We're still under construction on this page. We'll have more interesting details about the making of SEMI-CONDUCTOR real soon. For now, here are reprints of the liner notes included in both the 1984 and 1998 versions of the collection.
SOME TECHNICAL NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE RECORDING OF THE SYNERGY ALBUMS
ELECTRONIC REALIZATIONS FOR ROCK ORCHESTRA was recorded at House of Music studios in West Orange, N.J. during January and February of 1975. At that time House of Music was a 16 track facility with MCI recording equipment actually located in the cellar of a house. As with all subsequent Synergy albums, the multitrack master was recorded on two inch tape using dbx noise reduction. The producer was Marty Scott; all engineering and electronic production was done by me. Most of the music was played on a Minimoog coupled with an Oberheim Expander Module. There was also some sequencing using an early Oberheim Digital Sequencer, and some use of a Mellotron as well as auxiliary devices. After the multitrack recording was completed, a quad mix was done at Mediasound in New York City. It was one of the first computerized mixes in New York and one of the first QS format quadraphonic mixes. A discrete 4 track quad mix was also made at the same time and was issued in the short-lived Q8 tape cartridge format. All of these mixes were recorded at 15 ips using Dolby noise reduction. The Mediasound mix room at that time featured Ampex and Scully tape machines and an API mixing console. The remix engineer was Bob Clearmountain.
SEQUENCER was the first SYNERGY album recorded entirely at House of Music. During the summer of 1975 House of Music upgraded to 24 tracks and installed a new MCI console. "Classical Gas" was the first track recorded as somewhat of a test for the new equipment at the studio as well as for some new Moog modular synthesizer equipment that I had recently acquired. Technically this piece was recorded between albums and was included on the ELECTRONIC REALIZATIONS FOR ROCK ORCHESTRA European release using a different mix than the one that later appeared on SEQUENCER. Work on the album continued amid other projects with which I was involved. The bulk of the recording was done in the first few months of 1976. By this time House of Music had installed an Allison 'Memories Little Helper' computer mix into the MCI console, and the quad fad had faded so a conventional stereo mix was done. The mix format was 15 ips quarter inch tape with dbx noise reduction. Marty Scott again produced and I handled all other aspects of electronic production and engineering as well as engineering the mix.
Some big changes in production technique began with CORDS. I acquired an MCI one inch 8 track recorder which allowed me to begin the actual master recording at home rather than making 4 track demos and rerecording them in the studio as I had been doing. This took a lot of pressure off the creative process by allowing me to experiment at length with the master tape without the hourly rate clock of the studio ticking away. Another change was that House of Music moved to a spacious seven acre estate in newly constructed facilities with two state of the art recording suites. The amount and quality of the recording equipment and outboard effects took a quantum leap at this time. From this album on I took over all production chores as well as my usual musician and engineering roles. CORDS was again recorded around other projects, but most of the recording was done in two blocks of time. The recording at home was mostly completed during the autumn of 1977, and then, after a break for other work, the home master was dubbed over from its one inch 8 track format to a two inch 24 track. Studio work continued on the 24 track into the early spring of 1978 when the final mixes were done. The format was again 15 ips dbx with computer assisted mixing on House of Music's new MCI JH-518 console. It was the first mix in newly completed studio B. The only major changes in instrumentation on CORDS were the use of the Polymoog (among the first of the polyphonic synthesizers) and early use of a guitar synthesizer played by Peter Sobel, a guitarist with whom I had worked for years on other projects.
GAMES was a continuation of the techniques from CORDS. Recording was again begun at home on the 8 track and then dubbed over to the 24 track at House of Music. For the most part the same instrumentation was used focusing strongly on the analog Moog system. However during this album the first of the hybrid analog-digital synthesizers, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, appeared and I found it a great help in organizing both musical thoughts and electronic sounds. I also had an opportunity during this time to do some experimenting on the Alles Digital Synthesizer at Bell Labs. Under the guidance of the late Greg Sims, a truly exceptional young engineer, this was my first chance to work with digital synthesis. The results of some of those experiments appear on the GAMES album. A slight change in the mixing process was that GAMES was mixed without using the computer. By this time I had finally organized the 24 track master well enough so that the pieces practically mixed themselves, making the automated mixing process unnecessary. I also experimented with mixing to 30 ips quarter inch analog tape with no noise reduction. This format has an overall sound quality that can rival digital recording in terms of dynamic range and transient response. The LP masters were cut from the 30 ips mixes. GAMES was recorded and mixed from January through May of 1979.
