My Synthology

The beginning

I’ve always had a fascination with sound. It didn’t take long for me to wonder how sound worked. But it nearly didn’t happen.

A friend at school got a Casio keyboard for Christmas. The flashing lights, coloured buttons and funny wheel on the side were all intriguing. I didn’t understand it, but I didn’t need to. It was fun to press all the buttons and keys to see what happened. The built in demo was an endless source of mystique to my young mind.

Old Skool

My early exploration made a lasting impression with me as when I went to secondary school, I was in awe of the mysterious black boxes in the corner of the music room. To my disappointment, these magical sound machines were not for use by mere mortals such as me. I needed to be a musician… That counted me out right away! (Later I realised that they were Roland MT-32s and Roland D-10s).

As a teenager in the early 90s. My Walkman was brimming with pirate radio recordings. I was in awe of the early Hardcore, Techno and Jungle. My desire to understand how the sounds I heard were made was growing, but I hadn’t really put the music and technology together in my mind. Much of this music was breakbeat, with samples of synths, but in my naive mind it was just “keyboards”.

That moment…

By pure coincidence, I was around a friends house. I noticed she had a keyboard packed up in its box. She got it out and offered to lend it to me. I eagerly took it home and plugged it in. This was the lightbulb moment for me. I could play the sounds on it and create new ones. I was hooked. Little did I understand at the time that this was a Yamaha PSS-580 synthesiser. With its 2 operator FM architecture it seemed an endless source of new and exciting sounds. I knew I needed my own synthesizer.

When I look back at my early encounter with synthesis, there’s a romantic innocence to it all. There’s also the nagging thought that I very nearly didn’t realise how much passion I had for it. Decades on I still have this passion and for that, I want to remember Alex. Without her I’m not sure I would.