April 30, 2012

Townhouse Studio B, London

Closed around April 2008. Doesn't Kate look ravishing in that brick wall sweater?

April 29, 2012

Simply Roland

It really is true. Of all the gear I've owned over the years, the Roland products have grown with me. They are invaluable tools in music creation. Everything else seems to fall short. Amen!

April 27, 2012

Ivory Tower -- Theatrical Version

I never know how I feel about this movie. There are parts of it that are right down my alley, and then there are parts that I just can't stand. The first time I saw it was in the second grade. I remember my teacher said to me "I just know you're going to love this movie.". I said the same thing to her back then that I'm saying now. I was torn. It was so close to perfect but just not quite. The soundtrack by Klaus Doldinger is undeniable though. A wonderful blend of synthesizers and traditional orchestral instruments.

This piece, supposedly by Giorgio Moroder (I have my doubts about that!) wasn't on the movie's official soundtrack but it did play in the film. Always loved this song....

April 26, 2012


Checking out the service notes for a Roland TR-808, it's amazing to see all that goes into making just one sound. Here is a break down of what the Cymbal sound consists of:

six square wave oscillators going through five filters (two band pass and three high pass), three envelop generators and three amplifiers. If you don't believe me, see for yourself:

Interesting that there is no noise source in that cymbal sound. When one goes to create a cymbal sound with a synthesizer you'd undoubtedly go straight for the noise generator, but of course this is more of an approximation of a cymbal sound and this is why the cymbal on the 808 sounds more "real".

Ever since acquiring my 808 I've been adding white noise to the cymbal sound to make it sound more synthetic. I thought I was being redundant and that it must already contain some noise, but it turns out that it doesn't and my ears knew what they wanted to hear!

Here is an article from Sound on Sound called

April 25, 2012

Going Away

I don't know if I've really said so but the truth is that I don't like very much electronic music. I love the possibilities that electronic music present us with and what I imagine to hear when I close my eyes. I'm really hopeful for the future, I believe the best is yet to come! But of all that has been made thus far -- I'm not very keen on any of it. Anything reminiscent of Vince Clark I can't stand. Taking away the beautiful space around a sound (reverb) and having these pure electronic tones going straight into your ears makes me feel sick to my stomach.

That very thing happened to me today. Listening to Boards of Canada (a band I know I'm meant to like but I just can't get into) and a long drive up north was a particularly sickening combination. Once again I switched over to the Innocence Mission and instantly felt better. The song Going Away felt particularly appropriate for today. How long until an electronic song is made with this much humanity?

There is a line that says "Some other time I wouldn't care so much about being understood as I do now". It's one of my favorites. Why is it so important to feel understood? I don't know. Sometimes I feel like it is the most important thing, and other times I don't think it's so important at all. In my old age I think i've settled on thinking it is important but only on a small scale.

April 22, 2012

Roland Harpsichord

Look at this old Roland harpsichord. It's charming. And the space around it is very nice too. It looks like a great little nook to write songs in. Someday I'd like to acquire such a nook of mine own.

Roland Synthesizers

April 20, 2012

Epcot World Showcase Concept Art -- Never Realized

A Venezuelan pavilion

A Russian pavilion

A Swiss pavilion with a Matterhorn Mountain.

Rhine River Cruise for German Pavilion

For more info check out the article Why For did Phase II of Epcot's World Showcase never get built?

April 19, 2012

Hitching Your Wagon to a Star: The Illustrations of Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes was the woman who illustrated all of the Narnia books. She also illustrated Tolkien's Middle Earth, The Borrowers by Mary Norton and many others. But many only knew her for her work on the Narnia Chronicles.

"I think it's the fate of the illustrator," she would shrug. "Look at Ernest Shepherd. He was so brilliant and did so much fine work, but people only associate him with Pooh and Piglet, and Toad of Toad Hall. It's the penalty of hitching your wagon to a star."

She believed Lewis to be rather indifferent to her work. "I think he saw them as just a necessary part of a children's book." The author and illustrator only had a couple of awkward meetings in all the years they worked together but apparently Lewis once told George Sayer "Pauline is far too pretty.".

April 18, 2012

What Is The World Coming To These Days?

Today's top story is that someone is trying to sell a slider cap for a Roland CR-78 on ebay for £15 (almost $24) with £7 shipping ($11). One little slider cap!


Would you pay $35 for this?:

I guess if you were missing one and you just really wanted to replace it...

maybe I'm over reacting.

April 17, 2012

Roland's Annual Synthesizer Tape Contest

In 1976 Roland Held the first of their annual Synthesizer Tape Contest for multi-track recordings of synthesizer. The Winner of 1981's contest, a Canadian by the name Amin Bhatia, was latter asked to be a judge in the competition. He had this to say:

"Any synth is able creation of huge sound with very little effort. So the new challenge is to move step presets flashy, instant gratification and to create a sound and musical style that Is unique to you. Think about what you want to say musically first and then dive in to all the toys"

That was translated from French and done so poorly that there probably shouldn't even be quotes around it. There were better translations but this one struck me as funny and I think the sentiment still comes through. He goes on:

"On one hand, it's always nice to know that the music you do is appreciated by your peers in this strange but exciting world of electronic music composition. On the other hand, listen to participants and other parts of the chance to win or lose will help you learn more about the effect of music on your audience. This is an important feedback, no matter the outcome"

Here's a nice little article about someone who also won the 1981 contest. Perhaps Gavin Hampshire and Amin Bhatia where in different categories. I believe there was at least an A and B class (separate categories for professionals and amateurs).