AUDION carried the home and studio recording process almost full circle. As had now become standard practice I began all of the writing and master recording at home on the 8 track. However, this time, because my home studio (the Synergy Studio) had become so sophisticated and the synthesizer equipment capable of putting down so much more sound on a given track, I was able to make those first 8 tracks capture much more of the essence of what the final sound of the musical pieces would be. It became clear to me that with some careful manipulation of the tracks I could probably dub the 8 track over to a two inch 16 track format which does have a better dynamic range and a more solid low frequency response. In addition, House of Music had by this time installed SMPTE lockup equipment so that I could take those first 8 tracks, do a mono reference mix on one track of a new blank 8 track tape, stripe SMPTE synchronization code on another track and still have 6 new tracks to work with back at home. These tracks would later be dubbed across to join the first 8 tracks already located on the 16 track using the sync code to lock them up. In this way a multitrack master could be compiled with most of the actual recording being done at the Synergy Studio. Most of AUDION was in fact recorded at the Synergy Studio with only the last few weeks of recording and all mixing done at House of Music. The 16 track compiled master was mixed to 30 ips quarter inch analog tape with no noise reduction. All work on AUDION was done during the first six months of 1981
THE JUPITER MENACE soundtrack carried on in much the same fashion as AUDION except that I went back to using 24 track masters and mixing to 15 ips dbx tape because of the constraints imposed by film production There were no radical changes in technique or technology for this project other than having to score for the film.
ADDITIONAL NOTES, OBSERVATIONS AND UPDATES
SEMI-CONDUCTOR was originally compiled in 1984, before the first era of SYNERGY recordings concluded when the Jem Records/Passport Records/Audion Recording Company group folded in 1988. Since there were additional releases after 1984, SEMI-CONDUCTOR, release 2 includes some of those recordings.
First, some additional notes about the original collection. Two of the titles, "Launch At Dawn" and "To The Edge And Back" were done as composer's audition pieces at the request of the film production company producing the movie "The Right Stuff" in 1983. Though I didn't end up scoring the picture, the music was substantial enough that I was encouraged by Passport Records to include it in the SEMI-CONDUCTOR collection. The recordings were a departure in that they were recorded and mixed entirely in the Synergy Studio. They were also some of my first use of an early precursor to MIDI called USI, and use of data-to-control-voltage converters to direct the synthesizers by computer. The computers involved were a PAiA 8700, Apple II and KIM-1 (all 650X processors) running software that I had developed and coded myself. The recordings were multi-tracked to my MCI one inch 8 track with dbx noise reduction. Far more audio information was recorded onto each track than had been possible before eliminating the need to go to 24 track. Mixing was to quarter inch analog tape at 15 ips with dbx noise reduction.
SEMI-CONDUCTOR was originally assembled by going through the tape library at House of Music and pulling all of the original mixes in all of their varied formats. At Masterdisk in New York, the pieces to be used were copied to half inch, 15 ips analog tape with Dolby A noise reduction. The mixes were then equalized, compressed and otherwise prepared for vinyl LP cutting, and processed so that they would sound consistent with each other within the context of the collection. To accommodate the running time restrictions of the LP cut, some of the tracks were placed out of their actual chronological order.
