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Five Optigans For Sale in Tennessee

Posted by peahix on February 10th, 2018

Our good friend and resident Optigrinch Brian Kehew writes:

If anyone is interested in becoming the queen or king of Optigans in Tennessee, I know where FIVE machines are sitting. Don’t come back to me when they ruin your life forever – it’s your choice to deal with the devil!

Just click on Brian’s name above to send him an email!!

Brian Kehew

Posted in Sightings | No Comments »

Laurie Anderson’s LANDFALL – Featuring Optigan!

Posted by peahix on February 8th, 2018

Several years back, we lent Robert’s Optigan Pro to Laurie Anderson, which she used in her piece with the Kronos Quartet called LANDFALL. The Optigan was in Laurie’s studio at the time of Hurricane Sandy. It managed to survive, because it was upstairs. Many of her other keyboards and archives were down in the basement, and were destroyed. The studio recording comes out next week, and you can hear it in its entirety at NPR.

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David Van Koevering, 1940-2018

Posted by peahix on January 31st, 2018

Sad to report the passing of David Van Koevering, notable to this site as the man behind Vako, who adopted the Optigan and transformed it into the Orchestron in an attempt to market the technology to professional musicians. Pea only talked to David a couple of times via telephone, years ago. He was a character, with a quick mind, always looking for the next new thing. We’re glad to be continuing a small part of his legacy with our reissues of the original Orchestron discs, as well as our brand new line of discs. Here is an obituary from his family:

David Van Koevering (1940-2018) has passed away January 30th near his home in Tennessee following heart issues. He was 77, and is survived by his loving wife Becky, daughter Debbie and son Joe and their families.

Born into a family of evangelical musical travelers, young David Van Koevering toured with his parents as “Little David,” earning a widespread reputation for his energetic and motivational preaching. He began an interest in electronics and soon after, constructed his own robot. This began a lifelong hobby collecting robots of all kinds – a collection now numbering in the hundreds. Following in the footsteps of his family, he was a skilled performer on 23 instruments, performing on bells, violin, keyboards, the musical saw, and various exotic instruments he would add to the family collection.

His charm and musical talents brought him a wonderful wife, Becky, who shared his passions and talent. Based out of the Gulf Coast of Florida, David toured relentlessly, coming home only on holidays. His performances and lectures educated and entertained thousands of school students and local groups.

As their two children Debbie and Joe grew, they joined the family shows – touring as “The Swiss Bell Ringers.” The Van Koevering events demonstrated the long history of musical instruments for each audience, culminating in more modern designs – originally an electronic Theremin. Soon after, he found his theremin’s maker, Robert Moog, who was also producing a very new instrument – the first commercial synthesizer.

Excited by the vast promise of this Moog synthesizer, David became THE proponent of the instrument, showing and selling synthesizers to numerous musicians in North America and Europe. His concept for the “Island of Electronicus” in Tierra Verde, Florida was created with Glen Bell (of Taco Bell fame.) Their Island was a performance space showing the public this powerful technology. David also appeared at the early Taco Bell restaurants, demonstrating the new Minimoog synthesizer to the clientele as they ate. These appearances gave many their first experience with a music synthesizer. VanKoevering traveled across the country, selling the Minimoog synthesizers one by one, and single-handedly creating the first sales surge for what became Moog’s most-famous product.

His success in the field brought him to work for the Moog company itself, helping them realize their instruments could be marketed to the general public. He spearheaded Moog’s sales techniques in the brand-new concept of “a commercial synthesizer” – an idea previously thought impossible.David’s methods proved otherwise and became the standard for the industry, creating a model for selling what was previously considered unsellable. He requested and co-created a simpler, more accessible synthesizer, the Moog Satellite, designed for the non-technical working player.

Next, working with EML Synthesizers of Connecticut, he brought their affordable designs to the stores and working musicians in the Florida territory. Not long after, he started his own company (VAKO) – inventing his own “Orchestron” keyboard, which was a favorite of major groups like Kraftwerk and Foreigner. Van Koevering’s Orchestron was accepted as the cutting-edge in sample-playback technology – a process that eventually found its way to NASA for space exploration missions.

Moog Music brought VanKoevering back to guide their marketing efforts when the company had developed a stronger national presence. David worked with local church groups to find a unique marketing outlet for a custom-named set of Moog instruments (the Sanctuary and Joyful Noise designs,) re-branded versions of Moog instruments designed and programmed to appeal to more traditional church markets. Japanese synthesizer giant Roland then utilized David’s knowledge of the working musicians’ needs when they developed his namesake line (the VK keyboard series) of professional synthesizers, organs, and string keyboards.

In the 1990s, David was among the first to realize the power of digital “workstation” systems for education and music in the home and schools. Working again with Bob Moog, they designed and marketed the innovative VanKoevering piano line, which was the first to combine a visual touch-screen interface and a traditional piano action. During this period he was honored at The Smithsonian during their “Piano 300″ exhibition, as the VanKoevering Piano model was considered the future of the piano. David pursued his interests in spiritual aspects and healing, exploring new technologies for Elsewhen, his non-profit project to combine scientific progress with scriptural concepts. His lectures on “Sound, Light, Matter” and “Quantum Healing” are available on YouTube, showing clearly the persuasive and enthusiastic persona that has charmed thousands of people internationally.

