Old Mysteries Solved

This is a story that spans six decades and a surprising memory. I’ll start near the end.

A few days ago, Dr. Tim Nicholls posted an image of an modern version of an ARP 2500 synthesizer. I found it very similar to a synth I came in contact with way back in time, maybe 1969 or 1970. I remember this because it was featured at an open house at Toronto’s York University. Being a kid heavily into electronics, this instrument that was full of dials and knobs was of obvious interest, so I approached the fellow who was working with it and asked him about it.

I can’t say what he saw in the interaction, but there was a synergy there. I asked questions, he turned knobs and we made some music. Music isn’t one of the interests I’ve pursued over the years, but there’s always been things composing themselves in my head. At this particular point in time, reruns of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea were a big part of my TV diet, and my internal composer soundtrack wanted to use the regular pinging tone of the show’s sonar as a baseline.

We must have sat there for an hour or more, tweaking knobs and oscillators and filters until we got something that sounded good, even though it was distant from what was in my head. I was surprised when he then pulled out some paper and recorded the score, the settings and put both our names to the work. Sadly, I have always sucked at remembering names and his is lost with so many others.

I replied to Dr. Nicholls that his synth reminded me of this event. I guess he’s pretty connected to the ARP community because a few minutes later he reported two ARP 2500’s that might have gone to York, along with the names of the purchasers. A little search work revealed that only one, David Rosenboom, was at York during that time. I reached out to Rosenboom and got confirmation back that he was faculty at York in 1970 and had purchased an ARP 2500 for the Electronic Media Studios that he and his colleagues were building there.

I still don’t know if Rosenboom was the fellow who sat with some random kid for all that time composing music (although my suspicions are that it wasn’t), but still it’s great to fill in all those details and finally be able to identify the instrument.

I’m also highly amused at being able to add the composition of a work on this legendary synth to my list of unverifiable achievements. You may laugh. I most certainly am.