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West Coast Synthesis: The Buchla

Post: April 16th, 2018 @ 02:58 AM EDT

This morning I finally learned the meaning behind the phrase "West Coast Synthesis" when talking about electronic music. All I knew for sure up until this point was that there was a particular kind of electronic synthesizer sound that I loved but was unable to reproduce on my own. Then, by sheer luck, I stumbled upon some videos of electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani performing with a large, very expensive looking synthesizer called a Buchla. I knew, the moment she started playing, that I finally discovered the source to the "sound" that I had loved so much for so many years. The Buchla, the precursor to today's modular instruments, is an electronic instrument that was designed and manufactured in California in the 1960s and 1970s by engineer Don Buchla. The sound that the the Buchla produces is extremely unusual. No other synthesizer out there makes music that even remotely sounds like a Buchla. There's really nothing else quite like it.

A Bucla 200E

I knew, as soon as I heard it, that I had to have one. Be it a real one or a virtual one. I also knew that the former was highly unlikely due to how much they costs. So, with this knowledge in mind, I set about searching for a virtual instrument (VST) that recreated the uniquely beautiful Buchla sound and that could be used either on my laptop or my iOS devices. I found several prospective plugins that I took note of, but none that I could reasonably afford at this time. Then I ran stumbled across a Buchla 200/200E plugin that some kind soul had released for free! Only one problem, it required a expensive piece of software to make it work. Back to the drawing board. Another hour of research produced a link to the Arturia Buchla Easel V, a beautiful VST that can fortunately be ran standalone or with a DAW. Whether or not any of these software instruments can measure up to the real hardware remains to be seen. All I know for sure is that I've finally found my "sound." What I do with it now is entirely up to me.

Tags: Buchla, Synthesizer, Ciani