Oscillator Culture – The Story of the Polysynth

Novation’s Oscillator Culture – The Story of the Polysynth is a delightfully quirky mini-documentary that looks at ‘the passions, obsessions and dreams of people who have dedicated part of their lives to this esoteric electronic music machine’.

It’s less a documentary about polysynths than the perspective of a generation of synthesists that grew up with polysynths being unobtainable and their take on making a modern polyphonic synth.

It features Ben Rossborough (Cyberwave EMS), Nick Batt (Sonic State) and Finlay Shakespeare (Future Sound Systems), along with Novation synth gurus Chris Calcutt, Danny Nugent, Nick Bookman and Jerome Meunier, who were involved with the development of the company’s Peak polyphonic synth.

They talk about the music that inspired them, their relationship with synths then and now and, of course, the Peak synthesizer.

The video was directed by Tim Harbour, who also gets credit for the epic theme songs.

11 thoughts on “Oscillator Culture – The Story of the Polysynth

  1. Crime of the century: the Ultranova not being multitimbral

    Honorable mention: no display on the Circuit
    Honorable mention part 2: no proper on-board editing of the synths of the Circuit

  2. Peak is the best sounding synth in a long time. The factory patches do it the biggest disservice I have ever seen. Watch Nick Batt’s Part 1 review and listen to the variois patches that HE created. I fell in love multiple times with the sounds.

    1. Yep. In a way, the “history of polysynths” part sounded like a setup for the shift from BS to Peak. Then the Peak was treated as though there weren’t other (hardware) synths being developed.

      The part about hardware vs. software was rather awkward. Though some of those dudes were acknowledging softsynths as a valid option in some cases, the fact that they went out of their way to defend hardware synths made it sound like there’s been an industry-wide shift away from hardware devices. Made me wish they said more about modular synths… and about any of the work done on neat hardware controllers (including MPE ones).

      Overall, it actually decreased my level of confidence in Novation/Focusrite/Ampify.

  3. I haven’t watched this yet. But over the years, there are various things that have kept analog polysynths from being more widely available. The death of analog in the 80s and the birth of digital polyphony, then Samplers in late 80s, then VAs, and finally VSTs.

    The price for truly innovative polysynths remains very high: Quantum. But with Eurorack, you might as well make your own sampled poly, for an equivalent price. This is probably the direction I’m headed towards.

    I’d get Peak if it supported user wavetables.

      1. Oh, I meant a sample based poly, by multi-sampling a modular.

        Planning on using MainStage’s AutoSampler to generate multi-sampled instruments, already doing that with my other hardware synths. Though I plan using Falcon to host the sfz files for day to day use.

        1. I see. AutoSampler and Falcon look great, thanks for the pointers. But I would have thought it was a very different experience to playing a polysynth.

    1. Agree that the omission of user wave-tables is a major omission on the Peak – especially when contrasted to the Waldorf products that also have far more & interesting wave tables. Surprised that Novatoon still haven’t add this to the firmware

    2. Agree that the omission of user wave-tables is a major omission on the Peak – especially when contrasted to the Waldorf products that also have far more & interesting wave tables. Surprised that Novation still haven’t added this to the firmware

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