Electronic Music Wiki
Advertisement

The company founded by Donald Buchla in 1963 to manufacture and sell the synthesizer products he developed. The company's first product was the Series 100 modular synthesizer systems, designed for the San Francisco Tape Music Center, with money from a Rockerfeller grant. The Series 200 followed in the late 1960s. The 200 series marked the company's first efforts to reach a wider audience outside of the California West Coast genre of synthesis, and for a time in the early 1970s, CBS Musical Instruments (which at the time also owned Fender, Kimball and Rhodes) bought a share of the company and attempted to invest in marketing. However, this was unsuccessful, and Buchla soon bought back CBS's share.

After the CBS involvement ended, the company began investing in some more esoteric product development, including early attempts at microprocessor-controlled synthesis and digital synthesis. The Series 300, introduced in 1978, was an attempt to bring patch memory to a semi-modular synth, and compete in the market with the Prophet-5. However, most of the potential audience, lacking exposure to the Buchla design philosophy, found the instrument mystifying, and few sales were achieved.

In the 1990s, the company turned away from building synthesizers and turned towards user interfaces and MIDI controllers. The company's main products at this point were Thunder and Lightning controller systems, as well as the Marimba Lumina mallet instrument, plus various aids that Buchla had devised for the vision-impaired. But in 2004, Buchla decided to get back into the synth business, and introduced the Series 200e line, based on the Series 200, but with various digital enhancements including the patch memory functions from the Series 300. This time, the audience was more receptive, and the 200e became a success.

In 2012, Buchla, in the midst of a battle with cancer, sold the business to an Australian company, which renamed it Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments, or BEMI. The new company kept the 200e in production and introduced a few new modules designed by Buchla. However, in 2015, Buchla sued BEMI, alleging that certain payments related to the sale had not been paid to him. They settled the matter out of court, just before Buchla passed away in 2016.

In 2018, Buchla's family bought the company back, and renamed it Buchla U.S.A. It operates today under that name. However, it is still widely referred to as Buchla & Associates by the synth community.

Buchla Web site: http://www.buchla.com/.

Advertisement