Aloha Means Goodbye

"Aloha Means Goodbye" is a reference to the 1974 made-for-TV Sally Struthers thriller. It's actually pretty good.

"Jellotosis" is a terminal disease caused by Cosby reruns.

I'm still waiting for my own rotary cellphone.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1986 :
It's the 80's baby, and digital synthesizers are advertised to kids on television!

Just for your sonic amusement and amazement, here are the patches that were featured on that ad:

Racing Car
Storm Wind

If you have a TX81Z (and I'm sure you do), you have non-sine versions of the same patches (although "Heavysynth" is in the user-writable *I* bank). You can listen to some of these digital wonders in isolation at this website:


These patches sounded so much better to our ears in the 80's than the old-fashioned analog synth patches that are again popular today. To our 21st century aesthetic, these FM patches sound just as synthetic as anything from Switched-On Bach to the oscillator burbles of Morton Subotnick in the 1960's. In 1982 however, tones generated by the DX7 sounded (as the Yamaha brochure noted) "sounds that have never been heard before yet are undeniably 'acoustic'."

Why did FM become "The Sound of the 80's"?
Why then did FM synthesis become the sound of the 80's, appearing on almost every record from Madonna to Rap to R&B to Reggae and even country(shudder)?

The truth is that even though FM synthesis sounds just as synthetic, it had a sheen of detail that analog synthesis typically lacked. FM sounds were thinner, but they had more subtlety, similar to the digital-vs-analog aesthetic that still exists in audio. Analog may have a lot of warm distortion, but that distortion covers a multitude of sins! Analog is painted in broad strokes, like spin art, where FM is assembled pixel by pixel like a fractal.

Now there's nothing wrong with spin art. Indeed, neither solution is best--and both have their own built-in advantages (there's tomorrow's band name!). Digital makes great high-detail bells and whistles (literally), while analog makes big warm string sections and ensemble sounds, to name just two examples. A competent artisan has both techniques tucked in his bag of tricks.

A good 21st century solution is a machine like the Alesis Fusion, that combines Analog, FM and sampling in a single workstation. The unit doesn't put any artificial firewalls between the synthesis types. A mix can pick and choose freely between patches, FM can begin with multiple waveforms (not just sine), or a filter can be strapped to an FM sound. The fact that it retails for under a grand has led to it being called the sound design "bargain of the decade".

It's a great time to be a sound designer. I finally have the kind of sound mangling tools I dreamed about when I was a kid. and the fact that they are all in one box is nothing short of a miracle.

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