Most recently, David was honored with recognition for his efforts in the musical instrument industry. The Bob Moog Foundation dedicated their entire 2016 calendar to his story in photographs and anecdotes. The calendar, “Moog Is Now: The Moog Legacy Through the Lens of David Van Koevering” recognizes the decades of connection between the lives of Robert Moog and DavidVan Koevering. The EMEAPP (Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project) of Pennsylvania honored Van Koevering this year with their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Throughout a long and active life, the perseverance and unique ideas of David VanKoevering changed the worlds of ministry and musical electronics.

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PANOPTIGON Prototype – New 2018 Optigan / Orchestron Disc Player

Posted by peahix on January 23rd, 2018

This is a brief run-down of the main features of the PANOPTIGON, a prototype MIDI-controlled Optigan/Orchestron disc player (suitable for stage or studio) built by Robert Becker. Those attending Winter NAMM 2018 can see and play this unit for themselves at Quilter Labs – Booth 15120. Note that this unit is a PROTOTYPE / Proof-of-Concept unit, and does not necessarily reflect the design and/or feature set of any future production model. At this time, we cannot provide any estimates on pricing or availability- the unit is still in the R&D phase.

The Panoptigon will play vintage Optigan/Orchestron discs from 1970s as well as the new line of discs made by since 2008. Our new line of discs provide additional functionality, as they have strobe lines printed on them which allow for automatic tuning, transpose, pitch bend, and even mechanical vibrato. Vintage discs were never printed with such strobe lines, and thus are not compatible with these extended features, but will otherwise play nicely and sound better than ever. All the lo-fi you love, presented in the hi-fi you need!

The unit comes with an onboard DSP effects processor, which provides reverb as well as other basic effects such as flange.

Control is via MIDI- in this case, a basic MIDI controller keyboard.

The audio heard in this demo is direct from the unit, with no additional post-processing applied. The slight distortion you hear when the reverb is turned on is an artifact of Youtube’s horrible audio compression.

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Nice In-Depth Review of iOptigan

Posted by peahix on January 18th, 2018

Warren Burt has written a great review of our iOptigan app at Sound Bytes!

Posted in iOptigan | 2 Comments »

Come See the New Prototype Optigan/Orchestron Disc Player @ NAMM

Posted by peahix on January 13th, 2018

Robert Becker will be showing his PANOPTIGON prototype at NAMM, in the Quilter Labs booth (15120, located in the new North Hall), Jan. 25-28.  He’ll have a selection of new and vintage Optigan/Orchestron discs for you to try out, and of course will be answering questions and listening to your feedback and feature requests. Pea will be poking in on Sun, Jan 28th as well. Come on down, say howdy, and try out the machine!

Posted in New Optigan / Orchestron Disc Player, Panoptigon | 5 Comments »

Nice Series of Optigan Repair Videos

Posted by peahix on December 30th, 2017

We didn’t have anything to do with this series by James Bennett, but it looks to be a nice intro to Optigan repair!

Posted in Sightings, Tech Flash | No Comments »

RIP Ralph Carney

Posted by peahix on December 17th, 2017

Crushed to hear of the sudden passing of our friend and peerless talent Ralph Carney. Ralph lent us his playing on our Bass Clarinet Orchestron disc, which is at least one weird way he’ll keep tooting his horn.

Posted in New Optigan / Orchestron Discs | No Comments »

New Prototype Optigan/Orchestron Disc Player – Sound Demo

Posted by peahix on November 14th, 2017

Robert Becker has been making steady progress (in his spare time) on his new Optigan/Orchestron disc player, which we hope will be put into production at some point. There’s still lots of work to be done, bugs to iron out, things to be fine-tuned, code to be optimized, etc, but it’s currently playable (via MIDI), and the basic sound quality is quite good, so we figured we’d post a few informal/noodly sound clips of it in action. These are direct/unprocessed recordings from the unit, some featuring the onboard reverb. Sorry, no live video of it being played at this time. We don’t cover ALL the features/functions in these sound demos, as some of them aren’t quite working yet, but you can get an idea from looking at the photos what sort of things it will be able to do. Also, currently we cannot field any requests for pricing/availability, so please don’t ask! We know alot of you will be interested in obtaining of one these, but at this time we simply can’t give any estimates on that front.

Posted in New Optigan / Orchestron Disc Player | 2 Comments »

iOptigan – MIDI Chord Detection Modes Tutorial

Posted by peahix on November 8th, 2017

Another iOptigan tip, until we finish the user manual: there are three triggering modes for the chord buttons, selectable in the settings.

“MIDI G#0-E2 for Chords” lays out all the chord buttons in a chromatic mapping. Priority was placed on fitting everything with the keyboard scale on a standard 61-note keyboard, so the layout isn’t very intuitive, but it gets the job done. Chords are at the lower end of the keyboard, SFX tabs at the upper end.

“MIDI Chord Detection I” is a more intuitive mode, which allows the user to simply finger the desired chord in the low octave of the keyboard. Playing a C maj triad produces the C maj chord. Playing a C min triad produces the C min chord. etc.

“MIDI Chord Detection II” allows for more extended chords to be played using the time-honored Optigan technique of playing two chord buttons at once to approximate more complicated chords. There’s alot of trial-and-error involved with this, and results vary depending on the disc, but if you finger, say, a Cmaj7 chord on the keyboard (again, in the low octave), iOptigan will play the C maj and E min chords simultaneously. Try fingering other extended chords to see what you get, and you’ll likely stumble upon some unexpectedly pleasing combinations!

Posted in iOptigan | No Comments »