Formant, 1984

Formant, 1984

Ocean is a sound “painting” or sound sculpture that I composed and performed in 1979 on a Buchla 700 synthesizer that Don Buchla build for me in 1978. It came as a surprising discovery to me that Ocean can be described as pattern music, cycling in almost perpetual motion. The score of Ocean is written in three voices, each a simple repeating seventh chord arpeggio. The voices overlap, each running for a slightly different length of time – a few seconds’ difference that causes the voices (tracks) to overlap and undulate, yet avoiding a trainwreck inside the “loop” thanks to the precise tempo increments possible with a Buchla. The only things that change in the 30-minute composition are the timbre (quality of sound) of the instrument, and the spatial locations of each track or voice in the quadrophonic configuration of the sound field. An individual voice moves from right to left, front to back, the sound swirling around and between each sound source, eventually returning back to the center of the soundspace using four speakers.

Most of the composition was done while I was watching paint dry on the many paintings of my Music series. Theoretically, I was able to paint my musical compositions, and compose and play my paintings. There was never any planned, specific correlation between a paint stroke in a painting and a note or sound in the music; however, metaphors, relativities, and connections exist.


Buchla 700

Buchla 700 synthesizer

I gave Don Buchla a copy of Ocean, and his comment was that it was interesting, because it didn’t go anywhere.  I was deeply saddened when Don passed on a couple of years ago.  This gentle, humble genius created what is now known as West Coast Synthesis. Through him, I garnered an understanding of music, and received a lesson in logic.

Look at my paintings as if they are made of sound; and listen to my musical compositions as if they were made of color.  It’s the same as choosing paint colors: What note, and where to put it?

I’d like to fill this blog up with Buchla photos and compositions, but I just wanted to make public a few compositions I wrote in the late 1970s on the 700. Seems like I have just a few pieces recorded out of all the hours I spent composing and experimenting. The history of Don Buchla and his superior instruments and that of my own music-writing experiences are for another blog. Linked here are just a few of what I actually produced.

Below are some pictures of the Buchla 700 and my old Buchla 400.


Buchla 700

The Buchla 700’s dials and switches

Buchla 700 keyboard

A portrait of the 700

Buchla 700 keyboard

The Buchla 700’s LED interface and “keyboard”

Buchla monitor view

The Buchla 700 monitor display

Inside the Buchla

Inside a Buchla 400

Buchla 300

My old Buchla 400

A few more compositions are below, some of which were composed on the old Buchla 400. All the Buchlas are beautiful.