Enter the laboratory of a 1950’s electronic studio with Berna 2.0
Long before Bob Moog and Wendy Carlos brought electronic music to the mainstream beeps, sweeps and noises were being pioneered inside European radio laboratories. Berna 2.0 attempts to emulate that exciting new world of oscillators, filters, modulators, tape recorders and mixers with a fabulous amount of realism and historical accuracy.
Built by sound artist Giorgio Sancristoforo Berna is the sort of software that will boggle some people and completely delight others. Because in the 1950’s making electronic music was hard. It was all hand made, often cannibalising old radio equipment and scientific tools to invent more musical devices. Preparing the lab for some music making could take months of work piecing together sounds and ideas and then building the equipment to enable it to happen.
This quote from the website is truly enlightening:
Everything was handmade, from complex timbres with multiple sine oscillators bounces to tape editing with scissors and scotch-tape. Even sound envelopes were manually made by cutting tapes’ edgdes at different degrees of inclination. Ussachevsky’s ADSR was yet to be invented!
Berna explores this realm of music making. The GUI brilliantly replicates the front panels of the gear they were working with. Along with regular oscillators and modulators you’ll find filter banks, vocoders, a Tone Burst Generator, reverb, frequency shifting, FM and complex oscillators.
It has a scary looking matrix that slides out of the GUI but it simply allows you to connect everything to everything else. There’s nothing done for you, you have to explore and make purposeful connections and take your time. It looks and sounds like nothing else. Fascinating.
Berna 2.0 is available now for the stunning price of €12 for MacOS or Windows. There’s also a demo so you can try before you buy.
- Berna 2.0 website.
While this is an interesting bit of software, It’s let down by a clunky interface and limited usefulness due to limited MIDI and only comes as a stand-alone app.
The most annoying aspect was having to constantly shift back and forth between the “plug board” and the modules. If the author really wanted to maintain authenticity, he should’ve used cable connections, which is how it was really done back then; not to mention making it much easier on the user. Also, relegating it to a fixed window size doesn’t help matters either. Oh, and the manual hasn’t been updated since 2014; granted, there’s not much to update, but not doing so makes you look like you don’t care.
I wanted to ask some questions, but he’s coded the page to pull up a mail client instead of having it inline, you know, like modern people do these days.
All in all, it’s good for a doodle, but not much more.