The Smith's Journal - June 2009

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New Oberheim SEM

Tags: Studio

Legendary synthesiser designer Tom Oberheim (now aged 72) has announced that he's making a new SEM:

"I don't consider it a big business venture, it's just something I felt I had to do." [...]
"I think very strongly that what did happen through the late-Eighties and all through the Nineties was that the machines became so perfected that it just kind of lost the edge."
- Tom Oberheim

I couldn't agree more. Apart from a brief period of classic house music in the late Eighties, most traditional electronic music went downhill after 1986 too - a coincidence? Probably not, since although the shiny new synths had tons of features, they were built into sterile boxes with terribly restrictive digital paramter access user-interfaces which made them uninspiring to play. And a synthesiser is all about the playing.

Back in 1974, SEMs were the individual voice modules that made up the Two Voice and Four Voice (the latter seen here with two Mini Sequencers in place of the Programmer of later models = a much better idea; who needs memories when you can have two sequencers to play along duophonically with?!). If Beermaster likes the SEM then it can't be bad - he should know. If you've not experienced the deliciously refined sound, check this sublimely understated Oberheim Two Voice Demo Part 1, and also this highly informative thread. This (the TVS-1) is the synth that Bernard Szajner used back in the day. Classic stuff.

[UPDATE: The Two Voice is indeed coming back too! ;-]

Could I have a Rhodes with that please...?

Tags: Studio

It's very good that everyone these days is resurrecting the vintage keyboard greats - even the new Rhodes now has MIDI (before you get too excited, they're not cheap at £3000+!). Hmmm, a nice white one would look mighty fine with a white Two Voice on top. Maybe add an Infinite Response VAX-77, also in white, controlling a Macbeth M5N plus an ARP Odyssey Mk.I, EMS VCS3 or EML 400 and of course a Memotron. I'll start saving for these and see you onstage when I'm fifty...

(To stage manager:) OK, I'm thinking long white drapes billowing around with all musicians and dancers dressed in white - think Angels, jetpacks... + lots of dry ice and strobes...

[UPDATE: OMG! Now all the classic old white synths are returning! So add a new Fairlight CM30A too!]


Charity shops rule

Tags: Music

James Last Plays For YouWow, today I found a James Last "Plays For You" 4LP box set in mint condition (with two inserts) for just 50p in the local Salvation Army shop. The cover alone is worth the price of admission, and as a result takes pride of place in my studio alongside other classics from Demis Roussos, Chic, et al. This choice find came along with Julio Iglesias' "Begin The Beguine" single for 25p and some cool clothes too. So it's quite a happening evening here...


Indian Summer Festival

Tags: Music, Drumming, Eco

A special all-day event (postponed from 2008-09-20) promoting indigenous music from around the world, held in rolling countryside at Walkern Hall near the village of Aston near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. Lots of drumming workshops+performances, music, dance, good food and drinks,... I have been appointed Music Director of the festival and will be working with the Funding Committee to organise things.

[UPDATE: Sadly I later had to give up organising this project as there aren't enough days in the week, but I still taught there and performed with Africa Junction, seen pictured (below right).]

Watch some videos at the Indian Summer Group YouTube channel.

[ Kakatsitsi drummers performing at Indian Summer Festival | Kakatsitsi drummers from Ghana performing at ISF | Kakatsitsi drummers singing at Indian Summer Festival | Indian Summer Festival organisers Rozi and Gabi with Jean from AJ | Africa Junction bandmembers after their performance at ISF ]

It was so exciting driving through Walkern and seeing all the yellow AA signs leading to the festival, then arriving in the picturesque country parkland with tipi and tents gathering around the central tree of power. Magical. I loved seeing Rozi charging round the site hanging off the back of a jeep in a HiViz jacket, commanding orders into walkie-talkies :-)

My morning workshop began teaching Dance Of The Drummers to a group of children aged five to sixty-five, and we had lots of fun. A short burst of rain caused me to urgently change song to the solar-celebration song that is Djole, which as usual put an end to the rain and brought the sun out :-)

Meeting up with lots of friends from various different circles was fab, such as introducing fellow Italians Roberto and Ignazio, our amazing djembe soloist, and other people who came along from Secret Bass, Vitae Drummers, Africa Junction and my Bedford djembe group.

The Kakatsitsi drumming workshop was a whole bundle of happy energy poured into song and drums. It was cool that the young kids who'd taken part in my morning drum workshop came to watch the adults doing their thing at a whole different level of playing ability, and gazed on enthralled with quite a crowd of spectators. Their performance later (seen above) fired up the place big time, and it was impossible not to dance. Performing after them was quite a tough act to follow, but we rose to the challenge and had such fun playing to a warm audience, and we were glad folk stayed around till the end.

What a totally awesome day! My only regrets of ISF:

"Could we have Ms Rozanne Paragon to the stage, please! Ms Gabi Willoughby to the stage...!" [Cue applause and bouquets...]

P.S. - More updates are finally coming soon to this website - lots is written, less is finished...

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2008-12-25 - last updated 2011-05-23