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The Boston Globe


With the ‘70s-era Lyricon, woodwind met synthesizer

On July 9, the experimental-music series Non-Event presents a concert by saxophonist, composer, and improviser Jorrit Dijkstra at Brookline’s Cafe Fixé. In addition to teaching at Berklee and the New England Conservatory, Dijkstra has another local connection in his toolkit: among various other instruments and electronics, Dijkstra plays the Lyricon.

The Lyricon was the first wind-actuated synthesizer — a woodwind-like instrument (it looks like a space-age clarinet) producing an electronic tone. It was invented by Bill Bernardi of Norwell, in collaboration with Roger Noble (who also once worked with Alan Pearlman, founder of ARP Instruments, another early synthesizer manufacturer). A metal spring in the mouthpiece registered lip pressure; a photocell, sensing fluctuations that a diaphragm caused in an LED’s intensity, measured air pressure. Those signals controlled an analog synthesizer adjusted by adding or subtracting overtones, like a drawbar organ.

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