Don Buchla Has Died At 79

Don Buchla Smiles at the 2011 NAMM Show

Instrument design pioneer Don Buchla has died at the age of 79. 

Author & synth historian Mark Vail shared this information:

It has been confirmed that electronic music pioneer Don Buchla passed away on Wednesday, September 14.

I was very fortunate to get to know Don quite well. He contributed immeasurably to mankind and created many important and unique instruments. RIP, Don. We all miss you.

don-buchla-badassDon Buchla (April 17, 1937 – Sept 14, 2016) was a pioneer in the world of musical instrument design.

Buchla’s vision was to make new instruments for new music, and his work encouraged new ways of thinking about sound and music. His designs used a new language for discussing sound, controlling sound and performing with it.

He founded Buchla and Associates in 1962, and in 1963 he created the 100 series Modular Electronic Music System.

His early systems were central to the pioneering 60’s electronic works of Morton Subotnick. Subotnick and Buchla’s work helped define what is now known as ‘West Coast Synthesis‘.


Buchla continued developing his modular system designs throughout his career, with the system 200 Electric Music Box, the Music Easel (above) and later hybrid analog/digital designs.

Buchla also designed a wide variety of creative controllers, ranging from touch keyboards to MIDI instruments like the Thunder tactile controller, the Lightning gestural controller and the Lumina marimba-style percussion controller.

In 2004, Buchla introduced his 200e modular system, which updated his classic modular designs with digital technology. In 2012, Buchla announced that his company had been acquired by a new company, Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments. 

While Buchla’s designs never have had the mainstream recognition of Bob Moog’s synths, they’ve maintained a dedicated following. And in the last few decade, there’s been a renaissance of interest in his work, with musicians like Alessandro Cortini and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith championing his instruments; and with Eurorack designers creating new modules and controllers, inspired by Buchla’s legacy of designs.

Here’s a video from 2014, featuring Morton Subotnick explaining his Buchla-based live rig:

This video, from 2010, captures Buchla and Cortini performing the piece everything ends here:

16 thoughts on “Don Buchla Has Died At 79

  1. In college I had the rare pleasure of spending a lot of time making music with a Buchla machine. It was an endlessly challenging and inspirational journey. It influenced me profoundly. Rest in peace Mr. Buchla. Thank you.

  2. Interesting title “Everything Ends Here”. The performance was so much like a birth encouraging all those circuits to breath and grow. Very much alive!
    A beautiful and inspiring way to start this day. How I love the sound of electricity. Thank you for that.

  3. Thank you DB for everything you gave us. You left behind something useful, interesting, and fun. May we all do likewise. Ride a modulated sine wave into other dimensions, as you did in life…

  4. These visionaries always impress. I often envy those who take their vision and can make it reality.

    RIP Mr. Buchla. Your legacy will live on. Say hi to Bob Moog.

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