Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5, Contemporary Keyboard, Synapse 1979

Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-5 advertisement from page 8 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine February 1979.

Um... er... how do I put this. It is *really* nice out this week. Warm and sunny. In May. In my part of the world this is a big treat. So, I'm gonna try and keep this short so I can go back outside an enjoy this early summer surprise.

This colourful advertisement ran in most issues of CK from February to October 1979 as well as in the May/June 1979 issue of Synapse (in black and white).

This is the first full-colour advertisement that SCI put into CK. And they took an interesting approach.

In both the early 1978 Prophet-5 introductory ad and the singular late 1978 Prophet-5 stop-gap (my description) ad, SCI used the common Title->Tag Line->Gear Photo->Ad Copy->Logo format. But in their first full colour ad, SCI took full advantage of the Prophet-5 itself. Using the stark contrast between the black & white front panel/keyboard and the lovely wood-grain body of the Prophet-5 keyboard as the main focus, they stretched the photo to the absolute edges of the magazine page.

And normally I'm a fan of a big front-and-centre logo, but SCI took great care to put the white tag-line text in the only black space of the page, which then naturally draws the eye horizontally across the page to the logo on the photo. Nice touch.

The only other text on the page is right at the bottom. But don't fear that it will get lost, because the wood grain finish that separates the front panel and the keyboard draws the eye directly downward from the logo to their action item - send $1 for a demo record.

Now, I don't know how much of the above was strategic and how much was a happy accident. But I do know it worked for me. I also know I would have sent away for that demo record.

Many companies were offering both vinyl and soundsheet records at the time, including this ARP Avatar ad from 1978 that also asked you to send one buck to get their demo record.

This Prophet-5 soundsheet has two pieces on it:

Part I - Performed by John Bowen, recorded at Music Annex, Menlo Park, California.

Yes, that John Bowen - he worked with Dave Smith at SCI and programmed the original 40 factory sounds in the Prophet-5 - as well as for many other synths. He was also involved in the creation of many of my other favorite synthesizers including the Wavestation and the Z1.

Part II - Bach: Simfonia No. 11 - 3 Part Invention Performed by Dan Wyman, Recorded at Sound Arts, Los Angeles, California.

Micke Lindgren from Sweden scanned and recorded some Prophet-5 material for a tribute Web site a while back, including these images and an MP3 of the front cover, inside cover, and the soundsheet itself.

I emailed him just before posting this to ask him more about the sound sheet and he had this to say:

"The '518782S' is printed on the flexi-disc right above the EVA-TONE logo and I'm suspecting the first five digits refer to the date of print or recording; ie May 18th, 1978. I think I'm right about this because that's about the same time the first P5's shipped from the factory."

Micke also added about the the second piece of music on the sound sheet:
"Dan Wyman, who performs the lovely Bach piece, is the same guy who wrote the Moog modular manual back in the mid '70s. He also wrote a couple of synth reviews (P5 and CS-80) for the Synapse magazine in the late '70s.

Dan learned synthesis under Paul Beaver in the late '60s and was one of the co-founders of Sound Arts studio in LA. His credits include synth-programming (often done on a Moog modular) for Giorgio Moroder (M√ľnich Machine, Donna Summer, Sparks, Midnight Express soundtrack etc.), John Carpenter (soundtracks), Angel (Greg Giuffria's group), Barbra Streisand, The Beach Boys, Cher, Diana Ross, Devo, Berlin,David Shire (Apocalypse Now soundtrack/rejected version) and many others. Mr. Wyman's feature film composition credits include The Return, Hellnight (in which Dan used the rare original single-keyboard P10 along with a small orchestra), Without Warning, Metamorphosis, and The Lawnmower Man."
I don't think Micke realizes just how much I'm going to be e-mailing him in the future...

Now, time to grab a beer and go sit out on the deck. I recommend Half-Pints Little Scrapper IPA if you are a hop-head like me. And no, I'm not getting paid to promote 'em... :o)

I have a feeling this is going to be a long, hot summer. I'm lookin' forward to it.

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