Don Lewis & Dr John Chowning Interview At NAMM 2019

At the 2019 NAMM Show, Yamaha filmed a series of interviews, as part of their event livestream.

This interview features electrical engineer and musician Don Lewis and FM synthesis pioneer Dr. John Chowning. Host Blake Angelo talks with them about their personal experiences with synthesis, their work and a little about the current state of synthesis.

Highlight: Lewis improvises a song about how much he loves Yamaha’s FM piano patch, which can transform from a realistic piano emulation, to electric piano, to something completely out there.

Note: This video is currently only available on Facebook, which can cause problems for some users.

4 thoughts on “Don Lewis & Dr John Chowning Interview At NAMM 2019

  1. Oh really, Mr. Angelo? The DX-7 didn’t have very much real time control? As much as a calculator you say? (5:00). No, it just had a velocity sensitive keyboard, a programmable mod wheel, breath controller input, AND A PRESSURE SENSITIVE KEYBOARD, all of which were not available on 99% of the analog synths out at the time. The ModX doesn’t have all that.

    1. Bill

      Angelo’s viewpoint may be skewed towards a modern perspective – but don’t you think it’s a pretty mainstream view?

      DX7 style minimal interfaces – where you navigate everything with menus and a data knob or slider – have completely gone out of style. They kept costs down in the 80s, but that’s not a valid trade-off anymore.

      I’d agree that the DX7 can be wonderfully expressive, but its complexity mean that most users never used a breath controller, modified mod wheel destinations or exploited aftertouch. Most users played the presets and never used the expressive options beyond velocity sensitivity. But in the 80’s, velocity sensitivity and polyphony and a reasonable price were enough to make the DX7 a massive success.

      It’s very reasonable to say that users will be able to exploit the expressive capabilities of something like the Montage or MODX, much more so than something like the DX7.

      1. Just because a claim is mainstream doesn’t make it accurate.

        Few would disagree that the DX7’s user interface was clunky, that FM patch programming was challenging for most users, or that modern Yamaha synths (featuring lots of knobs, bigger screens, and well-designed presets) are more user friendly and powerful in many ways.

        However, Bill’s point (which you seem to be agreeing with) is correct: the DX7 had a good deal of real-time expression control (including aftertouch, breath control, modulation and volume pedals, etc..) It was quite powerful because it could be applied to FM carrier and modulator envelopes as well as pitch and amplitude. I also think many of the presets supported aftertouch (a key expressive feature for me at least.)

  2. To see these 3 men pasion for what they do really warms my heart and they are so humble , 1 guy Don was the inspiration for midi and the other John invented FM synthesist and Blake is just all around great , truly wonderful people .

    I wish I could sit and talk to them and learn more about my Montage and unlock the mysteries of amazing sounding FM synthesist . Thank you gentlemen for your contribution and thank you Yamaha for making FM-X happened.

    The only thing missing is the amazing Phil Clendeninn we need more Phil Phil Phil !!!!!!

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