June 18, 2007

The Birotron and other delights

New reading material this past weekend included the new issue of The Believer magazine. The new issue of The Believer happens to be the music issue -- meaning it comes with a CD. It's great!

I devour each issue of this magazine and eagerly look forward to the next. If only it came more often. Great interviews with artists, filmmakers, musicians. Insightful pieces on some obscure cultural phenomenon or geopolitical issue. Great magazine.

I was thinking of Bruce Sterling when I was reading the article about the Birotron, quite possibly the rarest electronic musical instrument ever manufactured. If you've heard of the Mellotron, the Birotron was a competitor, made in the 70s out of nineteen (19) 8-track tape players all linked together. An amazing hack, it got some fame in the 70s from Rick Wakeman, who used it on several Yes albums and in live concerts. (More info on the Birotron is available here.)

Bruce Sterling has for many years been archiving and commenting upon what he calls "dead media" -- old devices, obsolete technologies. Coincidentally, he just blogged about dead media this past week, specifically, obsolete electronic instruments. He points to a site that lists a lot of electronic stuff. But no Birotron!

It's that rare.

Another fantastic story in the current Believer is the tale of an obsessed musical reporter who attempts to track down a singer/songwriter named Bill Fox who gave up performing in 1998. It's quite a story.

Posted by brian at June 18, 2007 08:17 AM

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