Oh man. Eno playing an EMS VCS3.
That synthesizer single handedly steered me away from music education and into composition and performance. My alma mater has (had?) one in their music studio and, as the only student at the college who had any interest in taking Intro to Electronic Music, I was given free reign to play with it and all the other great vintage gear in the studio (tape machines, Yamaha DX7 IIFD, some primitive orchestral sampler MIDI box… all kinds of great inspiring stuff). All that gear, combined with the realization that I just didn’t feel comfortable standing in front of a classroom full of kids, led me to give up on music education (though I still earned the degree).
I would spend, quite literally, all night locked alone in that studio playing with the VCS3. That joystick was badass and the routing matrix was a much better solution to patching than the cables typical of other modular synths, and the Ring Modulator was brilliant.
I still miss cranking the volume up, manually syncing those three oscillators, patching them into the filter, and slowly sweeping through its frequency range. I swear the whole music building would vibrate.
That tactile control of synthesis - the feeling of the knobs and dials and switches in your fingers - is something I’ll never forget. Just looking at this gif I can still remember how smoothly those 30 year old pots turned, with just the right amount of pressure and resistance so that you actually had to put some effort into the action. Goddamn. I need to contact them and see if they still own it.
We’ve just passed the 10 year anniversary of my senior recital for my bachelors degree in K-12 Music Education.
10 years ago I performed John Cage’s 4’33” on stage in front of my family, friends, peers, and professors. 9 out of 10 of them had no idea what the hell was happening. I’m still proud of this performance.
A few thoughts:
- My favorite thing about this video is the quiet little voice of my then-3 year old niece. “What is he doing?” It was the only moment where I lost my composure and let out a smile.
- I wish someone who cared about me back then would’ve told me to cut my hair. I had long hair for a long time. Too long for too long. This was my poofy-curls stage. Also, terrible glasses. Also, fully buttoned-up shirt with no tie?!
- Muted trumpet for the 2nd Movement = The best idea I’ve ever had.