Thursday, April 8, 2010

Steiner-Parker Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI), Multiphonic Keyboard, and Selective Inverter, Contemporary Keyboard 1976


Steiner-Parker Electronic Valve Instrument, Multiphonic Keyboard, and Selective Inverter advertisement from page 43 of Contemporary Keyboard May/June 1976. Plus, Steiner-Parker Dealer List advertisement from page 45 of the same issue.

This 1/3 page square advertisement was probably the earliest Steiner-Parker advertisement to appear in CK. The company's various ads actually caught my attention in some old issues of Synapse, so I did some digging in CK and found that this one is slightly older than the ones that I have from Synapse, so I thought I better start here. I've also included a dealer list ad that appeared two pages later in the same issue. Figured I'd add it 'for the record'.

Steiner-Parker isn't one of the more well-known companies from the 1970's (well, to me anyways), so it's nice to see that there is actually quite a bit of information available on the Web about the company and many of its instruments.

A great starting point is synthmuseum.com's relatively comprehensive 'Get to Know Steiner-Parker' page, which provides quite a bit of history on the company. In a nutshell, the company was started in 1975 by Nyle Steiner and Dick Parker, along with a third partner that apparently has remained nameless all these years.

Within the year, they had a number of products on the market including all three featured in the above ad. The same page on synthmuseum.com includes this 1975 product list, showing that they cranked out a lot of gear designs in that year, and great evidence toward their claim that they were "the fastest growing synthesizer company in the world".

Except that the company dissolved in 1979.

But one piece of gear has lived on...

Steiner-Parker, and Nyle Steiner in particular, is probably best known for the creation of the Electronic Value Instrument - aka EVI - a trumpet-based synthesizer controller.

According to the first chapter of Ron Cole's doctoral dissertation, "The Electronic Valve Instrument: Nyle Steiner's Unique Musical Innovation" (an edited version of this first chapter can be found on the extensionsjazz.com Web site), development of the EVI began as early as 1971.

I found a great photo of an EVI prototype on Synthmuseum.com's EVI page (image originally from Audities Foundation Calgary AB, Canada)


According to the dissertation, the first EVI's rolled off the manufacturing line in 1975 and were quite 'basic' in ability - 'only controlling on/off tone generation in a dedicated synthesizer module'. But, by the end of the 70's, the company had sold around 200 units and the EVI had expanded to include 'CV (control voltage) directed volume via manipulation of air pressure at the breath sensor, a vibrato sensor, a "bite sensor" for controlling a portamento effect, and pitch bending plates (albeit retro-fitted by Steiner)'.

Here's an image of a production EVI also from the synthmuseum.com page (image originally from Audities Foundation Calgary AB, Canada).


Although the Steiner-Parker company dissolved at the end of the '70s, Steiner continued to build and promote theEVI through Crumar, imaginatively calling the instrument the 'Crumar EVI' (why mess with a good name).

During this time period, MIDI popped onto the scene and JL Cooper Electronics and Steiner created a midi adapter for the EVI, allowing 'the Crumar EVI to transmit MIDI note on and note off, aftertouch, pitchwheel (pitch bend), and breath control (which could be used to control several effects, including volume)'. Interestingly, Crumar never modified the EVI itself to include MIDI.

By the mid-80s, Steiner continued to develop the specs of the EVI and also started to develop a similar instrument - the Electronic Woodwind Controller (EWI), originally known as the Steinerphone (okay, good call on the name change...).

The latest prototypes of both instruments were sold to Akai in 1986 and commercial units known as the EVI-1000 and EWI-1000, along with the accompanying EWV-2000 synth module, came out the following year. The EVI was eventually discontinued in 1990, but the EWI continued to sell and has eventually evolved into the EWI-4000.

Steiner continues to convert EWI3000+'s into EVI's, shoving the innards into a newly redesigned EVI body. Cost is around $200 bucks (BYOEWI).

Still with me?


Then go check out Patchmanmusic.com's official Nyle Steiner home page that includes *a lot* of great info, facts, photos and links about the man and the instrument.

Once you have checked that site out, then go get your Mark Hatch on.

1 comment:

zenbecca said...

This would be a great ad for a caption contest. It's just that awesome.

As a girl who has listened to more than her fair-share of EWI, it was really interesting to see its EVI-lution (sorry, couldn't resist). They really are kinda neat.

Hmmm...I bet I know where I could get one. Cheap.

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