The Resynator was the first digital, instrument-controlled synthesizer. It was a monophonic machine that tracked the pitch of any instrument plugged into it to produce synthesized tones. Something that technology still wrestles with to this day.
The Resynator was invented by Don Tavel in the 1970s who died tragically in a car crash in 1988 10 weeks after the birth of his daughter Alison. Alison Tavel has since gone on a voyage of discovery starting with an original Resynator that lay forgotten in her Grandmother’s attic. She’s now taken to Kickstarter to fund the production of a documentary about her father and this remarkable synthesizer.
Alison has been travelling with the Resynator for about 4 years trying to figure out what this thing was and whether it was cool or not. She began by taking the Resynator to Mike Beigel who originally built it for her father and he was able to get it fully functional. Then she took it on a tour around the world engaging with a whos-who of synthesizer nerds and electronic artists. Over this time she relates how it’s become more than a story of a synthesizer, it’s become about getting to know her dad.
Now she is out of the necessary resources to complete and edit the documentary.
The synthesizer my father invented was an extension of himself. It was expressive, it was humanistic, it was unpredictable. And being that I’m the furthest thing from a musician that you can get – the synthesizer to me, was intimidating. I didn’t know how to play it or understand it. Fortunately, working in music, I had some really awesome connections to people who could play it and help me to understand it. Every time I took the Resynator around to someone new I learned a little more about it. People like Eric Valentine, Grace Potter, Gotye, Brian Kehew, Will Gregory, Adrien Utley, Mike Gordon, Fred Armisen and more were so generous with their time to sit with me and demo it.
Alison also had the opportunity to meet Peter Gabriel who had a couple of Resynators back in the 1980s. She says “That will go down as one of the coolest and most nerve-wracking experiences of my life!”
The original goal is to raise $30,000 which she believes will set her on the road to completion. And they are only a couple of thousand dollars short at the moment. From there $50,000 would finish the project completely, $75,000 would give a greater creative space to enhance the documentary and for $100,000 she would hire a “great composer” to write a score on the Resynator. For a small investment you can get all sorts of things starting with a download of the film and your name in the credits going up through a bunch of (actually quite cool) merchandising. For $50 you can get your own short recording fed through the Resynator, for $99 you’ll get a year of Arcade from Output with a new pack of Resynator samples. From there, anything is possible including tickets to the premier, workshops, Resynator sessions and producer credits.
There are still 28 days to go at the time of writing and Alison looks set to meet at least the original goal. I hope it goes much further and allows her to complete the project in the most creative manner. The footage is already fascinating and I’m looking forward to this documentary even though I’ve never heard of the device.
- Resynator Kickstarter page.
- Don Tavel with the original Resynator stomp box version.: SonicScoop
- Resynator in pieces: Resynator.com