Sunday, May 17, 2009


The FONOSYNTH (Phonosint) was the precursor of the SYNKET, and was a centralized console for making electronic music.

The Fonosynth was designed in 1958 by the composer Gino Marinuzzi, and built between 1960 and 1962 by the Polish-Italian engineer Paul Ketoff, with the assistance of Giuliano Strini and Marinuzzi, who financed the making of the Fonosynth.

The Fonosynth was made up of:

12 variable sine wave oscillators 6 square wave oscillators, each equipped with six band pass filters

2 low frequency oscillators with variable frequency from 2 to 12 Hz

1 modulatable oscillator

1 impulse generator 1 white noise generator

2 octave filters (on 9 octaves)

2 selective resonant filters with continuous variable frequency

1 auto oscillating filter

1 threshold filter

2 dynamic compressors

2 ring modulators

1 electronic channel switch with variable speed

1 generator of envelopes for regulation of the times of attack, sustain and decay

2 preamplifiers

2 amplifiers

2 loudspeakers

1 keyboard made up of 6 rows of 24 keys each, connected with the square wave oscillators

18 channel mixer with filters on each channel and the possibility of both mono and stereo output.

Fonosynth keyboard

Since 1987 the Fonosynth has been on show at the museum of musical instruments in Munich, Germany.

In 1964 Paul Ketoff, after the experience of constructing the Fonosynth and the preparation of a small laboratory of electronic music near the American academy in Rome (with the collaboration of Otto Luening), designed a machine that, while based on the concept of the Fonosynth, was more flexible when used in concert as a traditional instrument.

Paul Ketoff and the SynKet

The Synket (SYNthesizer-KEToff) was formed from three "combiners of sound" each of which was made up of:

1 square wave generator controllable in frequency

1 flip-flop chain of divisors of frequency,which allows the division of the note of the generator by 2, 4, 8 or by 3, 5

1 selective filter also controllable in frequency, 40 Hz - 20 KHz

1 amplitude control

3 modulators controlled by a low frequency oscillator: one of them controls the frequency of the square wave generator, another the frequency of the filterand the third one the amplitude.

The sound produced by the three combiners was modified with an octave filter and with a triple modulator.

This modulator allowed one to combine bell attacks, pizzicato and vibrato that could vary in speed and intensity.

The Synket was equipped with three small keyboards each corresponding to a modulator and the keys could be pre-tuned making this instrument suitable to perform microtonal

John Eaton and the SynKet

John Eaton was the composer that has used this instrument most (also as a performer) both for exclusive Synket compositions, and in combination with other traditional instruments; among these a concert for Synket and orchestra.

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