When Synthesisers got Soul

Danny Lewis avatar
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Quincy Jones is a hero of mine. I’ve read his autobiography and it is utterly fascinating. The amount of incredible performers and composers he has worked with in his lifetime is staggering.

He’s the producer of one of my all time favourite albums, Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and a highlight for me was the Stevie Wonder co-write “I Can’t Help It”. Now there’s a story that links in part to Stevie that is so damn interesting related to the early days of synthesisers as musical instruments.

A Wall Street journal interview with Quincy Jones revealed something that I find truly fascinating and it started with a question…

“Why aren’t the black musicians playing my instrument?”

Robert Moog

So here we have an innovator in electronic music with a pivotal question to one of the most influential music producers in the world. What was Quincy’s answer?

“Very simple. What the synthesiser is about is electrical signal that is pure wave. It can be sculpted into a sawtooth, a sine wave, whatever you want. It is an electrical signal, pure as a baby. But it doesn’t bend! If it doesn’t bend, black musicians will not play it.”

Quincy Jones

So as a result, Moog added pitch bend and modulation wheels to allow for more expressiveness. The result? Stevie Wonder did four albums on moog synthesisers and won many Grammy awards.

Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels

What an amazing story! and it’s brought to you thanks to a posting by Quincy himself on Instagram that I spotted a short while back – cited below and linked here https://www.instagram.com/p/CTV1YfMl5tE/?utm_medium=copy_link

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