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Podcast: SonicTALK -Vangelis' Yamaha CS80 Presets
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LagrangeAudio    Said...

Many moons ago I was invited to produce some music for a local computer game outfit who wanted an intro piece to pitch their idea to established publishers / developers in Sydney. I did it for free on the basis that I had little professional credibility so established a gentleman's agreement based around the idea that if they got the deal they would remember my work and invite me back to continue the project. Looking back I was extremely naive because had they got the deal it's likely they would have used their own people. In that scenario I would have been more than slightly miffed. Everyone has to start somewhere however and if you are good enough, and with no doubt an ounce or two of luck, you will get to that point that you can charge up-front. I'm pretty sure Han Zimmer and his ilk don't have this problem.

13-Nov-13 10:01 PM

Studio 139    Said...

Great Show! Personally I loved the M1 as a synth and totally ignored the workstation aspect of it. Graphic artists, musicians are constantly sought out to provide work for free. The idea is that it comes "easy" to you, so it has little intrinsic value. Hans and Dave were right, after a point you just don't need to give it away anymore.

13-Nov-13 10:12 PM

Stephen Teller    Said...

Although Vangelis started with presets on the CS80 they need to be tweaked properly to get his sound. Lots of real time control with AT and sustain settings, tunings, master filter and res etc.You can make an 80 sound like poop if these are not set right. Great show- you guys speak my language.

14-Nov-13 01:54 AM

Andy    Said...

Excellent show - I'm with Nick re the workstation argument. Surely it's what you do with an instrument that matters, not what it looks like? As you say, much similar electronics inside, just repackaged for a different (polyester) market. But I'm also a sucker for what looks / is cool

14-Nov-13 12:02 PM

Phil Fisher    Said...

Too late but, my message for my friend Robbie and all of youRob I've just seen most of the video podcast!- interesting! But 2 things - The CS80 was so great because one of the reasons was that the sounds morphed into other sounds with the polyphonic aftertouch! This is so expressive. If you listen to Vangelis music, you will hear that. Not many keyboards can of that.... Could you pass that on to Nick Batt, Dave Sears and the others. And Yamaha have spent so much on sound technology, that their violins, guitars and so on sound so realistic. OK Arranger keyboards are helping do the work etc, but it is music. But obviously, synths are synths... Best regards...

14-Nov-13 12:26 PM

Phil Fisher    Said... You should have pit on this video. You could comment about it next time... Phil - A friend of Robbie.... (I sold him his Korg Poly800 years ago!)

14-Nov-13 12:34 PM

Kevin Nolan, Dublin.    Said...

A few comments on the Vangelis / CS80 piece. First let me say that I own three pristine condition CS80s all KSR restored, am a good friend of Kent’s and am an avid visitor to, and deeply respect Nick and all you engage on these video sessions.

I felt compelled to reply because I’m more than a ‘fan’ of Vangelis – his music has been important to my musical development; and felt a few points made in this video session deserved an alternative perspective.

Firstly, Nick, you seem to think that because Vangelis used CS80 presets that that ’blows the myth’. Unsuspecting viewers might think you’re right. But what is it you are suggesting? To me, Nick, your comments suggest some how Vangelis was cheating, in however small a way, by using Yamaha programmed presets rather than inventing his own sounds. In reality, any of the presets present themselves on the control surface with outrageous ease. The good presets among the others merely started as starting points – from which Vangelis imprinted his vision through the superlative and unique performance controls on the CS80 (the row of levers below the main synth control area). Did Beethoven cheat in using the only preset on his piano when composing his 5th Piano Concerto? And Nick - what myth are you saying is blown? I’m not aware of any myth – I’m only aware of a broad consensus that Vangelis is a hugely original, talented and important composer. He verges on paranoia on being self-truthful, utterly honest and impeccably original. The notion that there is anything other that deep-rooted honesty of expression is utterly preposterous with regard to Vangelis among all living composers today. I felt it saying this because Nick, to someone who doesn’t know Vangelis, you misrepresent him here. Finally, I have it on exceedingly good authority close to source, that upon releasing China, Vangelis has such an influence on other keyboard players (famous or otherwise) that Yamaha doubled their plans CS80 quota form 1000 to 2000 units – based on Vangelis’ release of China. When you listen to other users of CS80 in the 70s, with the exception of Stevie Wonder, virtually none understood or could play the instrument. Vangelis demonstrated its possibilities though his unique capability to compose so capably, so spontaneously and in such a performance based what which only the CS80 at the time could deliver. If there is a myth – it is richly deserved.

That brings me onto my second point. I’m a bit confused why David and Kent would be looking for ‘one thing’ that defines the CS80, and suggesting it’s the filter. Surely with this instrument among all other synthesizers is a combination of unique features: Weighted keyboard, polyphonic aftertouch supplying control of filter, amplifier, modulation and modulation speed; the immediate access to a plethora of performance features via the 20-odd levers just above the keyboard, the unique ring modulator, the ribbon controller. All of these, so immediately accessible for performance, surely contribute to what makes the CS80 so special. In any case, there is no mystery here. Vangelis himself in article after article (and especially in his E&MM Dec 1983 interview) reveals precisely why the CS80 ws so uniquely important to him – indicating all of the above but emphasizing the immediacy of the instrument as being paramount.

