It is the beginning of a revolution—an
expansion of democracy.
In the late morning of a spring
day a quarter century ago, the strong crisp mid-week light spills
fresh and cool into the shadowed storefront. The walls are stacked
floor to ceiling with the sought after guitars, drums, and music
instruments of all kinds. They pile high above the glass cases full
of small useful accessories. Some of the stock has been moved
slightly aside in order to accommodate the ever encroaching (though
still few) keyboards and early electronic music instruments.
Outside is the barely controlled chaos of New
York City. The buildings are tall and close. The uproar of anarchy,
with divergent paths of vehicles and pedestrians cascading all over
one another, pulls the buildings even closer together and serves to
accentuate the hubbub growing just inside the store’s front door. It
is Manny’s Music on 48th Street and the center of the musical arts
universe of the time.
A cop waves on yet another vehicle trying to park
at the curb. There is always a cop just outside this door. The
congestion of music stores on 48th Street draws musicians from all
over the world, making it consistently one of the busiest spots in
My gaze is pulled back inside to the excitement
of bright young creative musicians holding court over the latest
development. Everyone is focused on a never before seen box that is
peppered with small square gray, black, white and blue buttons, then
two rows of tiny oddly angular black knobs. Three large red LED’s
It is the Voyetra 8.
Somebody is saying, "Those are soft-keys. That means they don’t have
a specific function, but they can be programmed to perform
Few knew what that meant then; but
now, years later, it seems odd that the idea could have ever seemed
so arcane and exotic.
The salesperson turned the box
around and pointed to its back, "These connectors are for the
proposed MIDI specification. They don’t do anything yet, but
eventually you will be able to plug a computer into them for remote
control. Maybe even to record performances!"
Ramifications of that simple
statement were not lost on this crowd. The intensity of excitement
ratcheted up a notch. I put my hands on the piano type keyboard that
connected to the box via a mic cable and was astonished at the
texture and expressiveness of the sounds. I bought it.
So Factory Preset had begun, but I did not
know it yet. During the next several months I phoned the
manufacturer once a week to ask, "Is the computer interface ready
yet?" Always being told, "No not yet. Maybe next week."
Eventually I found myself sitting in a large open
room surrounded by half assembled pieces of synthesizers and
works in progress—while being presented
a MIDI interface pre-dating the MPU-401. There were only two of us
there to receive this first look at what would be. Unfortunately, I
never got the name of that other musician. We were both focused on
absorbing what we were being shown. Then we briefly shook hands and
spirited off our prizes to begin work with the powerful technology
that these other excellent musicians had assembled for us.
Because I’d prepared an index of
the user’s manual for the Voyetra 8 (gratis) in hopes of
helping preserve worthwhile technology, I was soon called and asked
if I would be interested in Beta testing their new PC based
I jumped at the chance and used
the opportunity to combine the Voyetra 8 and four other
electronic instruments in my studio to produce Factory Preset.
Voyetra’s sequencer never crashed once
during the ensuing six months of intensive 18 hour a day music production.
Over the next several years I was always bemused as each of the world’s
sequencer developers announced an amazing "new" function that
always turned out to have already been included in that very first PC DOS
Voyetra Sequencer then Sequencer Plus.
That software was fast, powerful,
flexible, and reliable enough for me to put together the first ever
commercial release of all original, all electronic music produced
using a PC based MIDI sequencer.
I have always been surprised at the number and
diversity of people who enjoyed the Factory Preset album,
especially at the number of people who say they are still listening
to it almost a quarter century later. In fact, I told someone in
1987 that there was some bad news, but also some good news, plus
some even better news about my album.
The bad news was that it did not fit into any of
the music store or radio station categories; the good news was that
people were listening to it anyway; the better news was that in 10
years it was still not going to fit into any category, and people
would still be listening to it. Sometimes I get lucky and predict
things somewhat correctly.
This 2004 re-release of Factory Preset is done with thanks
to all who have supported my music and asked for a CD version to
replace their aging cassette tapes. It is dedicated to those who,
like me, are addicted