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Synth and Software, October 2020

Nick Batzdorf

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About this Month’s Cover

The ARP 2500 came out 50 years ago, and it might be even more important today than it was the year the Beatles broke up. It was a huge, expensive analog synth that was originally sold to universities and sound labs, but it ended up being used on a lot of famous songs – and, as shown on this month’s cover, on John Williams’ famous score to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

The 2500’s big innovations were that it stayed in tune and didn’t require patch cables (never mind that they’ve staged a comeback!). It also led to the ARP 2600 FS, a portable, semi-modular synth designed for the stage – and that instrument is still alive in the form of the new Korg version also featured on this month’s cover.

Fortunately, the Alan R. Pearlman Foundation (ARP are his initials) is continuing the 2500’s legacy. To commemorate the instrument’s 50th, with the goal of inspiring current and future musicians, they just held a very interesting online “synthposium.” Its panel featured a number of engineers, developers, composers, educators, etc. associated with the instrument – including Chris Meyer, who in addition to being a moderator contributes some really informative videos this month.

Chris Meyer ‘Synthposium’ Presentations

Perhaps the most interesting question asked of the panelists (including composer Don Slepian, who contributes regularly to Synth and Software) was whether the 2500 – an analog synth, of course – has a sound of its own. The answer, after thoughtful pauses: not really, it’s the more the interface that determines the sound!

And that’s why analog hardware synths are so popular today. But we do love our software too!

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