Don Buchla (April 18th, 1937— ) is a pioneer in the field of sound synthesizers, releasing his first units months after Robert Moog’s first synthesizers. However, his instrument was arguably designed before Moog’s.
Buchla was born in South Gate, California, and studied physics, physiology, and music.
Buchla formed his electronic music equipment company, Buchla and Associates, in 1962 in Berkeley, California. Buchla was commissioned by avant garde music composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, both of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, to create an electronic instrument for live performance. Under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation Buchla completed his first modular synthesizer in 1963. The result was the Buchla Series 100, which he began selling in 1966. Buchla’s synthesizers experimented in control interfaces, such as touch-sensitive plates. In 1969 the Series 100 was sold to CBS, who soon after dropped the line, not seeing the synthesizer market as a profitable area
In 1970 the Buchla 200 series Electric Music Box was released and was manufactured until 1985. Buchla created the Buchla Series 500, the first digitally controlled analog synthesizer, in 1971. Shortly after, the Buchla Series 300 was released, which combined the Series 200 with microprocessors. The Music Easel, a small, portable, all-in-one synthesizer was released in 1972. The Buchla 400 was released in 1982, which featured a video display. In 1987 the fully MIDI enabled Buchla 700 was released.
Beginning in the 1990s, Buchla began designing alternative MIDI controllers, such as the Thunder, Lightning, and Marimba Lumina. With the recent resurgence of interest in analog synthesizers Buchla has released a revamped 200 series called the 200e.
NIME-05, the 5th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, held in Vancouver, Canada, featured a keynote lecture by Don Buchla as well as a sizable exhibition of many of the instruments he and his team have created over the years.
His son, Ezra Buchla, used to play in the experimental punk band The Mae Shi, and now plays in Gowns, with South Dakotan Erika Anderson.