Friday, December 16, 2011

The Well-Tempered Synclavier

A black and white photograph of a man at a piano.In the late 1970s, the New England Digital Corporation based in Norwich, VT, released the Synclavier. Primarily an FM synthesis based sound module, the original Synclavier did not come with a keyboard and was only programmable via a computer supplied with the system. The system evolved and in 1979 the Synclavier II (shown here with Jon Appleton) was released, complete with a keyboard and four simultaneous voices or synthesis channels. Later models introduced the first commercially available systems for sampling to disk and direct to disk recording and helped solidify the role of the now ubiquitous "tapeless" studio.

A page of typed text an a diagram of the Synclavier control panel.
Early manual for the Synclavier.
Jon Appleton was a professor of Music at Dartmouth at the time and was influential in the development of the Synclavier, starting with the prototype called the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer. Working together with Sydney Alonso and Cameron Jones ‘74, Appleton helped pioneer modern synthesis and electro-acoustic music. Included in his papers are business records and correspondence related to the Synclavier and N.E.D., as well as scores, recordings and information related to the Bregman Studio at Dartmouth which Appleton helped found.

To see Appleton's papers, ask for MS-727. A finding aid is available.

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