10: Doug Lynner

lynnerFTRMy guest is analog synthesizer master Doug Lynner, who has performed evolving live compositions on the Serge Modular Synthesizer for over 40 years, as well as editing the classic electronic music magazine Synapse.

Doug_LynnerSQWho invented the electronic music synthesizer, and why did they do it?  I thought I should dig into this a little,  some background to explain my guest Doug Lynner’s  place in musical history.  Well, as in most fields, there was an army of inventors, each one leading to the next. Early on, in the nineteen-teens and twenties the notion of making sounds electrically or electronically came up, but these instruments were thought of simply as new sound resources, to make music conceived of and played in more or less conventional ways.  But later, after World War II, musical avant-gardists became interested in making a music whose very body, structure and organization grew out of exploiting the  semi-wild – but guided – operation of electronic circuits themselves.  This sort of ”embodied abstraction” was first done by repurposing various laboratory equipment, combining oscillators, filters and tape recorders in ad-hoc ways to  make or record sound sequences and structures.

In 1960 German musical engineer Harald Bode published a paper on his notion of cleaning up this mess with a modular music synthesizer, a matching ensemble of sound creation and processing units built in one rack, to be freely connected together in multiple ways for different musical effects.  And within a few years Bob Moog, on the east coast, and Donald Buchla, on the west coast, had developed and released commercial products along these lines, each with their own brilliant quirks and strengths.  A third quirky inventor/genius of this stripe emerged in the early 70s: Serge Tcherepnin, the Russian/Chinese/French/American composer and engineer, son of celebrated Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin. Serge had made his way from Europe, to CalArts in southern California, along the way studying with Boulez, Stockhausen and Luigi Nono, among many others.

Here’s where my guest Doug Lynner enters the picture. As a student at CalArts in the early 70’s he glommed onto Serge’s brilliant realization of the modular synthesis concept and never let go, over the course of the next 40 years working steadily on the Serge Modular synthesizer, creating living synthesis compositions, and helping, through his electronic music magazine Synapse to keep alive a culture of analog synthesis that lives and burns ever brighter today.  I had a chance to talk with him before a recent performance at the Outsound music festival in San Francisco.

 

Links:

Doug Lynner’s website: http://neatnetnoise.com

His Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/doug-4

His Bandcamp page: https://douglynner.bandcamp.com/

Back issues of Synapse magazine: http://www.cyndustries.com/synapse/intro.cfm