ARP Founder Alan R. Pearlman Has Died

Alan R. Pearlman

Alan R. Pearlman, engineer and founder of the pioneering synth manufacturer ARP Instruments, died yesterday at the age of 93.

His daughter, Dina Pearlman, shared the news:

My father passed away today after a long illness.

At 93, too weak to speak he still managed to play the piano this morning, later passing away peacefully in the afternoon. He was a great man and contributed much to the world of music you all know today.

Hopefully I can find something more eloquent to say, but I am too sad for words right now.

Pearlman (1925 – 2019) founded ARP Instruments, Inc. (originally Tonus, Inc.) in 1969, in the very early days of the synth industry. “ARP” was Pearlman’s nickname, as a kid growing up in New York City.

Jimmy Page with an ARP 2500

The company debuted what became the ARP 2500 analog modular synthesizer the following year. It used a system of sliding matrix switches for patching, keeping the synthesizers’ knobs and switches unobstructed by patch cables. It was also known for offering oscillators that were more stable than other modular synthesizers of the time.

The company followed up with the introduction of the ARP 2600, in 1971. The ARP 2600 is a three-oscillator monophonic synthesizer. The default internal patching can be customized using patch cables.

In 1972, ARP introduced the Odyssey, designed to be a compact and performance-oriented synthesizer. The ARP Odyssey, a dual oscillator monophonic synth, was the company’s most popular synth. It remained in production for 9 years and through two major revisions.

ARP closed in 1981, and Pearlman went on to found a computer graphics company. But the company’s iconic synth designs are as popular as ever, with ARP-inspired synths available in both hardware and software forms.

Synthesist David Baron shared this short performance on an ARP 2500, in memory of Pearlman:

Alan R. Pearlman, in around 2013

“Alan R Pearlman was an engineering genius,” notes Berklee College of Music Professor Dr. Richard Boulanger. “But I truly believe that the heart and soul in his machines drew their spirit and life from Alan’s musical virtuosity on the piano, his truly deep musical knowledge, his passion and enthusiasm for all music, and his nurturing and generous support for young composers and performers, regardless of whether they were into classical, avantgarde, film, fusion, rock or pop.”

The NAMM site has an interview with Pearlman, from 2006, as part of their oral history program. In the interview, he discusses his early inspirations and the start of ARP. Donald Tillman has a summary of ARP-related patents at his site.

28 thoughts on “ARP Founder Alan R. Pearlman Has Died

  1. The first synthesizer I ever touched was a dusty, old, poorly maintained ARP 2600 that was rotting in the storage area of my highschools music room. Playing with it was a revelation.

  2. Back in the day, I learned a lot about synthesizers by reading ‘Learning music with synthesizers’ by Alan R. Pearlman. I still have it and browse through it from time to time. For inspiration. I have always admired the clear, logical layout and the clean sound of the ARP instruments. He will be surely missed, but his legacy lives on.

  3. There is a kARP Odyssey due to arrive tomorrow. It’s been a dream to own a 2600 since I was 18 years old. Since that is an impossible dream, I saw the chance to get a full sized Odyssey at a great price. It’s very sad to wake up, check the tracking, then find that the man who designed these great instruments has passed away.

    His creations will go on for decades to come. Hell, somebody will still be cloning them centuries from now.

  4. It was Alan who gave me the opportunity to write the ARP 2600 Owner’s Manual in 1971. He later supported me for sessions at a couple of local recording studios, doing some Bartok pieces, and provided a long series of recommendations for the Boston School of Electronic Music from 1972 onward. He was a good and generous man.

  5. Aaaaah this is sad.
    ARP you influenced numerous creatives.
    You shall continue to influence.
    A Rich Presence your life on this Earth.

  6. Of all the synths I’ve owned over the last 40+ years, my ARP 2600 (with the ARP Sequencer) was in my top three. Still wish I had them. RIP Alan R. Pearlman.

  7. I loved the ARP 2600. It was my muse, and I spent many an evening patching in and tweaking knobs back in 1976-1980 during my undergrad years at Texas Tech University. It was both complex and assessable. For decades now, I’ve always thought that if I had the extra resources, I’d purchase and refurbish one, and once again, make glorious noise into the the wee hours of the night.

