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electronic MUSICIAN

Tobor Experiment Berna Download of the Month

By Len Sasso | February 1, 2010

Tobor Experiment Berna

If you've ever wondered what it was like in the experimental and mostly academic electronic-music studios of the 1950s through the early 1960s, Tobor Experiment ( gives you a hands-on look with Berna (Mac, $16 approximate). Berna is not a synth and it's not a workstation — it's a lab with four varispeed tape machines and a variety of sound generators and processors designed in the image (though not necessarily emulating the sound) of the gear of that era. You can record Berna's output in one of the tape machines and export the result as an AIFF file. Aside from being entirely virtual, the only concessions to modern technology are MIDI access to Berna's knobs and sliders, which makes Berna authentically hands-on, and the matrix patching system, which is faster and easier than patching cables (virtual or real).

The tape decks operate independently from the rest of the lab, and they make quick work of the laborious processes of through-zero flanging and making phased-tape-loop music. Load a couple decks with the same audio clip, slightly offset the speed of one of the decks and hit the synched-start button (see Web Clip 1). You can use MIDI or the mouse to modulate parameters such as tape speed in real time (see Web Clip 2).

Instead of multiwaveform oscillators, you get a bank of nine sine-wave oscillators and a submixer for dialing in additive waveforms. A 10th sine-wave oscillator with a built-in LFO, a noise generator and a pulse-wave oscillator with variable pulse-width (an expensive rarity at the time) round out the sound sources. For processing, you'll find filters; ring, frequency and low-frequency amplitude modulation; a Tone Burst generator (gate effect); and delay and reverb. You patch these modules together and tweak their controls to create sounds in true old-school fashion (see Web Clip 3). Try it and you'll be hooked — it's great fun.

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