Five Who Matter

I have had the good fortune to cross paths with brilliant folks in the world of sound who have done much to shape our industry yet have often gotten little

I have had the good fortune to cross paths with brilliant folks in the world of sound who have done much to shape our industry yet have often gotten little recognition because their work is mostly behind the scenes, doing research and development. This month I'm going to call your attention to just a few of those people. I wish I had the space to mention more who are equally worthy.

I'll start with David Griesinger, who devised the Lexicon 224 reverb and authored the reverb algorithms we all know and love so well. Griesinger brings to bear on his work an incredible synthesis of musical, acoustical, and mathematical knowledge. He's a classical singer and recording engineer as well as a holder of a Harvard Ph.D. in low-energy nuclear physics, and each and every encounter I have ever had with him has left me better educated and enlightened. I've been lucky enough to have assisted him on a few recording jobs and to have joined him in listening to the choir and organ in Westminster Abbey during the installation of a bishop. From such opportunities, I learned where the rubber meets the road in terms of musical acoustics. Play on, David.

Next, I'd like to call out Marcus Ryle. Marcus first made his, uh, mark masterminding the Oberheim Xpander, one of the first MIDI synthesizers and still one of the great analog synths. More recently, he was the force that created Line 6, and he still drives that company. Between those two landmarks, he had his hand in many other important and notable projects, including the design of the ADAT. Rock on, Marcus.

If you recognize the name David Blackmer, it is probably as the “db” in dbx, and indeed, he's the guy who developed those early VCAs and RMS detectors upon which the dbx sound and reputation were built. Blackmer seemed to disappear from the scene for a few years, but he was just readying his next salvo: Earthworks microphones. I am a big fan of Earthworks because each of its products that I've used performs outstandingly, especially for the money. A more recent chance to speak with Blackmer at Earthworks showed him as a man who likes to expound on his ideas (with which not everyone agrees). I, for one, like to listen. Sing on, David.

Gary Hall has been a friend for many years, giving me a chance to see his contributions up close. Gary is a current author for and former technical editor of EM, so you've seen his work. Earlier, during his years at Lexicon, he devised clever ideas such as the PCM 41 and PCM 42, the effects that were the heart of the PCM 70, the LXP series, and more. A stint at Sonic Solutions put Gary on the bleeding edge of DVD when it came along, making him one of the first people to really understand what DVD is all about. (See the August 2001 issue for his cover story about DVD-R.) Gary dug in further while developing DVD authoring tools at Spruce Technologies for several years. All this time, he has been under the public's radar, even while blazing trails we have followed. Roll on, Gary.

Last, but definitely not least, is one name every EM reader should know: Don Buchla. The phrase “one of a kind” doesn't begin to cover Buchla. Like the others, he is a true visionary, but his vision has always proved to be minimally commercial. That's really a shame, because Buchla led the way with his modular synths in the 1960s and was one of the first to really harness the power of computer control for music synthesis. For as long as he has been building synths, Buchla has also been building Different (yes, capital D) controllers. His early synths used capacitive keyboards; later, he developed the innovative (duh) Thunder and Lightning controllers and, more recently, the amazing Marimba Lumina. Rocket on, Don.

I have had a long and abiding respect for and lasting inspiration from the work of these people, and I hope that by knowing about folks like them, you will too.