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Of Thunders & Inventions

When I think of the invention or the act of inventing, my mind draws a line of narrative development that does more or less like this: a person has an illumination, squeezes his mind and invents – or discovers – something.

This elementary and collective way of imagining the birth of an event owes its existence to the way in which stories are handed down and told, a methodology that uses buildings of legends and metaphorical anecdotes to help us simplify and better understand the phenomena; take for example the history of the discovery of Newton’s concept of gravity … According to William Stukeley, friend of Newton who wrote his biography in 1752 – Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life, the conception of the theory of universal gravitation “happened while [Newton ] sat in contemplation, because of the fall of an apple. “

Did the apple really fall on his head? That phenomenon forced him to ask himself, out of the blue and for the first time: “Why [the apple] always falls towards the center of the Earth, and not transversely or towards the other?”.

Or maybe Newton, who was a brilliant scientist and intellectual, came to his intuition not so much because of the fall of the apple but thanks to the stimulus offered by other studies and the ways opened by others, such as the three Kepler’s Laws?

Isaac Newton – ©eeviac

All this to say that in our imagination the connections between the stories never have much importance and this is how portraits of great lonely men and women are created, lonely people captured by brilliant epiphanies like wheat fields hit by lightning in the summer.

According to the elementary imagination, one day Bob Moog was alone in his basement assembling theremin kits when, suddenly, it occurred to him that it would be a good idea to somehow use the voltage control to build a new musical instrument: et voilà, the first Moog modules were born. It would certainly be fun to imagine this version of the story… But the true story tells us something far more phenomenal.

In the early 1950s, Moog – who was a radio amateur and an engineer – was not at all interested in the Cologne’s elektronische musik or in the avant-garde… That music forms were simply not part of his world. In the winter of 1963 Bob was invited by Walter Sear to exhibit his theremin kits during an event at the Eastman School of Music. Here he met Herbert Deutsch, a musician and teacher who was using one of Moog’s theremin kits to teach his students sight singing. As Pinch & Trocco report in their book Analog Days, the invention & impact of the Moog Synthesizer on that occasion Deutsch asked Moog: “Do you know anything about electronic music?” and he replied “Sure!” but his answer was just a word of effect, a statement to remove him from the embarrassment of the confession of not knowing. So it was that the conversation between the two continued and it was thus that Deutsch invited Moog to a concert in New York – the event was held in the loft of the sculptor Jason Seley in Greenwich Village – where he performed Contours and Improvisation for Sculpture and Tape Recorder. Moog had the time of his life:

“It was absolutely the most exciting musical performance I had ever seen up until then. I hadn’t seen that much, before rock”.

Immediately after that concert, Deutsch and Moog began talking about a new instrument: “We didn’t call it a synthesizer … What we were talking about is a sort of portable electronic music studio”.

The birth of the first commercial synthesizers always followed this course: the new instruments rarely came straight out from the mind of the inventors (among these exceptions: Hugh Le Caine, who developed them for himself, or Raymond Scott, also the author of the supplements to his needs) because they were conceived to respond to the requests of some composers who, before others, claimed the technological needs for the advancement of musical research.

Léon Theremin

The era in which we live is a simmering cauldron of Capital: the big brands that deal with instruments for new music – including software – are mostly unreachable, seldom turn their attention to the needs of individual composers, they follow the step of the technological dictatorship (“Oops! Your operating system is no longer supported”), they woo and manufacture market trends (suddenly everyone need a Model D… by Behringer) and the needs assumed by the mass of consumers.

Fortunately, there are still exceptions in these busy highways of impersonal consumption: these are not mirages but concrete realities capable of overturning all bitterness and opening a gash of hope. One of these is SOMA Laboratory, founded by Vlad Kreimer in 2016 after the success of the synth LYRA-8; with operating headquarters between Russia and Poland, SOMA “celebrates the art that allows us to balance the interactions between individuals, cultures, disciplines, regions and nations in all their rich diversity” and one of the key objectives expressed in the brand’s mission – read it here to melt your heart – è di “nurture and develop mutually beneficial relationships”.

For SOMA art “is the best integrative discipline to understand and explore the evolution of consciousness”, “a safe and experimental space to explore complex topics”, capable of “bringing people together in playful and collaborative relationships, integrating mutual experiences and allowing us to grow collectively and individually”.

If you want to deepen the thought of the founder of SOMA, Vlad Kreimer, his book Redefining Conscience in an Era of Rapid Change has just been published and it available here in freedownload or here in epub version.

If you still don’t know them, I suggest you to visit their website and explore the musical devices of SOMA: there is something very profound, something that goes beyond the value of innovation that exudes from every circuit produced… It is the attention to the possibility of going further, it is that factor that pushes to create a tool to put people in a position to develop contemporary music and its experimental languages…

It is with great pleasure and honor that L’Impero della Luce has started a collaboration with SOMA to enrich our live sets with new sounds and explore all the potential that Ether can offer. Ether is an instrument created to explore the electromagnetic sounds of cities and urban environments, a way to reveal the secret voice of what Vlad Kreimer has defined as “an electric forest”.

As reported on the SOMA Laboratories website:

“ETHER is a kind of anti-radio. Instead of being tuned to a specific radio station, it receives all the interference and radiation that a traditional radio tries to eliminate in order to create a clean signal. It captures the radio waves “as is” from hertz to gigahertz because it doesn’t contain the tuned input circuit that filters out all frequencies except the narrow band of a specific station. This allows ETHER to perceive the invisible electromagnetic landscape that humans created unintentionally, making possible live electromagnetic field listening and recording”.

Visit the Ether page here:

In the coming weeks we will propose some new experiments.

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