Early Synthesizer Works
The Sun-Dog Trail (1972) (9:42)
The Deep (1972) (3:10)
Black Rain (1972) (10:58)
Surtsey (1972) (8:24)
Moss (1972) (7:29)
In The Fens (1972) (10:20)
These works are among the first electronic compositions Richard ever wrote; "The Sun-Dog Trail" is the very first. He composed (or "realized," as they used to say) all the pieces in this group at the SUNY Binghamton Electronic Music Studio, where he studied music from 1971 to 1973. The studio was well-equipped with a Moog Model IIIC synthesizer, two keyboards, a ribbon controller, 4-channel monitoring, and (at the time) top-of-the-line Scully 4-track, 2-track, and mono tape decks.
The pieces are all purely electronic, with the exception of "The Deep", which includes recordings of Richard's voice processed through the synthesizer. At the time, he was heavily under the influence of Morton Subotnick and his "Silver Apples of the Moon" and "The Wild Bull", two masterpieces of pure electronic music, and it shows. Richard noted. "I think I came up with some interesting sounds, at least, and even early on, I was clearly fascinated with drones and harmonics."
These are excerpts. The full-length versions are now available from Australian label VICMOD.
The Wave-Sounding Sea (1973)
Iron Hill (1974)
The FM Automat (1975)
A River On Cold Mountain (1975)
The Course of the River (1975)
The last piece Richard wrote at Binghamton, "Dark Chambers" (which is not included here because it's a 4-channel work for which there is no digital mixdown), was his first One Sound composition, and the first to use only sine waves as its sound source. When he transferred to SUNY Albany in 1973 to study with Joel Chadabe, at what was at the time the largest Moog studio in the world, he continued to develop the One Sound idea, while absorbing Joel's concepts of human-machine interactivity and real-time electronic performance instruments (for more on Joel's ideas, see his "Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music".) "The Wave-Sounding Sea" is a bit of a throwback to his earlier practices, but from "Iron Hill" on, he focused almost exclusively on One Sound work and on using sine waves in all their variations for several years, until the age of MIDI.
The sounds in "Snow", and "A River On Cold Mountain" and "The FM Automat" are all derived from sine waves frequency modulated by complex combinations of other sine waves, all controlled by sequencers and, later, Daisy and small computers. Daisy was a pseudo-random control voltage generator built by John Roy that allowed for high-level control of many synthesizer parameters at once. "The FM Automat" is all Daisy and a few sine waves, and was an attempt to create as many different sounds as possible from a single patch; it was all recorded in a single pass in real time. "Snow" was created by controlling and modulating synthesizer sine waves with a PDP-10 mini-computer, running a simple program of my own - it was the first piece of music Richard wrote that used a computer in any way.
Three other electro-acoustic pieces from this period, "Bronze Cloud Disc", "Two Mirrors Face One Another", and "Cities Of Light", are available on "Ten Thousand Shades Of Blue", a retrospective release from XI Records on Amazon.