This is a handy little pocket tool that was given to contestants in 1984.

This song, Resuscitation by Masaya Matsuura (from minato-ku, Japan), was supposedly the 1981 B-class 1st prize winner (maybe there were three classes?). It was made with a Roland MC-8, System 700, Jupiter-8, Vocoder Plus as well as a Prophet 5, Minimoog, Yamaha CP-70 and Eventide H949 Harmonizer.

Keyboard Magazine also had their own reader's tape contest that ran from 1986 through the mid 90's.

On Fire Inside A Snowball

An early demo from Kate Bush. Reminds me a little of
The Man With The Child In His Eyes, one of my favorites.

Once again, sorry about the broad color palette. I'm afraid
it's out of my control.

April 14, 2012

Roland ProMars -- Compuphonic

I feel as though I'm able to say some legitimate things about this synthesizer. I've been using it pretty intensely for the better part of a year. The Roland ProMars is sort of the monophonic, "special friend" of the Jupiter 4. It does have the obligatory cv & gate ins and outs (see previous post). It is, I believe, one of only a few (and only Roland) truly analog (and by that I mean voltage controlled oscillators) synthesizers that has patch memory. This makes it ideal for live performance. It's "compuphonic" memory bank holds eight user patches and has ten preset sounds. The preset sounds are a mixed bag. The Brass sounds (trumpet, trombone and sax) are wonderful, the Strings sound is nice, the Piano and Clavi sounds are fine and the Voice sound is incredible! The Synth I and Synth II sounds are useless.

The patch memory is great, but you are unable to edit a patch after it's been saved (unlike a Juno-106 or Jupiter 8 for instance). So after a patch is saved, if you try to change most of it's parameters you're out of luck. Except! There are some performance controls that do still effect the saved sounds. Most notably: a little knob called Brilliance, that is essentially just another way to control the cutoff frequency of the filter. There's also an octave switch that can be rather useful. The one thing that ends up being a bother is that the envelope settings are completely fixed once a sound is saved.

All in all, I think it's a great synthesizer. If you're interested in a set, this along with the Jupiter 4 and CR-78 drum machine all have the same sort of design (1978).

April 13, 2012

In The Market For Electronic Music Instruments?

People are always asking me "Hey, what is that you're playing?" or "What is the best synthesizer for a beginner?" or "What's wrong with me?". It can be difficult, if you're new to the medium, to know what is the best instrument for you and with so many makes and models out there where does one even begin? I'm no expert on the subject, but I have been going through my own trial and error process with analog synthesizers since the mid 90's and this is what I've learned:

It's all about control. There is no point in buying a synthesizer (if you're just starting out) that is completely cut off from the rest of the world. You're going to acquire other little machines and you're going to want them to be able to communicate with one another because that's how pleasant, listenable, electronic music is made. If you want to be remarkably old fashion you'll need to make sure your synthesizer has CV & Gate inputs and outputs and if you want to be a little more modern (and, dare I say, have a lot less fun) make sure it has MIDI.

Of course there are many other factors: voltage controlled or digital oscillators, how many oscillators, monophonic or polyphonic, modular or fixed. These are all decisions only you can make, and the best way to go about it is to educate yourself. But the one bit advice I will give you is, and it is the same thing I will tell my children, my grandchildren and my great grant children: when it comes to electronic music.... make sure you're always in control!

April 11, 2012

Dear Readers,

As most of you know Mild Slopes is interested in very few topics (see the column to the right). Anything else is not relevant here, least of all aspects of my life that I've decidedly kept separate. If what is presented isn't interesting to you then please look elsewhere for your entertainment.

I don't mean to deter any of my loyal readers who have contributed to the further discussion of these topics. I'm so grateful that there are other's who find these things interesting and have found their way here.


April 10, 2012

Virginia Astley: Tree Top Club + Bambi

Whoever thought it was a good idea to put these two things together was a genius.

The Ravishing Beauties

The Ravishing Beauties were Virginia Astely's band before she went solo. They toured with The Teardrop Explodes and recorded a few demos and did a couple of sessions. Here is my favorite of their demos. I love the tiny little Roland drum sounds that go throughout but are completely overshadowed on the choruses by the huge timpani drums.


I may have driven one of these one time, years ago.

April 8, 2012

1984 Olympics Trading Cards

I found this box of trading cards from the 1984 winter Olympic games at a garage sale. All the members of the Swiss ski team pared up with their favorite Roland synthesizers. Seems like a strange mash up, but I like it. This one is my favorite.

April 7, 2012

Dull Basement Studio Space?

Look at the amazing difference some cool, funky lighting can make!

April 5, 2012

Boy with 808

Suzanne Ciani, she's actually a lady.

Epcot Center 1982 Preview Video

This is a great video but also pay attention to the music! Some lovely synthesizers in there -- mixing electronic sounds with orchestral music in a way only Epcot could.

April 3, 2012

One Hundredth Post

Yes, in just four months (approximately) there have been one hundred posts on Mild Slopes. Thanks to everyone who 's read and enjoyed the blog and to everyone who's left comments and joined in the fun. Merry Christmas!

Roland Record