December – More music history #2 – First MIDI synths, Hallelujah, Beatmania


Sequential Circuits releases the (6P) Prophet-600, the first synthesizer with built-in MIDI. MIDI is first demonstrated at the January 1983 Winter NAMM by Sequential owner Dave Smith.

For the first 15 years, pro-quality synths had been priced far beyond the reach of most musicians – in the US$tens of thousands. These machines (and their microprocessors) are a factor of ten cheaper. And synthpop explodes.

The 600’s 1978 big brother, the legendary (no-MIDI, 5P/1T*) Prophet-5, was polyphonic, included a 40-preset memory,and was the first to use a microprocessor (*) (*) (with the 2 CPU , no MIDI, 4P/1T Roland Jupiter-4right on its tail).

Prophet keytar

You could even get ▷a keytar remote▹ for it!

Another (2 CPU , no MIDI, 16P/2T) synth released in (August?) 1982 is the (ARP) Rhodes Chroma.

In the following year, Yamaha introduces the first stand-alone digital, FM (*) (MIDI, 16P/1T) synth, the DX-7 (*), which (at $2000!) sells far more units than previous synths … well over 100,000. Alas, it’s a knobless hell. (*) Also in 1983 the (no-CPU,MIDI,6P/1T) Roland JX-3P and (MIDI,6P/2T) Roland Jupiter-6 synths are released.

*P=polyphony (1P=monosynth), T= timbrality

See also: Electronic musical instrument, Roland MC-8 Microcomposer (1977), Roland MC-202 (1983), Casio VL-1 (1980), Kurzweil K250 (1984), E-mu Emulator (1982), Fairlight CMI (1979), alphaSyntauri (1980), New England Digital.

Release of album Various Positions by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen looses the song Hallelujah on the world.

Barely noticed until Jeff Buckley‘s 1994 cover , it’s now heard in dozens of covers and films. It’s a clever earworm that prises calculated liturgical motives with bleary, enigmatic lyrics that went through 80 revisions. Sadly its cliches invite performances that are parodies.
K.D. Lang, 2005 


Japanese game maker Konami releases Beatmania video rhythm game.

It’s preceded in 1996 by PaRappa the Rapper for the Sony PlayStation. Konami follows up on Nov. 21, 1998 with dance mat game Dance Dance Revolution. They inspire Guitar Hero, released Nov. 8, 2005 by Harmonix of Cambridge, MA.