TONTO Week, A Celebration Of The Original Monster Synth, Coming Nov 14-18, 2018

Malcolm Cecil & TONTO.

Canada’s National Music Centre (NMC) will debut one of the crown jewels of its music and technology collection, The Original New Timbral Orchestra (aka TONTO), during TONTO Week, being held November 14-18 in Calgary, Canada.

NMC will host a week of music programming timed to coincide with Alberta Electronic Music Conference (AEMCON).

TONTO is one of the world’s largest modular synthesizers. It was created by Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff in 1968. Under the band name Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Cecil and Margouleff released the influential album Zero Time. An TONTO was featured prominently on a series of collaboration with Stevie Wonder in the 70’s, resulting in arguably his most memorable albums.

TONTO was heard on albums by The Isley Brothers, Minnie Riperton, Joan Baez, the Doobie Brothers, Quincy Jones, Randy Newman, Bobby Womack and many more. And it was featured in cult classic film, Phantom of the Paradise.

“I needed to find a home for TONTO that would survive me and where it could be used,” said Malcolm Cecil after NMC acquired the instrument in 2013.

Cecil will be in attendance to deliver demonstrations and lectures on the history of the instrument. NMC will also host a screening of Phantom of the Paradise

Members of A Tribe Called Red will be the first musicians to create new music with the legendary synthesizer, and they’ll demo TONTO during a public workshop and incorporate the instrument into an evening Studio Bell After Hours set. “After seeing TONTO for the first time back in 2014, I knew that I had unfinished business at the National Music Centre,” said 2oolman of A Tribe Called Red. “I have been waiting patiently ever since to get my hands on that instrument.” 

Here’s the schedule for the event:


Synthesis 101
November 14, 2018, 12:00 pm
Included with admission

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting to dip your toes into the world of synthesizers, get an introduction to synthesis with NMC’s Electronics Technician John Leimseider. A veteran musician (and former member of Iron Butterfly), Leimseider has over 40 years of experience playing and repairing analog and digital synthesizers. Learn from one of the most sought-after synthesizer technicians in the world.

NMC AiR Workshop: A Tribe Called Red x TONTO
November 15, 2018, 12:00 pm
Included with admission

Multiple JUNO Award-winning act A Tribe Called Red (ATCR), currently comprised of Bear Witness and 2oolman, ignite dance parties wherever they land with their fusion of hip hop, club-ready samples and traditional pow-wow beats, and are among a new generation of Indigenous artists and activists making a strong cultural and social impact in Canada. As part of their 2018 residency, ATCR will be the first artists to use TONTO in the creation of new music after years of restoration work on the instrument. See ATCR share their creative process and provide a taste of new music at this public workshop.

Studio Bell After Hours: TONTO Edition
November 16, 2018, 9:00 pm
$40 for non-NMC Members, $32 for NMC Members, 18+

NMC’s popular late-night series returns with special headlining performances by A Tribe Called Red and Smalltown DJs, as well as selections from DJ and Chapel Sound co-founder Nancy Lee and Calgary break-beatsmith MollyFi. Bring your most comfortable dancing shoes as NMC turns down the lights and turns up the tunes. The night will also include pop-up bars and bites, a lecture on music and psychedelics, interactives, music experiments and other activities celebrating TONTO, as well as the AEMCON Marketplace, an electronic music culture and industry trade show with over a dozen vendors. This will not your typical night at the museum.

In Conversation with Malcolm Cecil
November 17, 2018, 12:00 pm
Included with admission

TONTO co-creator Malcolm Cecil will lead a conversation about the history of TONTO, chronicling its creation, seminal works and collaborations with notable artists, and its enduring legacy.

TONTO Demonstration with Malcolm Cecil and John Leimseider
November 17, 2018, 1:00 pm
Included with admission

Alongside NMC’s Electronics Technician John Leimseider, synth pioneer, Malcolm Cecil will reunite with TONTO for a rare demonstration on the legendary instrument that he helped to create.

Film Screening: Phantom of the Paradise
November 17, 2018, 7:00 pm
$15 for non-NMC Members, $10 for NMC Members

See the 1974 Brian DePalma horror-musical, Phantom of the Paradise, which immortalized TONTO after it was featured (as the “electronic room”). Though the film was a flop virtually everywhere after its initial release, it was a hit in two places: Paris (Daft Punk is said to have met at a screening in the City of Light) and Winnipeg, where it maintains a rabid cult following to this day.

Brunch and Film Screening: I Dream of Wires
November 18, 2018, 11:00 am
Included with brunch at the King Eddy

Nurse your TONTO Week hangover with a Southern soul-inspired brunch at the King Eddy and a matinee screening of I Dream of Wires. I Dream Of Wires  is about the rise, fall and rebirth of a machine that shaped electronic music: the modular synthesizer. The 2014 documentary directed by Robert Fantinatto, features over 100 interviews from inventors, musicians and enthusiasts about their relationship with the modular synthesizer—for many, it’s an all-consuming passion.

See the NMC site for details.

Tickets for all TONTO Week events are on sale now. Please go to to purchase your tickets in advance. NMC Members receive discounted or free admission to all TONTO Week events. Details at

2 thoughts on “TONTO Week, A Celebration Of The Original Monster Synth, Coming Nov 14-18, 2018

  1. NMC’s amazing keyboard tech and all-around electronics expert John Leimsieder passed away suddenly this past week. Anyone who met him knew that he loved his job and especially enjoyed sharing his vast knowledge with all of us who shared his passion. He will leave a gaping hole in the NMC team, which makes this public exhibition of TONTO bittersweet.

    Here’s a link to the NMC announcement from yesterday:

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