Donald Buchla ~ Genesis of an Instrument



In 1963, Berkeley-based designer and instrument builder Donald Buchla began constructing his first electronic musical instruments. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of his pioneering and highly innovative contributions to the field of electronic music, and together with New Forms Festival, we are very excited to welcome Mr. Buchla to Vancouver for what is sure to be a highly-anticipated event at Gallery 1965 and VIVO Media Arts Centre. This historic event will also feature an extensive exhibition of the most complete collection of Buchla instruments in existence, offering the public a unique and extremely rare opportunity to experience the union of the maker and his creations.




Reflecting a background in music, physics, and physiology, Buchla’s approaches to instrument design and sonic experimentation are known for being multi-faceted and highly inventive, particularly in relation to his interest in interfaces that bridge the communicative gap between man and machine. His work includes early voltage-controlled systems such as the 100 and 200 modular series, the Music Easel performance system, digital-analog hybrids such as the Touché, gesture-controlled instruments such as the Lightning, Thunder, and Marimba Lumina, and his most recent project, the 200e Electric Music Box. He has worked with storied institutions and organizations such as the California Institute of the Arts, the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and New York’s Electric Circus, and has collaborated with a number of prominent experimental musicians including David Rosenboom, Suzanne Ciani, Morton Subotnick, George Lewis, Anthony Braxton, and David Wessel.



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As a composer of electronic and electroacoustic music, Davachi engages in practices of analog and modular synthesis, psychoacoustic manipulations, and multi-channel sound diffusion. Her compositions focus on the experience of enveloped sonic dwelling, often utilizing extended durations and drones, gradual transformations in texture, fluctuating and spectrally-rich timbres, and simple harmonic structures in order to emphasize acoustic and psychoacoustic variations in overtone complexity and natural phasing patterns. Treatment of acoustic sources – particularly organs, strings, and woodwinds – often involves heavy processing so as to defamiliarize. Davachi holds an MFA in Electronic Music from Mills College in Oakland, California, where she studied with Maggi Payne, James Fei, and David Bernstein. Since 2007, she has also worked for the National Music Centre (formerly Cantos Music Foundation) in Calgary as an interpreter and archivist of their collection of acoustic and electronic keyboard instruments. Her writings on experimental music have been presented and published within Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and she has held artist residencies at The Banff Centre for the Arts, STEIM (Amsterdam), WORM (Rotterdam), and EMS (Stockholm).





Richard Smith is an electronics technician and musician with over 15 years of experience in the restoration of historic high-end studio electronic systems by Buchla, Moog, Arp, Roland, Korg and EMS. His clients include some of the most influential electronic artists of the last 50 years, musicians such as Mort Subotnick, Suzanne Ciani, Aphex Twin, The Chemical Brothers, as well as respected institutions such as Mills College, New York University, and the Library of Congress.


As an apprentice with Donald Buchla at Buchla & Associates (Berkeley, California), Rick immersed himself in the philosophy and history of instrument design, while also learning how to manufacture, and market the most sought-after electronic instruments in the world.


To further hone his diagnostic, repair, and restoration skills, Rick worked with John Leimseider at the National Music Center (formerly Cantos Music Foundation) to maintain and preserve the Center’s impressive collection of rare electronic instruments, from the Novachord (an early tube-based synthesizer) to the sophisticated Waldorf Wave.


Over the last decade, Rick has amassed one of the most complete collections of Buchla electronics and documentation in the world. He is recognized as an authority on vintage musical electronics, and has contributed to Keyboard Magazine, Vintage Synth Explorer, the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and has lectured on Buchla history and performance techniques at the University of Victoria.When the calibrations are complete, you will find Rick casting dense drones, and sonic chatter in the band Von Bingen or performing live visuals as 480i.




New Forms 13 takes place from September 12-15. For tickets, locations, full artist lineup, and more festival information please visit


New Forms Media Society is a non-profit society and media arts organization founded in 2000 that nurtures and connects local and international artists, thinkers, practitioners, and the public through the annual New Forms Festival. The NFF is part of a larger, international, media and electronic music festival movement, which explores the ever-changing and evolving world of art, while creating a platform for artistic growth. The society wishes to make new media art, music, film, technology-based installation and performance accessible to a wider audience.


We would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, The Province of British Columbia, The City of Vancouver, The Lochmaddy Foundation, and Redbull Canada.


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