For SEMI-CONDUCTOR, release 2, All of the tracks have been put back into the chronological order in which there were originally recorded. "The World After April" from COMPUTER EXPERIMENTS VOL. 1 was actually recorded in January of 1980, but was not included in the original SEMI-CONDUCTOR collection. This was one of three long, ambient pieces performed by computer command of a modified Prophet 5 synthesizer allowing it to generate computer controlled variations on melodic themes that I entered into the computer. The computer used was a PAiA 8700 running software called "Pink Tunes" written by John Simonton. The musical results were so different from anything previously identified with Synergy that the record company wasn't sure what to do with the project. It was decided that COMPUTER EXPERIMENTS VOL. 1 would become a mail-order only LP that would be offered in the AUDION album package in 1981. Several thousand of the individually serial numbered versions of the COMPUTER EXPERIMENTS VOL. 1 LP were sold. In 1986, COMPUTER EXPERIMENTS VOL. 1 was put into general release by Jem Records' Audion Recording Company. For a promotional CD, a shorter, edited version of "The World After April" was created which is included here.
1986 was largely taken up with the composition and recording of METROPOLITAN SUITE. Recording techniques were changing rapidly, as were the instruments. METROPOLITAN SUITE was the first Synergy project recorded entirely under MIDI control, the first to be digitally recorded, but not the first to use digital synthesizers (that was GAMES in 1979 using devices at Bell Labs). The compositional technique used was to compose within a MIDI sequencer to store and overdub the arrangements. At the time I had outgrown the capabilities of the small computers I had been using and the existing Macintosh and PC software was still a bit unstable and not fully reliable. I opted to use a small, but very stable sequencer that was part of the Emu Emulator II instrument to control the other instruments over MIDI. By using all of my analog synthesizers, Yamaha DX and TX class digital synthesizers, and the Emulator II (into which I had transferred many of the Fairlight sounds I had been using with Peter Gabriel) I had far more simultaneous sound sources at my disposal than I had ever had before. But, it still wasn't enough to hear the complete arrangements running 'live' under MIDI control.
As a compositional tool, I recorded large groups of orchestration voices to the analog MCI 8 track in a single pass, locked with SMPTE code to the sequencer. Then, by reloading the sequencer with additional sets of orchestration voices and overdubbing, I could hear how the final recordings should sound. The 8 track recording, though not the final recording itself, allowed the work-in-progress to be evaluated and modified as needed. The August, 1986 issue of Keyboard magazine included a flexi-disk (a mass-produced vinyl disk with one song on it) of this work-in-progress for "Metropolitan Theme" taken from the analog work tape of May 26, 1986.
When all of the pieces were composed and saved to disk as MIDI files, the final recording began. Moving once again to House of Music, the synthesizer collection was set up in the control room and recorded, one or two tracks at at time, from the MIDI sequencer controlled synthesizers to a Sony 3324 digital 24 track recorder. A minimum of recording hardware was used in the transfer; just basic pre-amplification and equalization through a pair of tube-model Pultec equalizers. No actual playing was done in this transfer process, only the SMPTE locked playback and digital audio recording of the sequences as refined during the previous months. The entire album was transferred from the sequencer to the digital multitrack tape in two, five day blocks of time.
After the transfers, mixes were done in the same studio on a modified Neve 8078 console using Necam II automation, and mixed to Sony F1 format digital tape. All digital recording was done at 44.1 kHz sampling rate, 16 bit depth. The pieces included here are taken from those digital mixes.
This album in its original form was issued in the United States on vinyl LP and cassette as Passport Records PB 11002 in the spring of 1984. SEMI-CONDUCTOR, release 2 has been compiled by using the digital remasters prepared for each of the individual Synergy album reissues. These new masters were derived from digital transfers taken from the original, unequalized studio mixes. These mixes predate the equalized and compressed transfer copies used for the initial LP preparations. Additional digital audio refinements and some minor corrections have been made to the digital masters for this release. Though the analog-to-digital transfers are the best possible at this time, some evidence of the original analog source is occasionally evident. Digital audio preparation by Larry Fast at the Synergy Studio, July 1998 using Apple Macintosh based Digidesign(TM) digital audio hardware and software. Additional DSP software provided by k.s. Waves Ltd. (TM)
©1999 Synergy® Electronic Music, Inc.
This page was last updated on February 20, 1999