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synthesizer. Term for system of elec. apparatus which can be used to control or produce sounds (usually from a kbd.). Used by composers of elec. mus. Its invention, by Robert Moog in 1965, revolutionized elec. comp. by speeding up the process and doing away with drudgery of assembling and splicing small sections of tape. The first synthesizer was built from voltage-controlled and selected non-voltage-controlled components. It could play itself in mobile sound patterns which might be recurrent or non-repetitive and could also, by use of a device called a ‘sequencer’, memorize long and complex mus. structures and play them live without recording or tape editing. (It is possible to reproduce instr. mus. on a synthesizer, as was convincingly demonstrated in 1969 by the success of Walter Carlos's commercial recording ‘Switched-on Bach’.) Its numerous functions are controlled by punched paper tape. A means of producing mobility is by an ‘envelope shaper’, a device to control the shape of a sound or other parameter. It has controls which est. the time of attack, sustain, delay, and end of a sound. An initial drawback was that most synthesizers could perform only one note at a time. Since 1976, however, polyphonic synthesizers have been developed. See also electronic music.
synthesizer In music, an electronic instrument capable of producing a wide variety of different sounds, pitches and timbres. The instrument was devised (1964) by the US inventor Robert Moog. It was used by The Beatles on their last album, Abbey Road. Computer technology is now used to control the instrument's different functions, enabling synthesizers to replicate non-electronic sounds.