I just felt it worth flagging these points because although your video sessions are usually hugely insightful; I felt this piece on Vangelis and CS80 fell far short of the bar, and in my view is a bit superficial and significantly misleading of both the man and the instrument.

17-Nov-13 06:53 AM

Kevin Nolan    Said...

As one extra bit of clarity on this - my comments pertain only to this video sequence, the personnel in this video, and to comments made directly in it - not to any other conversations mentioned which of course I wasn't privy to.

17-Nov-13 08:17 AM

Dave Spiers    Said...

Interesting points Kevin. I'll expand a little more than I was able to in the podcast to try and clarify things. Sorry if this is boring but...

[synth nerd mode=on] Kent and I spend hours on the phone sometimes discussing the most minuscule details of whatever synths we're immersed in at that moment and I love this ability to discuss things from a musical and engineering perspective with a truly knowledgeable person. As you're a friend of his too, you'll know that he is considered 'Mr CS-80' here in the UK (even loaning his own to Vangelis recently) and our discussions regularly turn to that instrument.

After I'd used one in earnest recently, my question to Kent (and the ensuing discussion) was "What is it that defines the sonic character of the CS-80? Is there one area where we can point the finger?"

So this isn't about "what defines the instrument". That, as you say, would be a multitude of things. But, just like the ladder filter helps define the sound of the Minimoog, the filters are definitely a pivotal component of what makes the CS-80 sound the way it does.

I've played almost every Yamaha synth out there (including the GX-1). We also own a CS-60 and a CS-30 and, ignoring the fact that there are two CS-60s (plus a fair bit more) in a CS-80, for obvious reasons, in essence the 60 is almost identical sounding to its bigger brother. However, I can also get very CS-80 like tones from the SY-1 and the CS-30, and when I was voicing the impOSCar2 I used its two filters to create a brass sound that's very, very close to that of the Vangelis' trademark CS-80 sound

It was this that caused Kent and I to consider "could it be the 12dB Low and High Pass filters coupled with the lack of self oscillation that gives this instrument its basic sonic character?"

It isn't the oscillators in isolation, that's for sure, as there's nothing remarkable there. But the way you can have a saw, pulse width and the sine playing simultaneously is definitely a part of it. However, I do know that when I play even our 60, nine times out of ten someone listening will comment "That sounds like Vangelis" which is infuriating and flattering alike. Flattering for obvious reasons but infuriating because if I'm going to shell out for a CS-80 (and I really, really, really want to) I don't want to spend all that money only to anticipate the same comment every time I fire it up.

That's why I asked Kent "Is it possible to make it your own?" and then we talked about the records on which a CS-80 was used and where it didn't sound like Vangelis and nor was it immediately recognisable as a CS-80"

We listed the same albums I mentioned in the podcast: Lloyd Webber's Variations, Jeff Wayne's WOTW and an Incognito track I threw in to the equation simply because it's thin and weedy (and actually could be a CS60). There are bound to be more examples (I've researched a couple even today) but what intrigued me is when Kent suggested that because the 80 was originally expensive, there's a chance that every single one has contributed to a recording at some time or other, simply because it was only pro's who could afford them. I knew a few CS80 owners years ago including Ronnie Leahy (who also played with Jon Anderson), Jon Savannah (Don Snow) and Vangelis' Blade runner programmer and sound designer (Paul Wiffen) and I'd love to ask them if they felt Vangelis' use of it eclipsed everything thereafter. Now Nick can speak for himself, but I don't think he was seriously claiming he was cheating. I think it was more that (as per my comment above) Vangelis had successfully played to the instrument's strengths, popularised it, and the two became inextricably linked. Even to the point where I was disappointed he didn't play one on a recent TV show about composing film music.

Granted, anyone who's ever played one knows that those presets are just a starting point and that the other performance controls (Brilliance, Resonance, Poly-Aftertouch, Sub Oscillator, Ring Mod etc) can easily take things to another place - and in the case of the 50 and the 60 they NEED to be taken to another place to sound any good - but it still has the CS character which I believe is largely defined by those filters.

When Kent's done his mod, we'll know for sure though. In fact, Kent and I spoke today and we're both really excited as to how it's going to turn out because neither of us have any idea how it's going to sound at this point. As he said "It could get into mad Buchla territory or it could just sound like a f**k*d-up CS"

Either way these are the things that make us complete synth nerds salivate with anticipation. And on that note, I'll shut up…..[synth nerd mode=off]



19-Nov-13 05:06 AM

hiltonius    Said...

killing me that i missed this one. so much to say on so many of the topics, from tape to CS80.

enjoyed it. great job, guys!

20-Nov-13 09:30 AM

hiltonius    Said...

regarding groundbreaking programming and use of CS80, i offer you:

eddie jobson. his CS80 programming was the best i ever heard.

20-Nov-13 09:36 AM

KingVidiot    Said...

Great discussions here. Hopefully you podcast guys can chime in here to fill in the details more often. I could read "synth nerd mode=on" commentary all day. Keep it up Dave! And keep making great virtual instruments (shameless plug). :-)

21-Nov-13 02:11 PM

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