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Syn-Ket Studien proudly shows off an under-praised milestone in electronic music history, of which Hainbach’s contribution to the Syn-Ket will surely be a part of.
The 1960s were a time of great technological and creative innovations in music history, from drum machines and dub to cassette tapes and the Mellotron. The first commercial synthesisers were made in these early years, but before Moog, and before Buchla, there was Syn-Ket. Custom made by Polish-Italian engineer Paul Ketoff in 1963, the Syn-Ket was a touring-friendly portable model often used in soundtracks by John Eaton and Ennio Morricone. Only nine were ever made, and with his latest work, Hainbach ensures the instrument isn’t lost to time.
Commemorating what he calls “an absolute unicorn of a synthesiser”, Hainbach presents sparse explorations showcasing the breadth of the Syn-Ket’s capabilities, in particular its three voicings and unique filters. Recorded at Museo Del Synth Marchigiano over a handful of days, Syn-Ket Studien hums and thrums with raw and unedited analogue experimentation, perhaps mirroring early pioneers like Mort Garson or Wendy Carlos yet propelled 60 years into the future.
‘Studie A - Andante’ opens with deep bass pulses and the signature warm sizzle of analogue synth, playfully dancing across its runtime with a dark mood characteristic of Hainbach’s previous Landfill Totems (made with similarly repurposed nuclear lab equipment). ‘Studie F - Prestissimo’ fills the room with morphing palpitations stretching like elastic, sitting in between varied explorations of growling percussive undertones, ominously rising and falling bells, and trickling liquid synths.
About Syn-Ket Studien
"Syn-Ket Studien (German for „study“) is as much an exploration as its a love letter. When I tried to coax music from this wonderful but not always perfectly working instrument, I was under the spell of the beautiful Marche region and the hospitality I encountered at the Museo. The album cover by Zé Burnay reflects that - the countryside and culture frames the session. Having only a few days with the Syn-Ket, I needed to work effectively. I decided it would be the tempo that would guide my interaction with the instrument. By setting the speeds of the modulators first I learned quickly what the instrument could do and what I could do with it. Every piece is the result of a learning curve, the struggle of playing an undocumented instrument and the joy of its incredible rich and powerful sound. At home in my Berlin studio I left the sound as raw and unedited as made sense musically, adding only a touch ambience with an old stereo spring reverb." Hainbach, Berlin, 2022
A Short History of The Syn-Ket
"The Syn-Ket is a truly exceptional instrument: developed in Italy at the same time that Robert Moog and Don Buchla set out to write instrument history, Paolo Ketoff created what is probably the first portable synthesizer. Born from the experience of making the huge Fonosynth and inspired by the works of Harald Bode, Ketoff worked closely with musicians and composers of the American Academy of Rome (John Eaton, Bill Smith) to create an electronic instrument that would allow live performances without tape playback.
Shunning mass production, the Syn-Ket was only produced in nine custom pieces, starting in 1963, all tailored to the musician that ordered it. And those lucky few got a lot, despite the compact size: three voices with tube oscillators, two filters and an LFO, an octave filter bank and three output modulators (a mixture of LFO/Envelope/VCA). All is controlled by a very expressive three row pressure sensitive keyboard. It found widespread use in Italian movies of the times. Little wonder, as one Syn-Ket was famously owned by Ennio Morricone"
- Riccardo Pietroni, Museo Del Synth Marchigiano, 2022
Music composed, performed and recorded by Hainbach at Museo Del Synth Marchegiano, 2022.
Cover Art by Zé Burnay