Using modern sensors technologies and microprocessors, the physical interface part of the analogue synthesizers of the Studio were recreated. The main goal was to provide a faithful reconstruction, therefore the same dimensions, look and feel of the original instruments were maintained as closely as possible.
While acoustical instruments have been developing over centuries and cultures, and display established repertoires and playing techniques, the same cannot be said about electronic musical instruments. Moreover, electronic musical instruments can be arbitrarily reconfigured in order to ideally recreate any desired sonority, especially since the advent of digital technologies and computer generated sounds. Electronic musical instruments can be considered as composed of three main elements: the sound generation system (the actual engine producing the sound), the control (i.e. the user interface, the component that a player interacts with in order to produce a particular sound), and the mapping between control and sound generation (i.e., the connection between the action performed on the interface and the corresponding sound).
The interfaces of the original devices of the Studio were quite traditional and comprised knobs, sliders, and switches for physical input, used to manipulate various parameters of the devices, as well as analogue meters and light bulbs, for providing visual output used for monitoring various processes. If one considers the interfaces collectively as a single electronic instrument, this is a quite interesting instrument from the perspective of control and physical interface design. There are no engineering plans of the control interfaces, thus reconstruction was based on four different kinds of information: i) pictures of the original devices, ii) input from engineers and musicologists involved in the Studio, iii) notes from composers working at the Studio, and iv) inspections of the parts that still exist.
The devices selected for reconstruction were:
- Three of the 1955 oscillators (no. 1,2,9) with the 9 input oscillator mixer
- White noise generator, amplitude selector and octave filters, with the 8 input mixer taking outputs from the above devices.
In the original device, the displays were directly coupled to the circuits that produced the sound signals, which is not the case in the digitally reconstructed version. The displays must then be controlled by an intermediate communication layer, from the computer simulated devices to the analogue device, using a microcontroller for input and output (an Arduino Mega was used). The implementation of the input control devices was more straightforward: knobs and switches very close to the originals were used. Additional smaller elements, such as light bulbs and jack input sockets, were added for aesthetic similarity. The front panels were designed to resemble the look and feel of the original panels including material, shape, colour, text and graphical engravings. The physical interfaces communicate through USB to a computer running the sound synthesis software models, and the programming of the microcontroller for sending and receiving data.