  8. I grew up with Arp products. My first Odyssey in ’74, traded it in for a 2600 in ’77, then traded again for 2 Odysseys which I synced. Then later a String Ensemble, Omni2, and Pro Soloist. I even hung a poster of a 2500 in my bedroom where other guys had their Farrah Fawcett posters 🙂 I never did get me that 2500 I dreamed of, but then my friends never got Farrah Fawcett either! 🙂 No internet back then – I had to search out books and articles by Mr Pearlman. Thank you Alan, for sharing your dreams with us. And peace to your family as they mourn you passing.

  9. I grew up on Arp products. My first Odyssey in ’74, the traded it in on a 2600 in ’77, but quickly decided I could get more out of 2 Odysseys which I synced together. Later I bought a used String Ensemble, Omni2, and Pro Soloist. I always dreamed of a 2500 and hung a poster of one in my bedroom where my friends would have a Farrah Fawcett poster. I never did get the 2500, but my friends never got Farrah so I guess we’re even 🙂 Thank you Mr. Pearlman for sharing your dreams with us. And peace to your family as they mourn your passing.

  10. Saddened by his passing. Sold my ARP 2600 back in the day, never should have done that. For me it was a more important instrument than the Minimoog.

  11. Got a CAT synth for Christmas when I 16, along with it, I got the book “Learning Music With Synthesizers.”
    RIP Alan R. Pearlman.

  12. I am very saddened by his passing. My association with ARP was one of the highlites of my musical career. People i met thru that association changed my musical path and enriched me with knowledge i could have never found without that association. I as well owned and preformed with an odyssey, a 2600, a string ensemble and an expansion unit for the odyssey for many, many years. The enjoyment and creativity these instuments provided me is still unmatched till this day even with the multitude of electronic products available. May he rest in peace ……

  13. In 1974 I had only a learner’s permit, so it was my father who drove me halfway across Iowa to Dubuque to see an Arp 2600 on offer. I spent my 17-year-old life savings to purchase it (serial number under 100). Uncounted hours of blissful tinkering and discovery into sound synthesis later, I donated the machine (along with the duophonic keyboard upgrade and an Arp Sequencer) to a grade school in 2000. I hope the formative minds there have derived the same sense of wonder and experimentation that I experienced in my youth. Eternal thanks to Mr. Pearlman for making it possible.

  14. Rest in Peace Alan. You left something behind for us all to enjoy which is all any of us can ask in our lifetime. You will not be forgotten!

  15. Dear Alan, I never knew you but of course I knew your instrument; 2600 for the last 30 years. That beast is still in use! God bless you and thanks for influencing me so much in music. Blessings, Lee Simeone x

  16. Sorry to hear of his passing. I have the Korg ARP Odyssey, and its a fantastic synth, and a credit to his genius. What an amazing tribute it would be if the rest of his synths were to be re-isssued like the Odyssey was, or better yet, ARP reformed as a company to create new instruments as well. RIP Alan R Pearlman.

  17. I grew up with Arp products. My first Odyssey in ’74, traded it in for a 2600 in ’77, then traded again for 2 Odysseys which I synced. Then later a String Ensemble, Omni2, and Pro Soloist. I even hung a poster of a 2500 in my bedroom where other guys had their Farrah Fawcett posters ? I never did get me that 2500 I dreamed of, but then my friends never got Farrah Fawcett either! ? No internet back then – I had to search out books and articles by Mr Pearlman. Thank you Alan, for sharing your dreams with us. And peace to your family as they mourn you passing.

  18. Rest in Peace good sir; my first love was my 2600 (also my first spaceship, my first time machine, my first astral taxi etc etc) … another deity slips across the Waterfall at the End of the World – may your rest be blest –

  19. I am saddened to learn of this. I met Alan at a WPI course he taught. He then invited me to be his tech for a couple of years around 1980. He was an amazing mentor – so kind and so creative. The world was better for him being in it.

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