The Original Electronic Book?

The story as I understand it, and this is painfully paraphrased from Don Hassler's telling of the story in detail, is that at one point in time Carter Thomas constructed this Serge himself during a course at CalArts instructed by Serge Tcherepnin, around 1972. Morton Subotnick had devised this synthesizer construction course in order to get electronic instruments under the students control earlier rather than later in their studies.

I've been hesitant in the past when Don has offered to loan the Serge to me, as it has the sort of aged appearance which at first just spelled F-A-I-L-U-R-E. Don explained the system briefly, and upon hearing that two outputs multed to a single input could destroy a module, I immediately felt even more anxious about interacting with it. Then Don rather casually opened the Serge and in no time, using only a few patchcords, he had a rather raw VCO being modulated by an audio-rate slew generator patched directly to some such by way of etc. The sound was a lot larger than I was expecting (an understatement), and once he got into the filter (of which there are four), I had come around and was interested in borrowing it. Leaving my only worry where I could find space for it.

It wasn't long after I arrived home with the Serge that I felt the impulse to at least hear a little of what it was capable of (under my limited understanding and therefore control). I began patching and before long, I had already passed several interesting sounds along the way. I paused and called Don to thank him. I really enjoyed that first recording, and was feeling stupid for underestimating the machine so egregiously.

Naturally I had read about Serge Modulars over the years as the most practical alternative to a Buchla. However whenever I would examine them online, I didn't find the instrument's interface engaging enough. This particular system is unique however - the paper front panels are oddly charming - the entire case gives the impression of a giant book - The knobs, inconsistent and most of them with little blobs of paint to indicate their positions, kept giving me the false impression I had taken my glasses off. The entire system is practically devoid of textual indicators that, once the associated annoyance wore off, was an unexpected freedom.

I ended up recording four segments in roughly 1.5 hours, with only a few minutes for breaks between takes. They are by no means incredible individually or entirely, but I post one here as an incomplete demonstration of the myriad of sounds this system is capable of generating:

Serge1.mp3 - 20:00

I was particularly amazed by the weird trumpet sound that comes in behind the intro waveform in the first minute. This recording commenced just after I switched the power on and got a basic patch running for the first time.

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