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Synth Pioneer Don Buchla Has Died at the Age of 79

He pioneered modular synthesis and created instruments that are still in use today.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Modular synthesis pioneer Don Buchla has died at the age of 79. Buchla's son Ezra confirmed to THUMP in an email that his father passed away Wednesday night from "complications following a long battle with cancer." Buchla.com, the home of Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments, has also confirmed the death

The California icon developed some of the earliest mainstream modular synthesizers, several of which—including the Buchla 200 and the Buchla Music Easel—are still widely used today. Buchla's first synthesizer, the Buchla Series 100, hit shelves in 1963, only two years after Robert Moog's pioneering modular synth. In a recent interview with THUMP, electronic composer Suzanne Ciani said that playing Buchla's synthesizer was like learning a "new language." Her collaborator, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, wrote on Twitter this afternoon that he "changed so many music and sound makers lives."

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In 2012, Buchla sold the company that bore his name following a long battle with cancer and in recent years he entered a protracted legal battle with the current owners of the company over the terms of that sale. Court documents indicate that just last month, a settlement—the terms of which were not publicly disclosed—was reached.

As murmurs of his death spread Friday afternoon, many experimental musicians—including Chris Carter, Floating Points, Blawan and ex-Battles member Tyondai Braxton—mourned his passing.

Now Don's gone, what a year

— uɐʍɐlB (@Blawan)September 17, 2016

Just heard that Don Buchla has passed away. A sad day…— Chris Carter (@chris_carter_)September 16, 2016

RIP Don Buchla. His work was instrumental in redefining electronic music and inspiring generations of musicians.

— floating points (@floatingpoints)September 16, 2016

His instruments were so thoughtfully conceived that they will continue to conjure up sounds that we could never imagine.

— floating points (@floatingpoints)September 16, 2016

His legacy will live on indefinitely through the music he's inspired.

— floating points (@floatingpoints)September 16, 2016

For more on the history of Don Buchla, read our piece on modular synthesis in modern electronic music here.