Robin Fox should need no introduction to Cyclic Defrost readers. If you’d like to know more about the man check out the Cyclic Selects he did for us last year.
He is playing the Transaudio Pro-case 6. Which has 6 oscillators, 4 filters, 3 envelope generators, and a 10 step sequencer which switches between steps. It was built in Melbourne in 1976 by the Transaudio company. Only 3 were made. In fact Fox’s stepfather Jim Sosnin designed the sequencer and the frequency counter, and is responsible for the restoration to its current condition.
Fox describes it as one of his favourites in the Mess collection. “Everytime I use this machine something different happens, it’s pretty limitless in that regard.” He also suggests that it’s not entirely finished. “There’s a reverb that is not there, it’s just been turned into a send and return.” He’s keen to put a reverb in and also add some CV capability to interface with newer gear.
On the top right of the instrument you can see the Matrix pin bay. It looks a little like Battleship. EMS were the first company to use this method in synthesizers. “They were responsible for the famous VCS3 and the AKS (which Mess have)” offers Fox. “When EMS started, the guys making the synths were, or Tristram Cary in particular was an ex radio signals engineer in the navy. They were scouring the streets of London for ex military surplus – electronics that they found on the side of the road, and they would put things together with whatever came to hand. But also I think the thinking behind the matrix pin bay was that it was a way to patch, if you think about the Moog for example as a telephone exchange switchboard, this was much more something that removed cables and was tidier, and was a neater way to patch. Because this is how I learnt to patch synths I’m really comfortable with it. No keyboard, it’s very West Coast America.”
“Transaudio did make a few other things. There’s one very interesting violin processing device, and there are a couple of rack mounted 3 oscillator synths that were built by Jim Sosnin out of La Trobe as teaching tools , and they’re really beautiful.”
“Jim ran the computer music department at La Trobe University from its inception in the mid 70’s onwards, and he was also partly responsible with Warren Burt for putting together their electronic music studio. And some of the components from that studio have made it here as well. There’s an amazing unit called the Daisy control voltage generator. It’s a quasi random control generator, part digital part analogue. Incredible polyphonic 99 step sequenced CV, and way ahead of its time in a lot of ways because its perfect for new modular. It was designed in the very early 1970’s and only a couple of those were built in Massachusetts.”
Mess Ltd, is a not for profit electronic music club based in North Melbourne that Fox has established with Byron Scullin.
This is from their website:
“MESS is an independent, inclusive and culturally broad organisation, reflecting the history of the field, supporting those currently involved in creation, as well as ensuring and encouraging its vibrancy, diversity and legacy into the future. MESS will create an environment based on encouraging physical interaction between artists and instruments. This is a place where coincidence, chance and curiosity allow and encourage people to interact with each other and with the collection. MESS maintains independence through a diverse funding model drawing on private patronage, membership donation, and cultural institutions.”
If you become a member you get access to a ridiculous amount of rare and expensive synths such as those discussed above, including the Transaudio Pro-case 6. You can find more information, including a list of their collection here.