Each week, Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out these days, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment. Last Saturday, it was pocket-sized studios. This week, it's the Triadex Muse:
It's probably the rarest, strangest, best-looking vintage synth ever mass-produced. So how come I'd never heard of
the Triadex Muse until two of them turned up on eBay last week?
At a time when Moog and ARP were selling synths the size of wardrobes that looked like lab equipment and cost tens of thousands of dollars, the Muse was the size of a typewriter. It cost $300 and looked like something Dieter Rams would have designed for Braun in the sixties.
It had impeccable geek credentials. It was designed by two MIT professors, Marvin Minsky and Edward Fredkin. At the
time, Minsky was moonlighting on the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey, teaching Stanley Kubrick about Artificial
Intelligence as he created Hal. Ten years later, Edward Fredkin would create the Fredkin Prize, to be awarded to the
creators of the first computer to win the World Chess Championship. He paid out to Deep Blue in 1997.
So what was the Muse? Well, not really a synth. It was a digital sequencer, which played melodic-sounding bleepy music through the internal speaker, based on a baffling set of algorithms. As you moved the sliders, the algorithms changed, and the music changed. Like the Chiclet DSP Music Box, it was designed to replace a radio - why listen to old music, when this neat-o box can make new music? There was an idea only a MIT professor could love.
The Muse even had an even rarer accessory, the Light Show, which flashed coloured lights in time to the music. Inevitably, the Muse was a commercial disaster. Only 280 units were ever manufactured. Unlike vintage analog synths, a Muse wont generate a fat bassline for a hip hop record, but they are very collectable. One of the Muses sold last week on Ebay received a bid of $1,799, although $800 is a more realistic price. If you cant afford that, try Paul Geffens basic-but-interesting PC Muse Simulator.