Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vako Synthesizers Inc. Orchestron "The Instrument of the Future..." ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Vako Synthesizers Inc. Orchestron "The Instrument of the Future..." two page black & white advertisement from page 32 and 33 in the January/February 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Like the Wersi Condor I blogged about last Monday, I don't really know much about the Vako Orchestron either. And when that happens, I immediately focus on design.

If anything, this advertisement's design is the *exact opposite* on the Condor.  And although "The Future" is literally written all over this advertisement, the design also seems the exact opposite of the future too. This was only the second or third issue of Contemporary Keyboard magazine, and Vako had chosen to come out of the gates swinging with a two-page advertisement with ad-copy focused on the future of technology. And what do they do, they slap the pictures of the instrument on what looks like pre-clipart of a scroll.

Don't get me wrong - I do get it. The ad-copy is all "It shall have..." and "Its name shall be..." - as if reading off a scroll from the ancient Roman times. But the design for such an advanced instrument just could have been so much more.

The best part of the design of this ad has to be the logo. Vako in that futuristic "V" symbol is great. As is the font used for Orchestron. Futuristic in a 70s sci-fi-kinda way. And, as we can see, Orchestron wasn't just the name of the instrument, it was the name of a division (however small) within the company. Interesting stuff.

After picking apart the design in my head a bit, I decided to find out a bit more about the company. Googling actually brought up a lot more than I thought. And with so much to choose from, I of course immediately focused on artists that used the instrument.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common artist reference is to Kraftwerk. According to many sources, including the Orchestron Wikipedia page:
"Florian Schneider bought an Orchestron Model A during their Autobahn tour in the USA in 1975. On the unofficial live album Concert Classics, recorded during their 1975 tour, the instrument can be heard. Kraftwerk have used the instrument on the albums Radio-Activity, Trans-Europe Express and The Man-Machine."
I found one photo of Kraftwerk performing in Zurich in 1976 on the Wikipedia page for Trans -Europe Express that pretty clearly shows Ralf Hütter (far left) playing an Orchestron (click on the photo to be taken to a larger one on Wikipedia). You can tell its an Orchestron by the distinctively-shaped side panel with the carrying handle. KVRaudio's forum has another photo where they point it out - but its partially obscured by what seems to be another keyboard.  Neat stuff.

There's even a YouTube video of someone playing some Kraftwerk on an Orchestron.

But the most common reference to an artist that used the Orchestron is Patrick Moraz from the band Yes, probably because his custom three manual Orchestron is featured  prominently in the advertisement. Again, according to the Orchestron's Wikipedia page, the image is that of "Model X" - a prototype specifically built for Patrick. According to the page, this keyboard was used on Yes's Relayer album (another Wikipedia link), and  the instrument broke and disappeared after being sent in for repairs. Huh.

I'll leave with this YouTube video of the full Yes album below.

Take a listen if its your cup of tea.

I'm on my second time through while I write this blog post.  :)

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