The first synthesizers were modular, in that they were a group of modules that each performed a separate function. For example, one module, the oscillator, produced a waveform (sawtooth, sine, pulse, etc...) and another, the amplifier, modified the amplitude (volume) of the waveform. Each of these two modules had inputs for CV (Control Voltage). For the oscillator, the higher the control voltage, the higher the frequency of the wave. For the amplifier, the higher the control voltage, the larger the amplitude of the waveform was, and therefor the volume of the sound. Keith Emerson played the IIIc with extra modules including a TV monitor, progammer modules, and custom sample-and-hold.
The configuration included these modules:
901 3x901A 9x901B 3x902 903A 904A 904B 904C 905 3x911 950 956 960 961 962 984 992 993 4xCP3-3A
"The Moog system was expanded considerably and I had a sequencer and another row of oscillators. It got so big I couldn't even reach up to it and tune the damn thing any longer! It is not an easy or cheap task to move 'The Beast' around though. Greg and Carl used to grumble a lot about the cost of transporting and supporting it. I used the sequencer basically just for the gimmick value it offered on Brain Salad Surgery. I'd written this music about computerisation with very heavy lyrics , and the idea was that the instrument sort of took over in the end. The sequencer would be programmed to go through this change of notes and speed up until it blew up."
The ribbon controller on Keith's Modular Moog can be used to control either pitch, filter cut off (i.e. you can do filter sweeps with it) or any other voltage controlled function. Other Moogs that came with a built in ribbon where the Polymoog and Polymoog Keyboard, the Micro Moog and the Prodigy. The Mini Moog and any other synth for that matter that have patchable inputs for filter pitch etc. can accept a ribbon controller 'patched' into interface jacks the instrument has. A few other instruments had ribbon controllers built in such as the Yamaha GX1 and CS80. Today Korg, Kurzweil and Roland are incorporating ribbon controllers in their instruments. Keith's controller has been modified to perform several 'theatrical' effects, the most famous being the flash paper launcher.
"In San Francisco one of the pyrotechnics in my ribbon controller backfired. I stood there hanging onto the still-droning instrument for about ten seconds, then walked back and said through the microphone 'I just blew my thumbnail off!' Blood was everywhere, all my roadie could do was put a bucket of water by the keyboards for me to dip my thumb in. It was very unpleasant and I was green by the end. We're British, you know!"
"The synthesizer Emerson originally purchased consisted of one modular cabinet. It was a console-type with wood sides and one preset box, a keyboard, and a ribbon controller. He's added to that system ever since. The original unit reportedly cost Emerson about $4,000. Since then, however, he's put much more into it. The most unique part of Keith's system is obviously the preset unit. That sets the frequencies of three oscillators with control voltages. It also sets the filter cutoff frequency. The envelope generators are preset by actual resistor substitution. Then there are four mixers with voltage controlled attenuators in each. There are sliders build right into the circuit cards in the back of the unit that let you set up the preset you want. There are three-position toggle switches on the front panel that allow for the switching of octaves, and the actual tuning of the oscillator is on the front panel of each mixer. That way the instrument can be fine-tuned before the concert begins. Keith has a total of 14 presets. There are 14 red buttons on the preset unit itself and another 14 in the remote box that sits on the Hammond C-3 that control which preset is actually engaged.
Emerson also has a one-of-a-kind sample-and-hold module that even has his name silkscreened on it. This can be triggered or controlled by the keyboard, ribbon, or other voltage source just by throwing various switches. The keyboard and ribbon control that Keith uses have both been modified to act as triggers for some special effects that are unique to ELP. The last key on the keyboard is red instead of white. This key, when a switch on the left side of the keyboard is thrown, sets of an explosion accompanied by dry-ice smoke into which the four-tiered modular synthesizer disappears. The ribbon, which has actually blown up in Keith's hands twice, has recently been rebuilt so that it can, in Emerson's words, 'Probably fire a 45-calibre shell and not blow up again.' The reason it blew up? Keith has had an attachment built into it that launches flash paper and other pyrotechnic items over the heads of the audience. One accident with the ribbon took his fingernail off. The latest knocked him over backwards and completely demolished the ribbon controller. There is also a switch on the ribbon that triggers one of his sequencers, which is patched to sound like a machine gun."
Moog distributor UK until 1974 John E. Dallas, from 1975 Henri Selmer & Co.
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