To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.
Who better to do that with than the person who first discovered the technique?
At an event hosted by CTM Festival and HKW Berlin, with CDM as media partner, we got to do just that, inviting John Chowning to recount FM’s evolution. I have to say, it was one of those uniquely inspiring moments, where you get to feel you understand how the sounds you make connect to musical history.
Part of that feeling came from the fact that artist Holly Herndon, who herself has studied with John at Stanford, hosted the interview – one sound experimenter and composer to another, student and teacher.
It’s worth giving the whole interview a listen. Some of this has been recounted before, but it finds some unique clarity here.