Don Lewis & LEO, The Live Electronic Orchestra

At the 2013 NAMM Show, Don Lewis demonstrated LEO, the ‘Live Electronic Orchestra’ that he created in the 70’s.

Here’s what Lewis has to say about LEO:

“During the early 70’s my earliest performances with multi-keyboard setups consisted of playing organ and four monophonic keyboards. It was an exciting time for me as I explored sound synthesis.

It was also challenging as I was surrounded with many keyboards some of which could only play one note at a time. Depending on the music and the sound desired, my arms were often stretched out to the limit to just reach the keyboards around me. I decided to design a keyboard console that would allow better access to the synthesizer and keyboards for performance.

As I started to design and draft on paper the ideas that were in my mind, I met people, such as Richard Bates and Armand Pascetta, who were instrumental in making my dream keyboard a reality. This new console design incorporated three keyboards and a pedal keyboard that put the playing surfaces in front of me. The synthesis and audio mixing controls were on the top and side panels.

Since electronics were of major interest to me in my educational pursuits and music performances, I wanted people to see all the circuitry therefore I encased LEO in a clear acrylic case. During performances the stage lights accented the edges which added an intriguing and dynamic visual ambiance.

The LEO is a great example of pushing the limits of what was technically possible, pre-MIDI, and still is an awesome and powerfult instrument in Lewis’s hands.

You can find out more about Lewis and LEO at his site.


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