Don Buchla

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Don Buchla
Don Buchla and 200e.jpg
Don Buchla and Buchla 200e
(2006 NAMM Show)
Background information
Birth name Donald Buchla
Born April 17, 1937
South Gate, California
Origin Berkeley, California
Died September 14, 2016(2016-09-14) (aged 79)
Berkeley, California
Occupation(s) Electronic musical instrumental inventor

Donald "Don" Buchla (April 17, 1937 – September 14, 2016) was an American pioneer in the field of sound synthesizers, releasing his first units shortly after Robert Moog's first synthesizers. However, his instrument was arguably designed before Moog's.[1]


Buchla was born in South Gate, California on April 17, 1937,[2] and grew up in California and New Jersey.[3][4] He studied physics, physiology, and music at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1959 as a physics major.[3]

Buchla formed his electronic music equipment company, Buchla and Associates, in 1962 in Berkeley, California.[5] Buchla was commissioned by composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, both of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, to create an electronic instrument for live performance.[3] Buchla began designing his first modules for the Tape Music Center in 1963. With partial funding from a Rockefeller Foundation grant made to the Tape Music Center, Buchla assembled his modules into the Buchla Modular Electronic Music System (later known as the Series 100), which he began selling commercially in 1966. Buchla's synthesizers experimented in control interfaces, such as touch-sensitive plates. In 1969 the Series 100 was briefly sold to CBS Musical Instruments, who soon after dropped the line, not seeing the synthesizer market as a profitable area.[6]

1970 saw the release of the Buchla 200 series Electric Music Box,[2] which was manufactured until 1985. Buchla created the Buchla Series 500, the first digitally controlled analog synthesizer, in 1971.[2] Shortly after, the Buchla Series 300 was released, which combined the Series 200 with microprocessors. The Music Easel, a small, portable, all-in-one synthesizer was released in 1972. The Buchla 400, with a video display, was released in 1982. In 1987, Buchla released the fully MIDI enabled Buchla 700.[7]

Buchla Series 100 (1963/1966–1969)

Beginning in the 1990s, Buchla began designing alternative MIDI controllers, such as the Thunder, Lightning, and Marimba Lumina. With the recent resurgence of interest in analog synthesizers Buchla has released a revamped 200 series called the 200e.

In 2005, NIME-05 (5th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression), in Vancouver, Canada, featured a keynote lecture by Don Buchla. There was also a sizable exhibition of many of the instruments he and his team have created over the years.[8]

He died at the age of 79 on September 14, 2016 of complications from cancer.[9][10][11]

Personal life[edit]

He is survived by a son Ezra Buchla who is a musician, [11] daughters Jeannine Serbanich and Erin Buchla, and two grandchildren.

Notable artists[edit]

List of artists that use Buchla instruments:



  1. ^ "Don Buchla - Passing The Acid Test". Red Bull Music Academy. 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Frank Hoffmann (12 November 2004). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Routledge. pp. 311–. ISBN 1-135-94949-2. 
  3. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon. "Don Buchla, Electronic Music Maverick, Dies at 79". New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Laurent de Wilde (23 March 2016). Les fous du son. Grasset. pp. 186–. ISBN 978-2-246-85928-4. 
  5. ^ Jones, Kevin L. "Don Buchla, Influential Synthesizer Designer, Dead at 79". KQED. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  6. ^ Mark Vail. "Buchla Series 200". Keyboard magazine (Nov. 2005). 
  7. ^ "Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments - Historical Overview". Buchla and Associates. 
  8. ^ "NIME05 - May 26-28 2005 - Vancouver, Canada". 
  9. ^ "Don Buchla, Inventor, Composer and Electronic Music Maverick, Dies at 79". The New York Times. 19 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Modular synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla has died". 
  11. ^ a b c d Dayal, Geeta (16 September 2016). "Don Buchla, modular synthesizer pioneer, dies aged 79". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ "Buchla Ken Kesey". MATRIXSYNTH. 
  13. ^ "The Music Easel". Buchla & Associates. 
  14. ^ "Collection Checklist". Cantos Music Foundation. 
  15. ^ "Introducing the Moog PianoBar". Moog Music. 

External links[edit]

External video
Oral History, Don Buchla reflects about his interactions with Theramin. Interview date January 16, 2011, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library