Dave Smith, Whose Synthesizers Shaped Electronic Music, Dies at 72

ByJosephine J. Romero

Jun 9, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Dave Smith, Whose Synthesizers Shaped Electronic Music, Dies at 72


Unlike a piano or organ, early synthesizers, like the Moog and ARP, could crank out only a single observe at a time. Shaping a unique tone involved environment numerous knobs, switches or dials, and hoping to reproduce that tone afterward intended composing down all the settings and hoping to get identical final results the next time.

The Prophet-5, which Mr. Smith made with John Bowen and introduced in 1978, conquered both equally shortcomings. Controlling synthesizer features with microprocessors, it could engage in five notes at after, making it possible for harmonies. (The enterprise also created a 10-take note Prophet-10.) The Prophet also made use of microprocessors to retail outlet settings in memory, furnishing dependable nevertheless individualized appears, and it was moveable sufficient to be utilized onstage.

Mr. Smith’s compact corporation was swamped with orders at occasions, the Prophet-5 had a two-yr backlog.

But Mr. Smith’s improvements went a lot further. “Once you have a microprocessor in an instrument, you notice how quick it is to connect digitally to a different instrument with a microprocessor,” Mr. Smith explained in 2014. Other keyboard producers started off to incorporate microprocessors, but each individual company utilised a various, incompatible interface, a predicament Mr. Smith stated he deemed “kind of dumb.”

In 1981, Mr. Smith and Chet Wood, a Sequential Circuits engineer, offered a paper at the Audio Engineering Modern society convention to suggest “The ‘USI’, or Common Synthesizer Interface.” The point, he recalled in a 2014 interview with Waveshaper Media, was “Here’s an interface. It does not have to be this, but we all truly need to get collectively and do one thing.” Normally, he stated, “This market’s likely nowhere.”

4 Japanese companies — Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Kawai — ended up willing to cooperate with Sequential Circuits on a shared standard, and Mr. Smith and Mr. Kakehashi of Roland labored out the specifics of what would become MIDI. “If we had carried out MIDI the typical way, getting a common created normally takes decades and decades and yrs,” Mr. Smith informed the Pink Bull Music Academy. “You have committees and paperwork and da-da-da. We bypassed all of that by just generally undertaking it and then throwing it out there.”

In 2013, Mr. Smith informed The St. Helena Star: “We manufactured it reduced-price tag so that it was simple for providers to combine into their products. It was provided absent license absolutely free mainly because we wanted all people to use it.”


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