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- Order number: 230355
To celebrate the half century appropriately, the Buchla Music Easel comes in the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition with a gold keyboard and high-quality case.
The 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will only be made in the quantity ordered from July 1 to July 31 with expected delivery in late fall/early winter 2023.
The 50th Anniversary special edition Easel combines the 208C with the 218e V3 in a beautiful light blue Halliburton case. The 218e V3 has bright gold keys and the 208C has the beautiful old Rogan pots. The left panel with the inputs and outputs is kept traditional. There's a ground, sustain pedal input, as well as MIDI inputs and outputs. Furthermore, there are two separate USB-C ports to access the 208C and 218e V3 respectively. The USB port on the 208C is used to connect to the Program Manager and on the 218e V3 it is possible to upload new firmwares via this port. Of course, you'll also find the classic lamp connector as well as a nice VU meter to control the levels.
The Music Easel is an extremely well thought-out instrument with great sound and sensibly placed patch points. The small sequencer and touch keyboard with arpeggiator encourage direct play and interaction with the Music Easel, which is enormous fun and can deliver wonderful polyrhythms. When synched to MIDI the arpeggiator rate control acts as a clock division control and allows for triplets and other divisions.
At first glance, the Easel seems confusing because of the many switches, sliders and several unlabeled jacks, but in itself everything is very logically structured. The color of the sockets mostly corresponds to the segments of the Easel (purple = keyboard pressure, yellow = pulser, white = random, orange = envelope, blue = sequencer). The black sockets are CV inputs, which are always to the left of the parameter to be controlled. The sockets at the top of the unit are labeled and therefore self-explanatory. The position of most of the banana jacks is directly below the faders so that you don't need patch cables, but can use the included shorting bars. This of course increases the overall clarity of a patch enormously.
The sound generation of the Music Easel is based on a complex main oscillator and a modulation oscillator. The latter is usually used to modulate the main oscillator, but can also be used as a second VCO and can be routed into the signal path via the second Lopass Gate, but more on that below.
The main oscillator can be tuned over 5 octaves with the pitch controls and its response to an incoming CV can be changed via the +/-polarity switch. The waveform is dependent on two sections. If the Timbre fader and also the Waveshape pot is at zero position, we hear a sine wave. If we turn the Waveshape pot up, the waveform fades to a needle pulse, square or triangle (depending on the switch position). The Timbre fader, in turn, modifies this waveform by means of a wave-multiplier that delivers complex sounds rich in overtones.
The modulation oscillator has no timbre section but selectable waveforms (saw, square and triangle). It can function as a VCO in Hi mode and as an LFO in Lo mode. Its frequency is voltage controllable and can also be played from the keyboard (switchable). A toggle switch selects how the MO modulates the main oscillator, ring modulator style, for amplitude modulation or frequency modulation. The intensity is set with the modulation fader, but again can be CV modulated.
The oscillator(s) are processed with the Lopass Gates (LPG). These are Vactrol-based circuits with organic behavior that can operate either as a low-pass filter, a VCA (gate), or a combination of both. The audio signal of the first LPG is always the main oscillator. The second LPG is rotated 180 in phase and has flexible routing: either output of the 1st LPG (which allows highpass sounds due to the phase rotation), the modulation oscillator, or an external audio signal. The outputs of the two Lopass gates are mixed in the Output section and are separately adjustable in level. A following real spring reverb with dry/wet control adds some more depth to the sound of the Easel if desired.
The Easel can be played with the touch keyboard and/or the sequencer. The keyboard measures the contact surface of your skin and is thus pseudo-pressure sensitive. It covers two and a half octaves, but has octave selection touchpads on the upper right. In normal play, only one finger is evaluated at a time, but the keyboard can analyze multiple fingers, allowing play with the internal arpeggiator for example. This has its own tempo control.
The pulser is a pulse generator that can be used as a clock source or as a second LFO. It can loop itself or be triggered by the keyboard gate or the sequencer. The envelope is an AD or an ASR envelope depending on the setting and can be triggered by the pulser, the sequencer or the keyboard gate. The analog sequencer has 3, 4 or 5 steps and gate switches per step. Its trigger source can be the pulser or the pressure on the keyboard. The interaction of the interconnection options with simultaneous playing on the keyboard can give very interesting rhythmic results.
The touchpads mentioned above can not only transpose the basic tuning in octaves - In the switch position "preset" they can call up fixed voltages set with the four pots to change the pitch. Via the direct output you can route the touchpads as you like.
For its 50th birthday, the Easel is available in three versions. The Retro Version, the Modern Version and this 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition.
Included only with the Anniversary Edition are these exclusive items:
- Limited Edition Easel Weasel silkscreen print (24” x 15”) signed and numbered by the original artist Jim Phillips
- 12” LP of Electric Weasel Ensemble from Important Records in a unique vinyl color
- Hardcover Edition of Allen Strange’s “Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls”
- Collector’s book that includes a reprint of original 1974 “Easel Operating Directive” manual by Allen Strange and writings by original Electric Weasel Ensemble member Stephen Ruppenthal and others.
- Special edition artist-designed Retro Preset cards from artists including Todd Barton, Suzanne Ciani, and others. Featuring new, unique graphics on each card.
- Program Manager loaded with presets as described in original 1974 Easel Directive.
Pioneering synthesizer design since the mid 1960s with Morton Subotnick and the San Francisco Tape Center, Don Buchla has been responsible for the invention of the sequencer, low pass gate, random voltage generators and the complex oscillator, among others. Shortly before his passing in 2016, his rights were acquired by Australian holding company BEMI (2012-2017) and since 2018 is operated by Eric Fox of Buchla USA, based in Minnesota. Buchla USA offers the whole 200e series catalog and boats, as well as the iconic Music Easel.