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.
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 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.