Synthesizer pioneer and Grammy Award-winning producer Malcolm Cecil has introduced iTONTO, an app for iPad and iPhone that offers up a trove of historical and technical information about the world’s largest synthesizer, TONTO.
Best known for its prominence on four Stevie Wonder albums in the late 1970s, TONTO is a behemoth assemblage of various synthesizers and custom components, making it a legend in a field with no shortage of innovative instruments.
TONTO, an acronym for “The Original New Timbral Orchestra,” was the world’s first, and still the largest, multitimbral polyphonic analog modular synthesizer.
Designed and constructed over several years beginning in 1968, TONTO was created by Cecil from two Moog IIIC modular synthesizers, four Oberheim SEMs, two ARP 2600s, modules from EMS, Roland, Serge, and Yamaha, as well as custom modules designed by Serge Tcherepnin and Cecil himself. Digital sound-generation circuitry, a collection of sequencers, and MIDI control were eventually added.
The instrument is housed in a now iconic semi-circle of towering curved wooden cabinets, twenty feet long and six feet tall.
In 2013, TONTO was acquired by Calgary’s National Music Centre (NMC).
iTonto is not a sound generating virtual instrument. iTONTO is an informational application that provides an detailed look at this otherwise rarely seen instrument.
Every component, both front and back, can be expanded and examined. Further, the user can view original schematics or drawings for each component and read detailed descriptions of the functionality of each parameter, written by Cecil himself.
“I am gratified to bring TONTO alive for people all over the world through their mobile devices,” remarks Cecil. “Now everyone can get an up-close and personal look at this technological creation, one which inspired so much music of the late ’70s and early ’80s.”
A portion of the proceeds from the app’s sales benefit the Bob Moog Foundation.
“It is only fitting that I give back to the pioneering legacy of Bob Moog through the Bob Moog Foundation,” notes Cecil, “as his work laid the foundation for this instrument.”
iTONTO is available in the Apple Store for an introductory price of US $4.99, normally $9.99.
If you’ve used iTONTO, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it! And if you’ve used TONTO, we want to see pictures!