The new incarnation of the 1973 Buchla Music Easel is a portable, performance-oriented instrument as close as possible to the original. We have used the same circuits, mechanical design and graphic theme that made the original an ergonomic dream to grab hold of and create organic electronic music from the soul.
The Music Easel is comprised of 2 units: a 218e Touch Keyboard Controller and a 208e Stored Program Sound Source, both housed in a rugged carrying case. Together these modules allow both real-time control from the keyboard pads, knobs, sliders, switches and patch points. Additionally, the Music Easel supports the included original Program Cards (user-defined presets using resistors, 1973-style!) as well as future interface cards with more modern patch storage/editing/control/interfacing.
The Music Easel, released in 1972/73, is a very rare compact Buchla synth that had the Model 208 Stored Program Sound Source module inside of a Model 203-8 briefcase-style metal case. It also used the Model218 pressure-sensitive touch-plate keyboard (with 32 keys). As small as it was it managed to include a 5-stage sequencer, 22 sliders, and over 25 color-coded patch-points. The Music Easel was housed in an aluminum case that closed up like a brief case for travel purposes with room for its patch cords and memory cards. It is quite similar to the EMS Synthi AKS, but likely more flexible, programmable and even rarer.
The Music Easel also featured a relative breakthrough for its time: Patch storage! But it was rudimentary storage – resistors installed to “program” cards were used. You needed one card full of resistors for each patch and they had to be manually plugged in to be used. They stored slider, switch and knob positions as well as patch-point connections. To be used they had to be inserted into a slot, one at a time, on the upper left side of the synth.
A look at the system architecture…Building blocks
The building blocks that make up the Music Easel individual functions are: Program Card for Storing Presets, 5 Stage Sequencer, Envelope Generator (Attack,Duraion,Decay), Pulser (trigger generator), Random Voltage Source, Complex Oscillator (Wave Morphing, Waveshaping / WaveFolding, Amplitude Modulation, Ring Modulation, Frequency Modulation) Voltage Inverter, Dual LowPassGates, Audio Mixer, Spring Reverb and a Keyboard with Portamento, Appreggiator, Preset Voltage Sources
Design concepts and realization…BEMI Director of Engineering at NAMM
"Exact replica from Don’s schematics of the product he develop in 1973, this being the 40th anniversary of the product and we are bringing back in it’s original form without any DSP’s, VST’s or anything that would be not original."
"Same layout, the only real changes is we added one range switch for the Modulation Oscillator, which didn’t really affect the original circuitry of it very much."
"and there is also a some built circuitry into the keyboard that would allow us some additional functions that are common to the 200e series."
The main features of the Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments Easel include:
- Analog Desktop Synthesizer
- Eastcoast Architecture
- Complex Oscillator
- Modulation Oscillator
- FM & AM Synthesis
- Dual Low-Pass Gate (LPG)
- Random Generator
- Envelope Follower
- Step Sequencer with 5x Steps
- Reverb Effect
- Banana Plug Connections
- Built-In MIDI/USB Interface
- Expandable via "Program Interface" Socket