If you ever want to stir up controversy, just propose ranking the world’s top synthesists.
Synth and Software founding editor Geary Yelton and I tried to narrow our lineup of the greatest synthesists of all time down to just 10. To qualify, they had to be among the most influential, the most original, and the most skillful. Once we’d whittled our list down to 15 seminal semifinalists, we knew we needed help.
Geary contacted 20 of the magazine’s contributors—all authorities in electronic music—and we exchanged about a hundred emails with the group. Agreeing on the top 4 or 5 was easy, but settling on the others took some spirited haggling.
After much discussion, we took a vote and selected the players with the most votes. I’ve arranged them in alphabetical order by last name. I hope we didn’t miss your favorite, but with a limit of only 10, we had to leave some big names on the cutting room floor.
Synth and Software’s Top 10 Synthesists
WENDY CARLOS: Released in 1968, Wendy’s album Switched On Bach was the breakthrough recording that catapulted synthesizers into mainstream consciousness. Her exquisite Moog modular timbres combined with extraordinary performances of well-known baroque music provided the perfect gateway for the masses to experience electronic music for the first time. Her impact on the world of synthesis simply can’t be overstated.
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