Synthesizer Pioneers

Synthesizer Pioneers

A pictorial sampling of the great opportunities I have had to work with some of my synth heroes

by David Mash

I started experimenting with synthesizers in 1971, studied Electronic Music at Berklee with Michael Rendish beginning in 1973, and began performing live as a synthesist regularly in 1977. This may not qualify me as a “pioneer,” but perhaps as an “early adopter.” However, I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some of the legendary synthesizer pioneers during my career as a music technology consultant as well as through my work at Berklee College of Music.

In 1989 when I left the Music Synthesis Department I had founded at Berklee to become Berklee’s Assistant Dean of Curriculum for Academic Technology (BADCAT), I hosted a panel discussion at the Berklee Performance Center with synthesizer legends Bob Moog, Alan R. Perlman (ARP), Ray Kurzweil, and keyboard artist Tom Coster.

Shown left to right: Alan R. Perlman, Ray Kurzweil,
David Mash, Tom Coster, and Bob Moog.

Bob Moog with original Minimoog, Alan Perlman with ARP2600, and Ray Kurzweil with the K250 at that panel discussion.

Me with Bob Moog

Here I am with Bob Moog. We became friends in the early 1980s when he was working at Kurzweil as VP for engineering and I was consulting on sound and user interface design. Bob invited me to write an after-market users guide to the Kurzweil 250, which Kurzweil later published. We also worked together on the design of the Kurzweil 150, the MIDIboard and a host of software revisions for the Kurzweil 250. In 2002 Berklee honored Bob with the Honorary Doctorate of Music for his contributions to the music world. Bob passed away on August 21, 2005 from a brain tumor. I was honored to be asked to speak at his memorial, and I now adives the board of the Bob Moog Memorial Foundation for Electronic Music. Bob deeply touched the lives of all who knew him, and made a major contribution to the world of music. I am honored to have known Bob.

Mr. Kakehashi and Me

This is a shot of me with Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder and chairman of Roland. I first met Mr. K in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1988. We had a long and close friendship since then, and many of our conversations have resulted in very popular electronic music products. Mr. Kakehashi was also a recipient of Berklee’s honorary doctorate degree. He passed in 2017, and will be missed by many.

Here I am with Mr. Suzuki (right) of Hammond-Suzuki at the Hamamatsu factory that built Kurzweil and Oberheim products in the 1980s, as well as Hammond and Suzuki Instruments.
Here I am with the late Joe Zawinul and Giovanni Tomaso, director of education at the Umbria Jazz Festival Clinics, 1990. I was fortunate to co-teach a two-week class in synthesizer performance and electronic music production with Joe. Joe was one of my synth heroes, so it was especially great to work with him and to get to be friends.
Teaching class with Joe Zawinul in Italy
Here I am with synth pioneers Don Muro and Herb Deutsch at a New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) meeting in Albany, NY. I was the keynote speaker, and Don gave a synthesizer performance immediately afterward. Although Don and I have known each other since the 1970s, and often speak at the same events, we had never performed together. The NYSSMA organizers asked that since we were there on the same stage, back-to-back, could Don and I play a few tunes together, so we did, very last minute and unrehearsed – and we had a great time. Here is a shot from the performance (notice me reading from a hastily scribbled chord chart from Don!):
Herb Deutsch is one of the early pioneers of electronic music composition, and worked with Bob Moog in the early 1960s. Herb and Bob frequently experimented with new instrument designs for fun and musical satisfaction. As Bob explained in the Berklee panel discussion, “For me, experiments with early synthesizers were something I did after hours and on weekends for my own amusement. It was a nerdish form of golf.” That’s one of my favorite quotes!

Here are some Ictus photos from 1978 showing my live synthesizer rig consisting of an ARP 2600 with 1602 sequencer, Yamaha CS-60 polyphonic synthesizer and a variety of analog signal processors:

Adding synthesizer overdubs for the Ictus Future Winds LP.