at it since 1978, and from what I see, it doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon!  It would be nice to meet him one day.  In my book, his contributions to digital music and the industry are on par with Beethoven.  And yes, you might have guessed that this is what I meant by love at second sight with my Roland V-Synth!

The perfect marriage between Old Romantic,

beethoven1

and New Romantics!

duran duran 1981 

Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane!  I look forward to sharing some of my music with you in the near future. In the meanwhile, I have some catching up to do!

Cheers!

  

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