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Re: Mellotron -

hi all,

having played more than thirty Mellotrons of all types (M-400, Mk. 5, Mk. 
M-300, and having actually owned one or two machines) over the past couple
of years, I think I should chime in here.

To put one thing straight first, the original Chamberlin/Mellotron design
does not use closed loops of tape, but one legth of tape per key which
allows you to play sustained notes for about eight seconds. The Birotron
uses closed loops of tape stored on eight-track cartridges, and the
Optigan/Orchestron use loops of  optical waveforms drawn on translucent

I donīt think any "looper" or
tape-based artist like Schaeffer, Henri or Stockhausen had an influence on
the developement of the Mellotron. The Mellotron idea originated in the
garage of Harry Chamberlinīs, an American inventor,  where he designed a
tapebased playback system that allowed him to store sounds on tape and play
them by means of a keyboard (probably because he wanted more realistic
sounds that a Hammond or whatever other organ could offer him) in the early
1950s. Magnetic tape had just become available past WW2 when German
Magnetophon tapes and tape recorders were brought over to America and the
idea was successfully adopted by Ampex, among others (Bing Crosby being one
of the original Ampex shareholders, btw.). At roughly the same time Les 
started doing tape experiments at home, applying various recording and
playback techniques to this new medium (if at all, I think Les Paul can be
called the father of both the homerecording studio and looping techniques).
Funny is that before that, recordings were etched into wax disk by means of
a stylus (like the way records were cut for ages), and the BBC continued to
do so until the early 1960s, I think, before they switched over to using
magnetic tape. Stockhausen, Schaeffer and others were using the tape medium
as a means to reproduce certain structures by chopping up tapes into 
of certain length in order to produce rhythmic patterns (or to manipulate
sounds). Out of this fashion of chopping up tapes Donald Buchla devised his
first sequencer which allowed the performer to repeat certain patterns
electronically, both on a sound-generating and sound-controlling level.

Like it is often the case, the original inventor didnīt have the ambition 
copyright his invention because he didnīt realize how far-reaching his
invention would actually be. In Harry Chamberlinīs case, his idea was
snatched from him by a ruthless (today he would be called "efficient")
entrepreneur by the name of Bill Fransen who took Chamberlinīs ideas to
England and introduced it as his own to three English gentlemen by the 
of Les, Frank, and Norman Bradley of Streetly Electronics near Birmingham, 
firm that produced various accessories for tape recorders, among other
things (like recording and playback heads). Based on Chamberlinīs ideas,
they unknowingly infringed on his mental property by designing the 
Mk. 1 which was the ancestor of the famous Mk. 2 and M-400 many musicians
used throughout the 60s and 70s (and still today they use Trons, as I had
the pleasure of playing Oasisī Mellotron M-400 at Martin Smithīs place in
Staffordshire where he and John Bradley are still fixing and refurbishing
Mellotrons). A lot later Chamberlin found out about how his original ideas
were used without his approval, and it caused quite a lot embarrassment on
the Streetly side because they had not properly investigated if the idea
they were using was actually copyrighted. Iīm not going to elaborate on the
history of the Mellotron as most of you will know anyway, and if not,
thereīs plenty of literature available. For a start Iīd recommend Peter
Forrestīs A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers.

As for the Chamberlin itself, I have never played one but what I have heard
come out of it (like some of the Saxophone and Brass stuff on Bowieīs 
sounds amazing and a lot better than the Mellotron (especially the female
choir of the Chamberlin sounds awesome). The nice thing about the
Chamberlinīs tone is that it is not as overused and well-known (read:
cliché-ridden) as the
Mellotron, which makes it a little more exotic (Tracy Chapmanīs live
keyboard player ad a Chamberlin M-1 with him, btw).

If at all, Harry Chamberlin could be called the father of the sound 
system based on keyboard instruments, just like Edison could be called the
father of harddisk recording (in the most appropriate sense of the word).
Looping as we know it today -- and as it was used and cultivated by artists
like Bob Fripp, Dave Torn and numerous others, you name them -- goes back 
Les Paul in my opinion.

Sorry for wasting bandwidth,


"Human beings are a disease, the cancer of this planet, youīre a plague. 
we are the cure." (Agent Smith / Matrix)

Visit the official [īramp] website at www.doombient.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "samba *" <sambacomet@hotmail.com>
To: <Loopers-Delight@loopers-delight.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 30, 2004 9:35 AM
Subject: Mellotron -

>     I already know how mellotrons work . I've opened one up.You can think
> it as a replay only sampler if you like,I wouldn;t argue,it's a 
> functional description,but I'm trying to explore the history and
> of ideas and techniques ,your description doesn;t address the idea that
> Shaeffer,the originator of looping directly influenced the development of
> the mellotron. Also if you want to use strict definitions digital boxes
> don't have loops in them either,and so aren't loopers.
>   I've had correspondance w/ someone who knows Terry Riley and asked
> him.Riley says he can't remember the name of the engineer,but that he was
> employed by RTF .This is significant ,as RTF employed  Pierre Shaefer 
> he did his looping experiments in the 40s. Alot of people assert that
> everyone who that got their hands on a tape machine in the early 60s
> it,but there is pretty clear evidence showing that a single person
> it ,and that further developments spread from the RadioTelevision France
> where he worked ,and had the first multitrack tape machines.
> <html><div></div></html>
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